Mar 11 2015

So Long Windows Server 2003, Hello Cloud?

Companies may find that Microsoft’s shuttering of support for Windows Server 2003 offers an ideal time to modernize.

By now, it should be no surprise to any IT manager that Microsoft will stop supporting Windows Server 2003 come July 14.

On some level, it’s unsettling that as late as last summer an estimated 10 million servers were still running the operating system, which debuted back in 2003. But ultimately, why should companies rush to change something that has worked well for them for more than a decade?

Now, however, the OS truly is near its end of life. With that July deadline on the horizon, businesses are left with three options: Keep everything the same and try to hope against a failure or infection until they can afford an overhaul; upgrade only the oldest hardware while rolling out Windows Server 2012; or take a more radical path and modernize the company’s IT infrastructure altogether.

Really, IT teams should look at this type of event as a golden moment — an opportunity to revisit the corporate infrastructure and plot out the way their companies should manage IT, now and into the future.


The percentage of server operating systems running on Windows at the end of 2014

SOURCE: IDC, “Windows Server 2003: Why You Should Get Current,” July 2014

A New Tack

Rather than merely replicating all existing servers, the shuttering of Windows Server 2003 gives IT chiefs the chance to finally sort out which pieces of the infrastructure should stay on-premises and which should migrate to the cloud.

Companies may want to start by running a cloud test bed, or decide that going forward they will create only virtual instances of important new line-of-business applications, for instance. Even if you’re feeling behind on post–Windows Server 2003 strategies, it’s not too late to begin planning your business’s cloud approach, and how you might convert small or huge portions of your infrastructure to services.

There are cloud providers and third-party organizations ready and willing to help you through the process. CDW has partnerships with more than 200 cloud providers. (You can learn more at

When talking to senior management and looking at options, you have a good foundation from which to make the case: After mid-July, your systems administrators will no longer be able to update and patch the old servers running Server 2003. That will leave systems exposed to attacks.

Plus, if too much time elapses, companies will find that they will no longer adhere to standard compliance regulations either — things like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or the financial sector’s Sarbanes–Oxley mandate.

The Path Forward

If you have not done so already, explain to top management that now is perhaps the company’s best opportunity to modernize. Probably the most persuasive argument you can make is that by moving some infrastructure to the cloud, the business will free up the tech staff so that it can focus on customer service and driving innovation that will help the bottom line.

Microsoft recommends that com­panies start by discovering and cataloging all the software and workloads that now run on Windows Server 2003/R2. Then categorize and analyze the catalogued apps and workloads based on type, criticality, complexity and risk. Using that information, the IT team can prioritize workloads and apps for migration.

Finally, choose a migration destination for each application and workload. Microsoft options include Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Azure, the Cloud OS Network and Microsoft Office 365.

More than just a technology overhaul, moving forward requires a change in mindset. Companies that embrace change will come out the other side cutting costs over the next five or 10 years and gaining a competitive advantage. Who doesn’t want to be part of that vanguard?


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