With Microsoft's aging Windows 2000 system hurtling towards obsolescence next month, Microsoft issued a warning at the TechEd 2010 trade show this week that it was time for server and desktop users to upgrade. But the warning doesn't apply to just Windows 2000: Those still running Windows Server 2003 will want to begin plotting a migration to more modern server products as well.
Windows Server 2003 has a lot of life left in it from a support standpoint. It's about to enter the "extended support" phase, meaning it will be provided with security updates, but little else, for the next five years. In the server world, that level of support is acceptable, even desirable.
And Windows Server 2003 currently represents the majority of Microsoft-based servers deployed around the world, with the installed base of Windows Server 2003-based servers dwarfing those running Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 combined. But these Server 2003 boxes typically utilize older, less efficient hardware, and provide only 32-bit computing capabilities, and none of the virtualization and scalability advantages of newer systems.
"Windows Server 2003 is a power hungry, non-virtualized, \\[32-bit\\] world," Windows Server Group Product Manager Ward Ralston explained during a briefing this week. "It's the classic server sprawl problem."
As important, perhaps, reliance on 32-bit servers is breeding an entire generation of custom, in-house, and line of business (LOB) applications, many of which won't be easily upgradable to the 64-bit systems that are a requirement for the current server version, Windows Server 2008 R2. In fact, Ralston told me that the number one reason that customers exercise downgrade rights when they acquire a new server is to continue running these 32-bit applications.
So the time to begin at least planning a migration is now, according to Microsoft. Ralston suggested that businesses should also consider hosting applications in the cloud, now that the Windows Azure platform is maturing.
As for you Windows 2000 hold-outs, the time draws close when that system will hit the dread End-Of-Life (EOL) phase. Fortunately, this is a small market with usage share numbers in the low single digits. "Is this a good enough argument?" Ralston asked. "There's no support for Windows 2000 anymore, not even security updates unless you pay for a custom support agreement."