Windows Server 2008 support extension gives IT time to catch up

In recognition that server upgrades can be glacially slow, Microsoft extended Windows Server 2008 support as it rolls out the OS' heir apparent.

Microsoft's extended Windows Server 2008 support is welcome news to IT pros who won't upgrade to Windows Server 2012 for at least a year.

Microsoft this week announced an extra year and a half of mainstream, technical Windows Server 2008 support for the aging but still popular operating system. The extension is meant to give IT pros a little breathing room while they prepare to roll out Windows Server 2012, and they're likely going to need it. The new server will probably take a year or more to test and perhaps two or more years to roll out as users wait for applications and IT to catch up.

The upgrade cycle for Windows Server is very slow.

Tim Bajarin,
president and principal analyst, Creative Strategies Inc.

"A lot of people aren't prepared to switch over to Windows Server 2012 yet," said Bill Miller, director of IT for South Carolina's Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

The department uses Windows Server 2008 as its primary application server and has some legacy Windows Server 2003 implementations still in place as well. Miller would like to move to Windows Server 2012 but needs to proceed cautiously, so the extra Windows Server 2008 support time is a benefit, he said.

Microsoft shipped Windows Server 2012 earlier this month. The OS adds significant new cloud capabilities and enhancements to the Hyper-V virtualization hypervisor, plus upgrades to its PowerShell scripting environment and the Server Message Block protocol.

In TechTarget's Windows Purchasing Intentions 2012 survey, 87% of respondents identified some version of Windows Server as their primary server OS, broken down as follows: Windows Server 2008 Release 2 (R2) Service Pack 1 (SP1) (62%), the original Windows Server 2008 (14%) and Windows Server 2003 (11%).

Microsoft's support lifecycle for business and development products normally provides five years of no-cost mainstream support, starting on the date of original release or two years from the release of the most recent update, whichever comes later. In this case, the most recent update, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, was delivered in February 2011.

Free Windows Server 2008 support for the R2 version was set to expire on July 9, 2013, but Microsoft has pushed back the date to Jan. 13, 2015.

"Microsoft truly understands that the upgrade cycle for Windows Server is very slow," said Tim Bajarin, president and principal analyst at Creative Strategies Inc., a corporate advisory firm in Campbell, Calif.

Application compatibility is one reason Windows Server upgrades take so long. In the health care field, for example, some vendors' medical applications will run only in a 32-bit environment, not on Windows Server 2012.

"I can guarantee that those vendors won't be ready next year," said Rob McShinsky, a senior systems engineer at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. "I would like to go to Windows 2012, but we're bound to our vendors, [so] an extra 18 months can't hurt."

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