We first gave you the heads up when we began discussing End of Life for the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. The sun is now setting on support for Windows 2003 servers as well, with a deadline date of July 14th, 2015. Now in its 11th year of use, Windows Server 2003 has been considered a reliable part of many organizations' infrastructure —the very reason why it is still in use.
However, according to a wealth of good information on Microsoft's Server 2003 End of Life Resource page, Windows Server 2003 has been succeeded by many newer generations over the past decade and they've deemed the time has come for customers to take this conclusion of a lengthy life cycle seriously and make near-term plans to begin a migration plan. Important to note that customers that go beyond the termination of extended support place themselves at potential security risks and potentially in a regulatory noncompliance situation.
That said, we realize some companies find themselves in a state of "forced dependency" on Windows Server 2003 due to such issues as:
- custom-created or heavily customized apps reliant on Server 2003
- packaged applications not running properly on newer versions of Windows server
- the need to run a product that is no longer supported (or its support is reaching the end of its life cycle).
In cases such as these, we concur with the message to encourage decision makers to consider the entire software ecosystem that remains on Windows Server 2003 today, and to lean toward choices that benefit the whole application stack and offer the longest return on investment.
With that in mind, key concerns of remaining on Windows Server 2003 include:
- Lack of patches/updates/non-security fixes - No-cost, non-security-related update support terminated on July 13, 2010. However, support for non-security-related updates was available on a for-fee basis to customers that felt it was important to continue to have access to fixes that could help their system run optimally and perform well.
- Elimination of security fixes - Customers see security fixes as being among the most critical fixes for their installed servers. These fixes will no longer be delivered to customers for their Windows Server 2003 servers, regardless of how severe a given issue may be. This may be less of a problem with many aging Windows Server 2003 applications, mainly because the applications still in use are increasingly likely to be inward facing rather than outward facing.
- Lack of support - Customers no longer have the ability to contact Microsoft for technical support in the event of a server problem. This becomes particularly important when a system experiences an outage and customers are unable to restore the system and recover data and applications from the stalled machine.
- Application support challenges - Application ISVs dislike having a complex support matrix and typically support current versions along with a finite number of earlier editions of the product. For most ISVs, an 11-year-old application is probably already past its rational support life cycle, and in most cases, these application ISVs are about to discontinue or have already discontinued support for aging operating system environments such as Windows Server 2003.
- Compliance issues - Customers in regulated industries or handling regulated data, including healthcare and payment card industry (PCI) data, may find that they are out of compliance, which could mean fines or being cut off from key trading partners that seek to protect their own regulatory compliance status.
- Inability to leverage modern cloud options from Microsoft and other vendors - Windows Server 2003 can run on virtually every hypervisor in the market, but that does not mean it is an equal player in these modern deployment scenarios. For example, Windows Server 2003 installations cannot be re-hosted in a Microsoft Azure environment, unless it is a 64-bit image, but the vast majority of Windows Server 2003 installations are 32-bit solutions. So even if customers bring the 32-bit image to the Azure cloud, they cannot continue using that operating system instance. When spinning up new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) instances in Azure, Microsoft provides catalog images only for 64-bit instances of Windows Server 2012 R2. Customers looking to develop a hybrid cloud strategy will find that Windows Server 2003 will
not offer the same level of convenience that Windows Server 2012, along with modern companion technologies such as System Center 2012 R2, brings to the table
With the predominance of mobile computing, BYOD, and cloud-based technologies hedging into our day-to-day work environments, this is actually an exciting opportunity to prepare for the next generation in Information Technology!
We hope you'll give us a shout if you have any questions about your server environment. In fact, while you're browsing around our website, be sure to look to the right for our latest client testimonial. Don't hesitate to pop over to YouTube and see what some of our other clients have to say about us. Let us know if we can help determine if your particular organization yields a solid case for migration.