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Is Windows Server 2003 EOL a Mini Y2K Event for the Enterprise?

EOL means no more patches and security vulnerabilities increase on a daily basis.

There are things in life that are just painful -- Doing dishes, paying taxes, going to the dentist, and upgrading software. One of the most painful IT life cycle events is upgrading from an older version of an operating system (OS) to a newer one. In fact, there are 10s of millions of servers still running Windows Server 2003, hosting applications that run important functions. The problem is that Window Server 2003 is about to lose support from Microsoft (end of life (EOL)) leaving many with a really difficult choice. Upgrade or face escalating risk of security holes being exploited without any patches or support. Holy strawberries Batman, we're in a jam.

This is a case of bare metal turning to rust. The virtual support rug is being pulled out from underneath the data center. A mini Y2K event for applications stranded on those old, obsolete servers. The challenge is clear. EOL means no more patches and security vulnerabilities increase on a daily basis. For those wishing to keep their machines running, this is a situation that requires action.

Many will dream of jumping from the really old straight to the really new -- the cloud. Nothing like being an IT hero aligning with the business to show how 10 years of inaction was the right choice. If only they knew what applications were running on those rusting, slow, power-hungry physical boxes? Why do applications never die but operating systems have a life span shorter then Twinkies? (Did you know a Twinkie can survive for 47 years if left unopened in a dark cool place, yet only 35 years if opened?  And, hats off to the Pabst Brewing Company for rescuing Twinkies from obliteration!)

Getting back to WS2003 EOL, let's review our options:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Rewrite the applications
  3. Reinstall the application, reconfigure and migrate the data
  4. Upgrade: Install Windows and keep files, settings and applications
  5. Migrate the application to a new OS

There are no other options except possibly to change companies to one that is only a few years old.

Let's dig into these high-level options and see how viable there are.

$$$$$ Do Nothing - The "close your eyes, cross your fingers, do nothing" approach is about to blow up. Unfortunately the stay and pray option often gets chosen.

$$$$ Rewrite - Way too much money, too long to deliver and you have no idea what most of these apps are in enough detail to create good requirements.

$$ Reinstall the application -- then reconfigure and migrate the data. This is a great idea, but odds are that some of the install media and code is missing, and exactly what is currently running and installed is not quite clear. Migrating data and configurations is not easy for these aging bits.

$$$  Upgrade OS - install Windows 2008(R2) and try to keep files, settings and applications unchanged. Something that looks promising on the surface but isn't viable once you dig deeper. The challenge is the methodology to upgrade the machines, which basically says: "Uninstall critical apps, upgrade the OS and then reinstall the apps."This is really option #3, plus more. In our last blog Windows Server 2003 EOL #WS2003eol - what you need to know now we challenged people who have done this to connect with us and let us know how it went... Not one response yet.

$  Migrate the application(s) to a new OS - With AppZero, apps can be migrated to new machines over lunch, to a new OS. Simple, fast, no code changes and leave the old systems behind. Application migration can even move old 32-bit apps to 64-bit OS such as WS2012. If you're moving to WS2012, you can get there in one step - no need to first upgrade to WS2008.  You can see a demo of Migrating SQL Server from Windows 2000 to Windows 2012 in minutes here.

Try AppZero, you'll like it as much as a deep-fried Twinkie!

I am always looking for a way to communicate better and cut to the heart of any discussion. So, if you have thoughts on this subject drop me a line at GregO {@} Appzero {dot} com or tweet me at @gregoryjoconnor. Remember to use hashtag #WS2003eol.

Register to attend: "Migrate from WS2003 to WS2012 in One Step." With Windows Server 2003 end of life approaching, companies will be faced with moving large numbers of enterprise applications. Join us for a brief demonstration of upgrading existing server apps from WS2003 to WS2012. AppZero's one-step application migration makes it simple to reap the benefits of cloud computing - lower TCO, greater IT and business flex, and scalability. Brace for the risk associated with unsupported WS2003. Join us May 15th @ 1pm ET. Register now>>

More Stories By Greg O'Connor

Greg O'Connor is President & CEO of AppZero. Pioneering the Virtual Application Appliance approach to simplifying application-lifecycle management, he is responsible for translating Appzero's vision into strategic business objectives and financial results.

O'Connor has over 25 years of management and technical experience in the computer industry. He was founder and president of Sonic Software, acquired in 2005 by Progress Software (PRGS). There he grew the company from concept to over $40 million in revenue.

At Sonic, he evangelized and created the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) product category, which is generally accepted today as the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

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