The time has come to migrate from Windows Server 2003, as support ends July 14 2015. Microsoft has recommended to migrate over to Windows Server 2012 R2, or their cloud computing offering, Microsoft Azure. Since this is only a few months away, its time to put your migration plan into action, and prepare for the change. The real question is though, do you really have to upgrade?
Some of Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 customers have weighed up the business prospects of the upgrade, and some have seen the issues they will face during the migration, and said no thank you to Microsoft. The suppliers of application virtualization technology including AppZero, Spoon VMware, and Citrix, have been forecasting these Microsoft platforms to die off slowly. They suggest that Windows applications can be easily and with minimal fuss be smoothly migrated over to a new operating environment, without any changes to the applications that you might be running on the operating system itself. If you are waiting to migrate, you might want to consider this approach.
Application Virtualization addresses many problems, but not all of them, if you are retiring your current Windows Server 2003 operating system. Applications can be encapsulated and then run in an artificial Windows environment that makes it possible for the application to be run inside as an example Windows XP. You can take the applications that you have designed for Windows Server 2003, and allow them to operate under Windows Server 2012 R2 with the same approach. It will require some basic testing to iron out any issues, but these might generally come from memory allocation resources. The way this works is the technology behind the application virtualization encapsulates or surrounds the specific application, and then intercepts all the calls to the outside resources. This includes calls to the operating system. It then transforms these requests into a more acceptable call to the new host OS. This allows the application to continue uninterrupted as it would do normally.
The limitation of application virtualization is apparent. It does appear to be a good solution if you unwilling or unable to move from your installed or supported applications. However, the technology doesn’t have the ability to address all the compatibility issues, which is why you might find crashes, and errors happen more frequently. Plus your application provider’s software license, contract or terms and conditions may prohibit the use of the application with virtualization technologies. You might be dedicated to using virtualization anyway. Especially if you’ve done some initial testing and found that the application will run with few errors, or you’re just willing to take the risk. Many business have reported to have had few issues when adopting this approach. Your application provider may also not support the application if your using this approach either. Once again, if your confident that support isn’t something you need, you can go right ahead and implement it.
Once you have completed your upgrade to Windows Server 2012, you will still have to look at the possibility of staff training. There are a few key differences in the OS from previous versions, and the change will be enough to spook some of those battle hardened users that don’t adapt well to change. The application that you have running in the virtualization environment may look strange and out of place, so shortcuts and links may have to be updated to allow them to look more coherent to your users. The applications might require a specific driver or device that isn’t supported by the new operating system. You might find that the application is tied to a specific printer device or a certain graphics adapter, and these aren’t supported by the new OS. The application virtualization supplier should be able to configure the OS to allow you to use a modified configuration.
Every few years, IT technicians can be expected to perform software upgrades, however the Windows Server 2003 is one of the most dreaded upgrades of recent years. You can expect to have to iron out a few bugs, and spend a few late nights performing the upgrade. If you take the application virtualization option, you might just save yourself some headaches with your users, and sometimes this is what really counts.