enterprise IT, server, legacy gear

Looming Windows Server 2003 Deadline Means Rethinking Legacy Gear

Organizations that meet the July 14 deadline must still face important questions about existing infrastructure and issues related to IT asset disposition.

legacy gear

As if summer doesn’t race by too quickly already, now there’s a looming deadline to make the season seem even shorter. By this time next month, CIOs, IT directors, data center operators and anyone else with a server rack and a connection to the outside world must be upgraded from Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or face the music.

Those who ignore Microsoft’s well-publicized Windows Server 2003 “end-of-life” on July 14 – the day all patches, upgrades and support for the once-popular OS come to a screeching halt – will endure security risks, regulatory sanctions, and impaired stability. Those who comply, meanwhile, will have to deal with important questions about their existing infrastructure and issues related to IT asset disposition in addition to the software upgrade.

Microsoft has spent more than a year encouraging the more than 70 percent of businesses and 73 percent of government bodies worldwide that continue to cling to Windows Server 2003 to move their systems to Windows Server 2012. According to Spiceworks, 62 percent of businesses in the U.S. are still running at least one instance of Windows Server 2003. Gartner estimates there are 8 million instances still running, and something like 1.6 million of those will continue to operate after July 14.

“Running unsupported software carries significant security risks and may result in costly compliance violations,” Takeshi Numoto, corporate VP of cloud and enterprise marketing at Microsoft wrote in a blog post. “As you evaluate security risks, keep in mind that even a single unpatched server can be a point of vulnerability for your entire infrastructure.”

Indeed, regulations like PCI DSS for retail and financial credit card systems and HIPAA in health care require organizations to make use of secure and updated systems components, a distinction Windows Server 2003 can no longer claim come July 14.

While Microsoft sees the transition from Windows Server 2003 to the latest Windows Server 2012 R2 as a one-to-one proposition for legacy, on-premises hardware, the truth is that CIOs, CFOs and other IT decision makers have two key choices to make as the July deadline looms. The first involves technical requirements.

Microsoft will tell you that to run Windows Server 2012 R2, you’ll need a minimum of a 1.4GHz 64-bit processor, 512MB of RAM, and 32GB of free disk space. In reality, the requirements are closer to 3.1GHz or more of processor speed, at least 8GB of RAM and more like 160GB of disk space to accommodate both the new operating system along with locally-managed apps and data.

That means a decision about Windows Server 2003 updates is also a matter of mulling significant upgrades to the server iron, if not a complete rip-and-replace of what are likely 12-year-old data-center systems. While Microsoft has been advancing its server OS over the past decade, the IT infrastructure vendors have managed to pack a lot more compute power into modern, efficient servers that take up less space, demand less power and cooling and are much easier to manage and maintain. For example, a half-rack of Hewlett-Packard’s newest hyper-scale Moonshot servers can replace 1,600 conventional servers while consuming 90 percent less power.

The second consideration is, of course, the cloud, either your own in a private, virtualized configuration or via the public cloud managed by a third-party provider. Many organizations have put off significant forays into cloud computing because ROI calculations suffered when compared to existing on-premises systems. The Windows Server 2003 end-of-life conundrum will make that moot.

The advanced virtualization capabilities in Windows Server 2012 make it an excellent platform upon which to build a more virtualized data center with private cloud capabilities. The schema allows a single physical server to do the work of tens or hundreds of old, legacy servers and the resulting consolidation makes the data center far cheaper to operate over time.

Those that eschew the virtualization and private cloud capabilities can steer toward pure-play cloud offerings that take much of the IT infrastructure burden off of the organization altogether. According to the Cloud Industry Forum, already formidable cloud adoption is expected to jump 8 percent in the coming year, fueled by the Windows Server 2003 turnover.

“We have every confidence that the Cloud’s momentum will be maintained, helped in no small part by the retirement of Microsoft Windows Server 2003,” said Alex Hilton, CEO of the industry advocacy group.  “While first-time adoption is likely to slow somewhat, penetration of cloud services within organizations, which appears to be happening at a faster rate than we had anticipated, will continue unencumbered.”

No matter which route CIOs choose – compact, virtualized data centers or enhanced cloud services – the result of the Windows Server 2003 migration is the same: lots of legacy gear coming out of service that will need to be processed safely, responsibly and cost-effectively.

It’s imperative that IT decision makers enlist a trusted IT asset disposition and remarketing partner as part of their overall Windows Server 2003 transition strategy. An experienced ITAD specialist can handle all of the sensitive aspects of server disposition and data-center consolidation such as wiping the data, documenting chain of custody, ensuring environmentally responsible handling.

Moreover, engaging an ITAD partner early in the Windows Server 2003 transition effort increases the opportunity for repair and resale of valuable storage media components from discontinued servers. This value asset recovery can be reinvested in new, virtualized infrastructure or in new cloud-based offerings, a boon to the organization no matter which course the CIO decides to take.