Tuesday, September 19, 2017

End of the line for Windows Server 2003: problem or opportunity?

Microsoft intends to end support for Windows Server 2003 this July, so how should the many companies still using the platform handle the situation?

No support means Microsoft will no longer send patches to fix vulnerabilities and leave machines still using the operating system open to attackers. According to industry analyst Forrester, however, eight million servers across organisations are still using Windows Server 2003 - while Dell estimates the figure could be up to 12 million.

Further research by Spiceworks has found that 68% of companies in the EMEA region are running at least one instance of Windows Server 2003. The IT service management organisation has drawn these
figures from its community of over 6 million IT pros worldwide. It found usage is still widespread across many sectors – 74% of manufacturers and 73% of government bodies, to name just a couple.

Mark Lomas, technical consultant at Icomm Technologies, says the readiness of companies to cope with the end of support is mixed: “While some organisations upgraded last year, some companies were aiming to upgrade and missed their deadline, while others made other moves to protect themselves.”

Apart from the cost of upgrading, another challenge is supporting the applications that are currently running on Server 2003. Windows 2003 is a 32-bit OS, which means that any applications that need to be migrated must be checked to see if they can run in the 64-bit environment of newer versions of Windows Server.

Lomas likens the end of support for Server 2003 to the end of support for Windows XP in some ways, but potentially more damaging. He says: “With Server 2003 the threat is more serious, as a threat to a server potentially has more impact on different areas of the business.”

The opportunity
Some organisations are seeing the necessity of an upgrade as good news, however, as it is providing an opportunity to modernise their overall architecture. That is the view from major IT suppliers like Dell and Intel.

Indeed, as the industry saw when support for the Windows XP desktop OS came to an end, there was a sales kick generated across the PC industry. Michael Tweddle, Dell’s executive director of Windows management, says: “We see it as a driver leading to broader projects, as there is a lot of Microsoft technology that organisations want to move to, but they need to clean up their underlying
infrastructure to properly do that.”

Companies upgrading have the option of migrating to either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012, however, most are expected to jump straight to the latest version. Windows Server 2012 is also offering organisations better links to cloud services, like Microsoft Azure and the Office 365 productivity suite.

Overall, when compared to Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2012 has improved storage, networking, virtualisation, access and security features. One way or another though, organisations will have to make a decision soon as to what is to be done with Windows Server 2003.
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