Microsoft and its partners in theory need to upgrade 20,000 instance of Windows Server 2003 a day to meet the July 2015 deadline that Microsoft has set for ending support. Obviously, that’s not going to happen. But what most IT service providers might not appreciate is that their only option is to upgrade those instances of Windows Server to Windows Server 2012 R2. That’s because Microsoft is also moving to pull Windows Server 2008 from the IT services channel by the end of this year.
Speaking at the Ingram Micro One 2014 conference this week, Dave Rich, senior account manager for U.S. OEM distribution, notes that many IT services providers and their customers are under the mistaken impression that the natural migration path from Windows Server 2003 is Windows Server 2008. But even though Windows Server 2008 still sells more licenses than Windows Server 2012, Rich says Microsoft wants to push customers to Windows Server 2012 as quickly as possible.
The only question is what percentage of those instances of Windows Server 2012 will be running on premise or in the cloud. And if Windows Server 2012 is to be deployed in the cloud, the next logical question is how many of those instances will be running on Microsoft Azure versus another cloud computing platform.
To make Microsoft Azure more attractive to customers, Microsoft is pulling together a number of solution accelerators around, for example, disaster recovery and single sign-on capabilities. The basic idea is that if the Windows Server 2012 migration is part of implementing new capabilities, the incentive to make the migrations will be that much faster.
At the moment, Microsoft has eight data centers in the U.S. along with an equal number that are distributed throughout the rest of the globe. But as big as the Microsoft Azure footprint is, it’s clear that everyone from traditional server provider such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM to a host of emerging cloud platform vendors are after the same business.
A key part of Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy is now anchored around a new Microsoft Open Volume Licensing program under which Microsoft server software can be essentially deployed on premise and Microsoft Azure more flexibly. The basic idea is to use licensing terms to make Microsoft Azure a preferred cloud destination for enterprise applications.
Rich says that in terms of the overall opportunity for IT services providers, the Windows Server 2003 migration will prove to be much bigger in financial terms than the migration from Windows XP that Microsoft recently forced.
The challenge facing IT services providers, of course, will be finding a way to manage those Windows server migrations at a reasonable pace. A sudden rush to upgrade Windows Server 2003 instances just before the July 2015 deadline could easily overwhelm the resources of the average IT services provider. For that reason alone, it’s in the best interest of IT services providers to start pushing to make as many of those migrations as possible today. Otherwise, IT service providers are going to wind up throwing bodies as a Window Server 2003 migration opportunity that might not wind up being as profitable as Microsoft and IT services partners might think.