July 14th is the day when the lights go out for Windows Server 2003 (and Windows Server 2003 R2). In less than 114 days’ time from now, Server 2003 will no longer attract bug fixes or patches.
Windows Server 2003 was released to manufacturing in April 2003 – at the same time as Windows XPs users, in effect replacing Windows 98/ME. Server 2003 shipped in a number of separate SKUs: including Standard, Enterprise, Data Center and Web. Server 2003 shipped for 32-bit and 64-bit processors and for the Intel Itanium range. And there were derivative versions were also shipped, including Windows Computer cluster Windows Storage Server, Windows Home Server, Windows Server for Embedded systems and Small Business Server. The end of support also includes Windows Server 2003 R2, issued in December 2003.
From August 2015, Microsoft will issue patches for bugs that may well have been in Server 2003 but no patches will be issued for Server 2003 itself. From August, your Server 2003 systems start to be at risk. If you operate inside some sort of compliance regime, you may find those servers out of compliance which could result in fines, or indeed no business at all. All in all, there’s little upside to continuing running Server 2003 and we highlight some further risks here.
It is easy to say, but you should have long ago had plans to move away from Server 2003 and your migration project should be all but finished by now.
Upgrading to what?
Advances in hardware and software as well as the impact of both virtualisation and the cloud provide you with a number of options for moving forward. You should investigate these carefully as part of your upgrade project.
Virtualisation, which is now a commodity, is an approach you should certainly adopt for most systems. The financial arguments, which I’ll forego rehashing here, are pretty compelling. Some servers may utilise specialised hardware but for almost all commercial applications, virtualisation should be the only option.
The advent of the cloud means that some part of your upgrade could result in using cloud computing features. Like virtualisation, the cloud can offer some real savings as well as enabling you to pay for the hardware, etc. out of operating budgets, not capital budgets.
Finally, you could consider waiting for Windows Server vNext comes but that could be a year away or more. And even then, you will need to do a lot of testing as new versions of any server OS comes with a new set of bugs.
Your Upgrade Project
Gartner considers it can take anywhere from six to nine months to carry out an upgrade. Now for some simple scenarios (a Server 2003 File and Print server), moving to Server 2012 R2 is going to be pretty simple. But moving LOB of apps is likely to be harder. And of course, almost every organisation has a number of applications that may not be simple or straight forward to upgrade. If your upgrade is at all complex, given the timescales, you really should consider looking for outside assistance.
Microsoft provides several to assist in planning and carrying out the upgrade, including the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) and the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT). Both are freely downloadable from Microsoft’s website.
The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit is an agentless inventory, assessment, and reporting tool. You can download this from Microsoft. This tool helps you to assess your network with respect to upgrading from Server 2003. It will also help you to plan your project.
The ACT tool kit can assist in identifying and managing application compatibility issues; issues that would arise or course arise if you move applications to a new OS and new hardware. The ACT also enables you to ‘fix’ applications so that they run properly in the latest versions of MS operating systems. As such this tool will be invaluable in making older applications work without having to do costly upgrades. See here for the ACT.
Get Started SOON
If you are still running Server 2003 in any shape or form, you should have an upgrade strategy. You should work out what you are going to upgrade, and what to. This is not necessarily a fast process. It can take weeks to work out all the applications you have and analyse each and every one for upgrade potential. And where upgrading to a new OS means an upgraded or a totally new application suite, you can find the upgrade process is going to be longer.
Bottom line if you haven’t started now, you are going to be hard pressed to finish in time. So get moving!