Everything you need to consider about Windows Server 2003 migration

I consider migrating from WS03 as more of a mindset than a list of steps. The migration decision goes beyond the IT data center to affect the whole organizational strategy, and careful planning is critical to guarantee successful execution.

With the end of Windows XP-support still fresh in our minds, the end to WS03 EOS seems to be coming too soon. But along with this event, we should expect a change in the dynamics within the IT industry, with the greatest significance around the security issues that accompany the support withdrawal.

Adoption rates

According to Microsoft data, worldwide, WS03 is about 39 percent of the Windows Server installations. In Jun. 2014, 94 per cent of companies using WS03 expressed their intention to migrate to a newer version of WS, as well as the Microsoft cloud solution ‘Azure’. It was mentioned that globally there are 24 million instances — half physical, half virtual — of WS03 running on 12 million physical servers. There are 9.4 million WS03 instances alone in North America.

At this rate, Microsoft and its partners would need to upgrade 20,000 instance of WS03 a day to meet the July 2015 deadline that Microsoft has decided for EOS. Today, just three months before Microsoft EOS, 61 per cent of the customers still running Windows Server 2003, a recent survey revealed.


The most important question right now is, with only three months before the EOS deadline, why are migration rates this low?

The first reason is the fact that WS03 is still performing well. For some organizations, the cost of migration might impose a financial commitment that they are just not prepared to make. Also, after the deadline, servers running WS03 will continue to run as usual, although less secure.

There are also obstacles during the migration process itself. For many clients, there is simply too much involved on top of the server. Third-party applications may become unsupported on a new platform. Choosing among the many possible tools and coordinating application upgrades will pose a significant issue as well.


The answer to all this is that no single solution fits all scenarios; the best approach is to establish a combination of tactics to address this challenge.

Migration projects can go anywhere between a three to 18-month timeframe. In this time, you must address specific points such as assessing your current and future demands, finding out what to do with your legacy applications and identifying what can be moved to the cloud.
Migration considerations

  • Assess the current environment before the migration.
  • Is server virtualization a good option?
  • Do you need new hardware?
  • Will your application run properly on the new platform?

Microsoft is a great source to look into with their 4-step approach.

Points for consideration

Select destination:

  • Virtualization and/or cloud

Virtualization is a good option to minimize the need for physical hardware. There are different options; one of them is Microsoft Hyper-V which already comes with the full Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard edition, as well as Cloud.

  • Windows Server 2012

Windows Server 2008 is not a viable option due to the fact its support ends in 2020. Unless you have a special software or technical reason to be doing so, you should go with Windows Server 2012.

Decide on the approach:

Your migration process includes discovery and analysis, then the actual migrations. You have different alternatives and approaches:

Do it on your own

Your starting point is to have a full inventory of your current servers, taking note how many servers are still in production and what ongoing workloads they support, so consider these points:

  • Make use of the existing built-in migration tools.
  • How many third party products exist, which help you analyze and check application requirements before migration? The generated reports will tell whether legacy applications will run smoothly on the new platform.
  • Most importantly extensive testing should be performed and this can take time.

Use partner or a professional service

If you have a complex landscape don’t worry, you are not alone. HP, Dell, and others announced their migration services portfolio will allow businesses currently running WS03 to transition workloads to the Microsoft Azure cloud or Windows Server 2012 R2. There are other services providers available to help you as well. On Jan. 14, 2015, Insight recently announced its Rapid Response Team to get help with businesses that haven’t started yet.

A closing remark

If you haven’t started moving off your WS03 yet, the time to start is right now. Organizations such as healthcare and those that handle credit card payments have much to risk with losing compliance.

Still there are benefits coming with the pain of the migration:

  • New features and enhanced security coming with the new operating system
  • Cost — WS03 will cost more to operate with non-compliance

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Tamer Marzouk
Tamer Marzouk
A management consultant, with 18 years of experience in diverse capacities, Tamer Marzouk began his career as an IT professional. Marzouk is an author, speaker, and lecturer. Marzouk holds MBA and M.COMP degrees with research focused on change management and human behavior in ERP implementations.

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