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Windows Server 2003 gets served
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Windows Server 2003 gets served 

Such is the case with Microsoft and Windows Server 2003. For the past 12 years, the product has been a relative workhorse within the company’s product line, and has seen widespread use worldwide. But as the companies who use Windows Server 2003 have grown, they have outgrown the older product, similar to the way that a child outgrows clothing or shoes.

As the end-of-service (EOS) date of July 14 draws closer, Microsoft has begun to promote the migration to other products that can replace or expand upon the abilities of Windows Server 2003. The options include Windows Server 2012 R2, the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and Office 365.

But for many, the transition will not be as smooth as previously thought, according to the results of an Avanade study. Sixty-one per cent of enterprises continue to rely on the services of Windows Server 2003, and migrating to a different platform or format may cause problems for them.

As a result, 40 per cent of companies have completed the migration process this far, while only 37 per cent of critical business applications have followed suit. Furthermore, more than half of Canadian enterprises – 52 per cent – will still be running apps on the old system post-EOS.

Kaytek Przybylski, vice president of Canada Service Lines at Avanade spoke to IT in Canada about the challenges these users face, and what can be done to overcome them.

IT in Canada: Why is Microsoft ending support for Windows Server 2003?
Przybylski:
If you think about it, Windows Server 2003 has been in the marketplace for 12 years; probably a little bit longer for some of the early adopters. A lot of the functionalities and features of the older products are still relevant and functional, but there have been advancements in (several) different areas.

Microsoft is moving on with newer releases and products, and has been encouraging their customers to adopt these newer releases. In doing so, they are not able to support things that are very dated for longer periods of time. They have a very well-defined schedule around that, and they are executing on ending the support for this product.

ITIC: According to the report, only 37 per cent of critical business applications have been migrated off of Windows Server 2003 at this point. Why is this?
KP:
For the report, we surveyed 50 IT leaders who were largely in organizations that could be considered as large companies. Forty-two of the 50 had revenues larger than $1 billion, while the remainder were in the $500 million to $1 billion range. These represent the market that Avanade looks after and supports.

The applications in these types of enterprises are fairly complex. There are a lot of touch points, and they play a critical role in supporting the business. Unwinding all of that and moving those applications onto a new platform poses a number of challenges, and these organizations are trying to balance that with a number of other computing priorities they have within the business.

What you see in that statistic is a good reflection of how much progress they’ve made on that to date.

ITIC: The report also states that 52 per cent of Canadian enterprises will still be running business apps on Windows Server 2003 after July 14. Why is this?
KP:
These applications are critical to these businesses, and a lot of them are looking at this as an opportunity to modernize the applications and their functionalities that they are delivering. What this is saying is we’re not going to be at the point where they’re able to take their entire application portfolio off of these old servers.

As a result, it’s not terribly surprising that they would have a number of applications still running on this older platform, and they’re working through how that will happen, and which specific applications those will be. They’re weighing the pros and cons of being on this older platform and the costs and risks associated with that versus going through the disruption of moving to the newer platform.

ITIC: What challenges has the EOS created for IT decision-makers?
KP:
What it’s done for them more than anything else is it’s forced them to take a hard look at their application portfolio. This platform has been out for a number of years, and in many cases, these applications are working away, doing what they do and providing functionality to the business.

With the end of support, I think the IT decision-makers have to weigh the balance of which applications should be invested in, modernized, and functioning with minimal investment without disrupting the business. If (IT) does want to disrupt the business, they want to be sure they’re bringing incremental value to them, either through increased functionality or efficiency.

What this event has forced the IT decision-makers to do is look at this issue, evaluate it, and fit all this work into their already busy product delivery schedule that is very ambitious for many of them.

ITIC: What is being done to ease the transition process?
KP:
There are a number of things being done. Microsoft has tools, assessments and other things that they’re making accessible in the marketplace. There are a number of systems integrators like Avanade that have very specialized offerings, accelerators and approaches that will help customers make this transition.

Some of them are fairly automated approaches; others help clients with looking at opportunities to change this paradigm. Just because they had an application that did something 12 years ago, is it still right for that application to be doing that within the businesses 12 years later? Systems integrators are in a good position to help customers with that, and help them rationalize their portfolio of applications and move them to a more modern architecture.

You also (hear) a lot of talk around cloud and different deployments that have a number of advantages, and it’s a good point for IT organizations to be able to leverage those advantages.

ITIC: One alternative to Windows Server 2003 is the hybrid cloud. Why is this being viewed as the probable destination for enterprises?
KP:
The hybrid cloud is a scenario where you have some of the advantages that you would have in the public cloud scenario. When you talk about the ability to scale up on demand, the cost to operate the environment in a public cloud scenario is usually more attractive.

You also have a certain amount of management that you don’t necessarily have to worry about. But on the flipside, there are other concerns that some IT leaders (have), such as data sovereignty, having a single tenant versus a multi-tenant environment, and other (issues) of that nature.

What the hybrid cloud allows you to do is select based on your applications and the specific scenarios of the different applications. You decide which of the features are most important to you, and that’s a path that many Canadian organizations are choosing to go down. With our offerings, we’re helping them to chart the course and execute a plan to get to that end state.

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