Microsoft regularly categorizes older technologies as End of Life. This can pose a huge problem for businesses that still have servers that are dependent on a specific technology or operating system. In this case Microsoft’s end of life categorization for Windows Server 2003.
So what does that mean for business today?
Microsoft will no longer provide support for you regarding these technologies. No more phone support.
Microsoft will no longer provide updates and security patches for the product. In today’s increasingly insecure environment, security is key. Being on 2003 server puts your whole organization at risk.
Windows 2003 is very old technology. It came out before smart phones were the norm. Virtualization had not yet taken hold yet. The 64 bit OS had not become a standard in the industry. And most certainly, 2003 came out well before Windows Security initiative had taken effect. And the cloud didn’t exist.
What should I do if I have 2003 running? There are several options. Server 2012 R2 is the latest server OS running. Besides enhancements such as Virtualization support, it has better security, extensive scalability, new operational roles, script execution capabilities and much more. Because of Server 2012 R2’s 64 bit technology it can take advantage of much more RAM, Solid State hard drives and much more new hardware (USB3) and other standards that have come out in the last 12 years. 2012 allows you to leverage the cloud resources with ease and become PCI compliant.
Most applications should run fine on Server 2012 R2. Unless the code was written in 16-bit format, the code should run better than ever.
It is not advisable to move to Server 2008, since that product, too, is seeing end of mainstream support in January 2015.
What happens if I don’t upgrade?
Companies going beyond the support phase for 2003 server, put themselves at a security risk, regulatory noncompliance and weaken the defense of the entire system.
There are several solutions to go from here. Many people have turned to the cloud or localized virtualization as the solution to this upgrade. They use the excuse to upgrade as a way to bolster their entire system, provide faster resources to the whole network, and build on an architecture that is more available, scalable, faster and reliable. In fact, since 2003 was likely installed on physical hardware, most companies can reduce support costs by consolidating infrastructure and running multiple Virtual Machines on less equipment. This can save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrade expenses and ongoing maintenance costs.
Other companies decide to move out of the hardware game and have opted to move all the resources to the cloud. Cloud solutions offer flexibility and the ability to scale up and down as resources are required.
If you have 2003 still running in your organization, you are not alone. There are still millions of installations of 2003 server in the wild. Microsoft announced the end of life for 2003 server on July 13, 2010, allowing companies nearly 5 years to make the transition.
Another consideration is to look at the applications running on your 2003 server. Many companies run SQL 2000 (end of life already) or 2005 (end of extended support life cycle on April 12, 2016) on their 2003 server. Part of the upgrade process may be to leverage the latest versions of SQL 2012. SQL has become more scalable, faster and more powerful than ever.
Another common application running is Exchange 2003. This email system was great in its time, but is no competitor for Exchange 2013. Exchange 2013 is far more robust than 2003 and can grow as your business grows. It doesn’t have the same kind of fragmentation issues, capacity issues or security issues that hobbled Exchange 2003.
Enhancements with Windows 2008
- Hyper V Microsoft’s hypervisor was released and updated again with Server 2008 R2.
- Scalability – 2008 R2 boosted support for up to 2 TB of Memory, clustering support for up to 16 nodes and 1000 virtual machines.
- Direct Access routing and remote access support which is more secure. Also Remote Desktop Support replaced the Terminal Services.
- Roles. 2008 has allows for limited roles, LDAP, DNS and DHCP services. This way you can separate the functions on multiple boxes rather than all on one.
- Remote capability for branch office support, replication and lower bandwidth requirements.
- A much improved Internet Information Server (IIS) version 7
- IPV6 functionality
- Security features offered through Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Initiative
Enhancements with Windows 2012
- Microsoft improved the Powershell manageability in Powershell 3.0. More support for cmdlets.
- Virtualization improvements with Hyper V have improved vastly and can now compete against the leading VMware
- Improved Performance and better support for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
- IIS improvements
- Server Message Block 3.0 allowing for more support for new hardware.