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Windows Server 2003 End of Support: An Opportunity to Move to the Cloud

Windows Server 2003 has been a workhorse for millions of applications around the globe for a number of years

On July 14, 2015 Windows Server (WS) 2003 will reach the end of extended support. This means no more patches or security fixes without a custom support agreement in place. The security and uptime implications of your applications are about to be refactored in a dramatic way. Many compliance requirements, especially in regulated industries, state that applications have to run on a supported Operating System (OS).

On the surface, date-driven deadlines mandating remediation can be viewed in two very different lights. The first: A glass half empty, a tax that must be paid to continue business as usual. The other: A glass half full, an opportunity to change out old systems and reinvent the business on an agile platform that provides a competitive advantage. The question: How do you deal with the inevitable?

To learn about your options, register to attend a complimentary webcast with Microsoft and AppZero on Wednesday, December 11 at 11:00 am (EST).  (The webcast will be recorded for those in other time zones.)

Windows Server 2003 has been a workhorse for millions of applications around the globe for a number of years. Estimates are that more than 10 million machines are still running WS2003. Given that a major release, Windows Server 2008, became available in 2008 and a major update (Release 2) in 2010, it would be easy to project that more than 50 percent of Windows Servers in production are still running WS2003. Many enterprises didn't begin deploying WS2008 until R2, leaving WS2003 as the Microsoft production server of choice for over seven years.  This is a long time during which enterprises were building and deploying apps to leverage the Internet at a rapid pace.

Now, the glass is virtually overflowing for System Integrators and Cloud Providers. Many of the global 5,000 enterprises are running between 3,000 and 5,000 WS2003 machines.  Let's assume 50% of the global 5,000 are running an average of 3,000 WS2003 machines. This means 7.5 million production machines are still running WS2003.

Most of these enterprises will look to System Integrators to size up the situation, manage the project and complete the remediation. The cost per migration can be hard to isolate because many of these projects drag along hardware, cloud instances, and new services fees as part of the project.  But our partners tell us that stand-alone migration costs per machine run from $1,500 - $4,000 with the average costing around $2,500. One could estimate that 50% of the machines will be migrated in 2014 & 2015 resulting in  $9 billion spent on modernization ($2,500 * 3,750,000 machine = $9,375,000,000) over the next 2 years.

At a recent cloud computing event, I saw a Gartner Inc. slide called Top 10 CIO Business and Technology Priorities in 2013 that cites Legacy Modernization as technology priority number 5, ahead of IT management, CRM, virtualization, security and ERP applications. Where Windows Server 2003 modernization is a subset of Legacy Modernization, the urgency on this front is rising daily. Many companies are forming emergency task forces and SWAT teams and budgeting millions of dollars to mitigate the escalating risk of security vulnerabilities and downtime that arises from the end of support.

If increased security risks and deteriorating uptime metrics were not enough, many companies are mandated by compliance requirements to migrate applications to a supported OS. The Director of Server Engineering at a large Pharmaceutical company I talked with said, "When support is in question people get very nervous and that makes many things happen - fast."

Cloud providers will win big on this transition. It should be no surprise that Server Administrators, application owners and other IT managers would like the landing pad for this modernization effort to be the cloud.  Infrastructure modernization (adopting cloud computing) for existing or legacy applications is just one of the benefits of legacy modernization.  Cloud providers will win big if they can entice a small fraction of 10+ million machines to land on their cloud. Some cloud providers are already seeing an uptick in their business. The Rackspace Hosting Reports Third Quarter 2013 Results press release states, "Total server count increased to 101,967, up from 98,884 servers at the end of the previous quarter."

A new research report by GigaOm entitled," The costs and risks of migrating from Windows Server 2003 to the cloud" covers the options for dealing with the WS2003 end of support issue: "The many approaches for mitigating these risks range from taking no action to migrating all existing systems that will be affected. Tools that assist with the migration process are available, and they even target cloud-based hosting, which is a key IT initiative in many organizations...."

You can download the full report here.

Watch this space the smoke is beginning to turn to fire.

I am always looking for ways 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.

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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