Multiple choices complicate Windows Server upgrade process
January 14, 2020: The date that marks the end of extended support for Windows Server 2008 looms on the calendar for many businesses.
Now more than ever, decisions related to a Windows Server upgrade will affect more than just the workloads that rely on the server operating system. The innovations in Windows Server 2016, such as Docker container support and the Storage Spaces Direct feature, can steer enterprise purchasing decisions on a server hardware refresh. Companies that need the flexibility and security from the software-defined networking capabilities in Windows Server 2016 might need to reevaluate their networking equipment needs -- or wait to see what the next version of the server OS brings.
Microsoft plans to release Windows Server 2019 in the second half of 2018, the next installment in its Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) for its server operating system. LTSC releases are the "traditional" versions of Windows Server that have a GUI and come with five years of mainstream support followed by five years of extended support. Companies that want to develop cloud-friendly containers can select from the other servicing option, the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC), which provides the Nano Server container host and other cutting-edge features for a higher price. New SAC versions come out every six months and come with just 18 months of support. With these additional options, a decision on a Windows Server upgrade gets even more complex.
Microsoft changed the feature sets for Standard and Datacenter editions for the first time with Windows Server 2016. It's unclear if this split will continue with Windows Server 2019, but customers who desire premium features should brace themselves for steeper costs.
This handbook covers some of the other factors surrounding a Windows Server upgrade -- such as the pervasiveness of cloud computing and Microsoft's efforts to implement commodity hardware -- to help you make an informed buying decision.