Monday, 13 July 2015 02:43

20% of businesses still running Windows Server 2003: survey

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Even though Windows Server 2003 goes out of support tomorrow, Microsoft's ageing server operating system is still in use at 20% of Australian and New Zealand businesses according to a Telsyte survey commissioned by Dell.

Dell data centre and cloud practice lead Dean Gardner told iTWire that it was clear from talking to customers that there was still a pool of Server 2003 use, so the company commissioned research by analyst firm Telsyte.

"We see it as a real challenge" that 20% of businesses are still on Server 2003, he said.

The survey also revealed a surprising lack of awareness of the issue among IT professionals. 24% of those running Server 2008 or older were unaware that extended support for Server 2003 about to end.

But it also showed that most businesses have at least looked at the issue. 40% said they hadn't upgraded because of application compatibility issues, and 29% said it would be too expensive.

"A lot of customers have done some initial planning... that's the first step," he said.

"The [Server] 2003 problem isn't a server problem, it's an application problem" which often involves SQL databases. So Dell has a program for SQL Server migration, and once that part is done the rest of the migration is a lot simpler.

Another important aspect is the move from 32-bit to 64-bit systems. Since 32-bit versions of Server 2008 are already out of mainstream support, Gardner suggests Server 2003 and 32-bit Server 2008 migration should be considered one project, even if 2003 systems are prioritised.

Otherwise, when Server 2016 arrives next year there may be four generations of Windows Server running in some data centres, which is too much for most organisations to manage. It will also slow their transition to the cloud, he suggested.

Dell's ChangeBase tool can be used to locate servers running Server 2003 and legacy applications.

It would be unreasonable to brand Gardner a scaremonger. "I don't believe the sky's going to fall on Tuesday," he told iTWire.

But he is concerned that 25% of respondents said the reason they hadn't already upgraded was that the servers concerned run critical business systems that cannot be taken offline. If they are that critical, should they be running on an unsupported operating system?

In some cases, the systems are already scheduled to be decommissioned. But some businesses are taking an ostrich-like position by thinking - hoping? - they won't be affected by any problems.

27% of IT managers do not believe they are liable for lack of compliance once support ends for Windows Server 2003, but according to Dell this is a misconception as IT will be responsible for making sure those systems do not infringe compliance or regulatory requirements and remain secure against malicious threats.

Customers have complex environments, Gardner said, and often the original designers are no longer with the company, which makes changes more challenging. That's on top of the need to find the money and other resources for a project which - if executed properly - will not be noticed by users. This contrasts markedly with migrations away from XP, which were very obvious to everyone using a computer.

"Most customers have done the easy stuff themselves" but some need help that Dell Consulting can provide.

Generally speaking, organisations should be able to migrate at least their critical systems to Server 2012 by the end of 2015, he suggested. "Now's the time to hit the critical stuff."

"There's never been a better time to do it," Gardner added, as plenty of migration projects have been done so the skills are currently available. But by this time next year it will be harder and more expensive as experienced consultants and contract staff will have moved on to other activities.

"Many IT departments are challenged by support demands, keeping operational processes running and application support leaving operating system upgrades waiting for the 'best time'," said Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda.

"The problem with leaving server upgrades languishing is it opens a larger window of risk - everything from malware attacks to inadequate data protection. Businesses should keep their software updated to focus on using IT to add value."

Telsyte surveyed a representative sample of 250 ICT decision makers in Australia and New Zealand in June 2015.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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