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Microsoft tries 'kitchen sink' method for Windows Server 2012 upgrade

With the Windows Server 2012 upgrade available, Microsoft experts analyze the risks and rewards of the feature-rich release.

This is part one in the series looking at Microsoft's approach to promoting Windows Server 2012.

When Microsoft shipped Windows Server 2012 in September, it could have put on the packaging: "includes the kitchen sink."

By a wide margin, the company has crammed more critical core capabilities into this version of their flagship operating system than any previous incarnation. Several of these capabilities bolster not only basic operating system functions but are also designed to serve as building blocks for Microsoft's cloud, virtualization and storage strategies -- each a market where it faces a handful of voracious competitors.

While some are encouraged by what they see and will conduct a serious evaluation, others say they are still upgrading their servers to Windows Server 2008 R2 and that Server 2012 is out on the horizon.

But whether this raft of new features and technologies -- numbering over 300 in all -- can convince Microsoft corporate users to move out of the comfortable confines of Windows Server 2008 R2 anytime soon remains to be seen. While some are encouraged by what they see and will conduct a serious evaluation, others say they are still upgrading their servers to Windows Server 2008 R2 and that Server 2012 is out on the horizon.

"Windows Server 2012 is a pretty interesting proposition, but it forces me to evaluate not just what my next server OS needs are, but my cloud and virtualization strategies as well. I am down the road with both of those, and so I need to investigate how [Windows Server 2012] will work with non-Windows environments and applications," said Eugene Lee, a senior systems administrator with a large bank in Charlotte, N.C. "I'll be with [Windows Server] 2008 for a while."

Windows Server 2012 upgrade's ultimately low cost

Some analysts believe that moving existing data and applications from older versions of Windows Server could, given the new version's improved capabilities, cost less than porting applications to previous versions of Windows Server did. Al Gillen, program vice president, system software for IDC, describes Windows Server 2012 as "sequential and nondisruptive from an installed application perspective."

"The best way to get onto Win Server 2012 is to deploy it in the hypervisor role, which gives you the benefit of the new hypervisor, new storage management and the ability to roll your Windows Server 2003 apps forward onto the new infrastructure," said Gillen. "You aren't saddled with the typical costs and time of porting applications from older versions of Windows Server."

One IT administrator agrees that initially deploying the product on an internal staging server in the hypervisor role was a fairly straightforward process and should yield some worthwhile benefits. "We set up our test server as a Hyper-V host and rebuilt the box, put in a new drive and enabled the Hyper-V role and installed the OS to the main C partition. As long as the Hyper-V VHDs [Virtual Hard Drives] are in a totally separate partition where you aren't touching them, you should be good," said Susan Bradley, a Microsoft most valuable professional (MVP) and a certified public accountant with Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun, in Fresno, Calif. "I recommend, however, not to put any other role on that box other than the Hyper-V role at this point."

What might encourage some users to move to Server 2012 sooner rather than later, Gillen adds, is that Microsoft will soon discontinue extended technical support of the aged Windows Server 2003 and will end mainstream technical support in 2015 for all versions of Windows Server 2008.

Projected worldwide Windows Server shipments by product, 2010-2016 (%)

Server operating environments 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2016
 Windows NT Server 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Windows 2000 Server 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
 Windows Server 2003 29.0% 8.2% 3.0% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0%
 Windows Server 2008 71.0% 91.8% 94.1% 64.2% 18.6% 10.6%
 Windows Server 2012 0.0% 0.0% 2.9% 35.2% 81.3% 89.4%

Source: IDC

"The timing of this could represent an interesting opportunity for Microsoft," he said. Industry projections point to 2014 as a potential breakthrough year for the new OS. IDC predicts that by 2013, Windows Server 2012 will represent 35% of all Windows Server shipments with Windows Server 2008 R2 still holding a commanding 64% share. But in 2014, Server 2012 zooms to 83% and Server 2008 R2 plummets to 18% (See table below: Projected worldwide Windows Server shipments by product.)

The second and final part of the series can be found here.


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