Larry Dignan's posting last week about the latest Intel Xeon lineup potentially being an "economic no brainer" for the upgrade cycle, really got me thinking about what will drive the next upgrade cycle in the Windows Server datacenter environment. A few phone calls got me an interesting consensus opinion though; the upgrade that's on the mind of the datacenter administrators that run Windows isn't the hardware. Their concern right now is on migrating a large number of Windows Server 2003 systems to Windows Server 2008R2.
The issue isn't, in many cases , of wanting to perform the OS migration because of a perceived need (especially in a managed hosting environment), it's simply the fact that in July of this year, Windows Server 2003 mainstream support retired and moved into the category of Extended support, with the additional costs and delays that entails. So this means it's time to move on to Windows Server 2008, at least in the minds of many customers.
Unfortunately, for a lot of businesses, this also means that other changes to their server environment might need to be made. For example, in Windows Server 2003, Microsoft included support for migration from Novell Directory Services/eDirectory, to Microsoft Active Directory. In Windows Server 2008, this support has been dropped, which means that this directory service migration requires a Windows Server 2003 domain controller to remain in place while the migration is performed. This isn't a big deal in a mixed environment, but if you are end-of-life-ing your Windows Server 2003 installations, you need to make sure that any task that requires that operating system to be in place had better be completed before you pull the plug on that last Server 2003 machine.
This does play well into Intel's server processor strategy, however, as customers are often more willing to do bare metal installs on new hardware at this point in the operating system upgrade cycle. And since businesses tend to evaluate their license needs and physical infrastructure requirements before proceeding with these server OS upgrades, the increased processing power and virtualization/consolidation message should play very well with businesses making this move.