Farewell to Windows 2003 Server, Hello Cloud

Windows 2003 ServerDid you feel it? We passed a milestone in infrastructure technology, a vestige of our 20th century infrastructure roots. When it comes to technology, what we hear in the media is often not a reflection of what is going on in the rank and file of businesses and organizations out there. What’s new and exciting is perhaps more newsworthy but is not always realistic or practical. It’s clear that cloud is here to stay, but there is plenty of inertia dragging out the adoption curve. Whether it’s cost, risk, or just plain “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” there are many reasons that hold back businesses from implementing new technology. However, we are at a turning point, of sorts, that may nudge the pace of innovation just a bit.

On July 15, we note the End of Life for a work horse of the Windows server family, Windows 2003 Server. For those of us who had the pleasure of installing and working with Windows NT Server, the release of Windows 2000 server and active directory was a welcome relief. As is often true, first versions don’t always have all the bugs worked out so it was in Windows 2003 that we had a stable platform to deliver to our clients. The Windows 2003 family of servers created a great platform for the file, application and database needs of larger businesses and Windows 2003 SBS had everything the small business needed in one nice, neat package. With all that it delivered, it was missing one thing. Windows 2003 server didn’t have the cloud.

A key building framework of the “cloud” is virtualization, the ability to have multiple server instances running on the same hardware. As time went on we “virutualized” the infrastructure itself, which we have now in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure among others. While virtualization was available through companies like VMware at the time, the functionality was not introduced as native functionality in Windows server until Winodows 2008 server. Windows 2003 Server was the last server operating system released by Microsoft without the native ability to run virtual servers.

There’s an old joke that goes something like this:

“Why’s your dog howling?”

“He’s sitting on a nail…”

“Why doesn’t he get up?”

“It doesn’t hurt that much…”

For many businesses out there this is the state of their technology infrastructure: it’s running and it’s not perfect, but we get by. And this is the state of affairs with which those responsible for technology often struggle. Change often seems more painful than the status quo, but there comes a point in time where something tips the balance in favor of change. This is where we are with Windows Server and the cloud. It’s not that businesses need to stop running Windows 2003 server. It’s that the risk of running it — the pain — just increased by more than a little bit. And it raises a larger issue for those vested with managing technology for their business. It’s no longer a question of do I replace my server, but do I change the way I run the technology for my business.

So as we see the end of Windows 2003 Server, we also see the end of an era. But not so fast. If your business is helping businesses navigate this change — MSP’s, integrators and other technology consultants — it bears keeping in mind: there are still millions of Windows 2003 servers running out there which serves as a metaphor for cloud adoption in general. It costs time, effort and money to migrate to a new server and for many businesses the price may seem too high. That’s your opportunity.

The pace of innovation in terms of infrastructure technology is fast and furious and the long tail of adoption extends pretty far…

…but maybe it just got a little boost.


This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.