With less than one week to go until Windows Server 2003 reaches end of support, make sure you check out our video interview with Microsoft’s hybrid cloud business lead Patrik Bihammar.
PCR editor Dominic Sacco talks to Bihammar about the migration options and safety implications surrounding the end of support for Windows Server 2003 - and what you can do as a reseller to attract new business.
You can also read the interview in text form below:
With Windows Server 2003 coming to end of support on July 14th, what are the implications for customers – what do they need to know?
In terms of security implications, what end of extended support means is that we will no longer be providing security patches or hotfixes for the product. After July 14th, if there’s a vulnerability that’s been discovered, you won’t get a patch for that – so you might expose your organisation to greater security risks.
There will be an upfront investment to do the migration, but at the same time there’s also a cost or tax associated with not using new technology and having to maintain old hardware, software and applications that are running.
Also, some customers think that because they put their server in a virtual container essentially, it’s going to be safe. But you’re actually going to be vulnerable regardless of whether you’re running a physical 2003 server, a virtual instance of a server or one that’s running in the cloud.
For those customers that need to move off of Server 2003, what kind of migration options do they have?
The first option – which I really wouldn’t consider an option – is to do nothing. It’s not like we’re going to pull a switch on July 14th and all those 2003 servers will go dark. The product will still run but you will still be exposed to potential future vulnerabilities. And there might even be vulnerabilities that hackers know about today that will become zero- day exploits.
The real steps forward are: Do you want to stay on-premise? You can move to a modern platform on-premise with Windows Server 2012 R2, and because so many of the 2003 servers today are still physical, it’s a great opportunity to drive efficiencies through virtualisation.
Then there are the cloud options. So we’ve seen a lot of customers say: “I don’t want to manage my own Exchange mail servers or calibration SharePoint servers – I’d rather use the Office 365 servers.” That way you can retire some of your own on-premise infrastructure.
What are the opportunities for IT resellers around the end of support?
There’s a software license opportunity and there’s the hardware opportunity – as most of these 2003 servers are still running old physical hardware. But I think one of the biggest opportunities is to provide the added value for your customers to help them through the whole migration process.
Technology has come a long way since Windows Server 2003 was first introduced. What can you do with modern platforms like Windows Server 2012 R2 that perhaps you couldn’t on Windows Server 2003?
If I was to call out some of the key benefits of Server 2012 R2, the first one I’d mention is definitely the server virtualisation piece. We launched the hypervisor, Hyper-V, in our 2008 versions. We also added a capability called Storage Spaces which is a great opportunity to drive out costs in your infrastructure. With this you can buy very low cost standardised storage hardware – essentially hard drives – and virtualise them with Windows Server and run them in high performance and high availability that you’d expect to get from a costly SAN environment.
I’d also mention out the security and backup capabilities. Mobile workers can easily log in via our security network to access their files from anywhere. There are backup capabilities, whether you want to backup on-premise or backup to the cloud. And the final thing I’d call out is the management capabilities, so with Server Manager you can also manage multiple physical and virtual servers.
We’ve been hearing a lot about cloud from Microsoft recently – can you outline the company’s strategy when it comes to cloud and on-premise?
Our future direction and what we’ve been focusing on for the past 10 years is to become a mobile first, cloud first company. We’ve invested billions in cloud technology. We’ve now taken our traditional successful on- premise products and provided them to customers as cloud-based applications.
So we’re seeing a lot of SMBs and enterprise customers adopting Office 365, which means you can run a hosted or a cloud version of Office rather than running it on-premise.
Then on the other more infrastructure-related side, we have invested in these massive cloud-scale data centres, which are called Microsoft Azure. We’re now running these in 19 regions across the world. It’s hundreds of thousands of servers literally the size of a couple of football stadiums.
So we are investing heavily in the cloud, but at the time we acknowledge that the world is going to be a mix of on-premise and the cloud; our strategy is to provide hybrid cloud options.
There are a lot of SMBs out there that may find the whole migration process quite daunting – where should they start?
It is a daunting task. Depending on your environment it can be a one- month long project or a six- month project.
The first step is you need to understand what’s actually running in your environment, so the discovery face.
There’s tools available there for you – including both third- party tools that give you deep insights on your environment and also a free tool from us: The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit. This helps build out that view and report of what your environment looks like.
When you have that view, you need to assess how you’re going to move forward server by server, and application by application.
You might have ISV applications where there already is a version available for the new platform, which will be much more straightforward from an upgrade perspective. There might also be cases where you have old homebrew applications – it’s an opportunity to do a spring clean of the whole application portfolio.
Then you reach the targeting stage where you decide whether you want to stay on-premise or go straight to the cloud. When you start migration, there’s a big toolkit of tools out there to help you through the actual migration process.
Are there any other Microsoft products that will be coming up to end of support status in the future?
Yes. The one that’s next on the agenda is the SQL Server 2005 on April 12th 2016.
If you’re working on your Server 2003 project now, you can treat it as one migration project. We have found that roughly 20 per cent of the 2003 servers are running the 2005 version of SQL.
What if migration is left to the last minute?
We’ve only got a month or so left until the end of support date, so time is of the urgency. But at the same time, if you haven’t completed your full migration, focus on your most critical systems, the ones that are either the most mission critical to you or perhaps the ones that are the most exposed in terms of being front-facing, so it’s very important that you prioritise the servers you want to secure and migrate first.
MICROSOFT ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Can you run us through the product range for Windows Server 2012?
Microsoft’s Patrik Bihammar: If you’re a small or medium sized business, we have Windows Server Essentials, which is for a physical environment where you have 25 users and up to 50 devices, giving you a very simple user interface and the ability to still take advantage of all the backup capabilities, security benefits, remote user benefits and being able to access the cloud.
Then we have the Standard Edition and Windows Server Datacenter Edition, which is really for larger environments. They have the same feature functions, but if you’re going to virtualise your environment heavily, you go with the Datacentre Edition because it gives you unlimited virtualisation rights.
What is the difference between the end of mainstream support and extended support?
We took Server 2003 out of mainstream support back in 2010, which means we’re not providing any more service packs that are focused on enhancing the product. Extended support is the security updates and patches, which is what we’re phasing out now.
Which migration software would you recommend?
There are a number of different tools available. The tools that come to mind, other than the free Microsoft Planning and Assessment Toolkit, include Refresh IT, a product from Dell called ChangeBase and a product called Bluestripe. They’re all good for the discovery and assessment and reporting piece. When you get to the migration piece, the one tool that tends to come up a lot – particularly for these homebuild applications that you can’t actually rewrite – is AppZero.
What is Microsoft doing to educate the end user?
For IT pros we have our free academy at www. microsoftvirtualacademy.com which has free webinar-style courses and lots of information on migration, new features and capabilities. The other things we offer are free IT pro camps – roadshows where we run technical demos and IT pros get to sit down and play around with the technology. In addition, for IT decision makers we run a ‘transform the data centre’ workshop.