4,464 DAYS AGO Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 to manufacturers. Today marks its end of life, the point at which Microsoft will stop supporting it, patching its security breaches, making it warm milk and kissing its oweeys.
In many ways, this is an even more relevant end of an era than Windows XP which expired in April 2014, because each instance of Windows Server powers entire networks and virtual machines and is the backbone of entire businesses' IT infrastructure.
To put it simply, if Windows XP end of life might leave your cabbages prone to butterflies, the end of Windows Server 2003 is Dutch Elm Disease.
What makes this all the more worrying is that no-one seems that bothered. In fact, as recently as April, it was estimated that two-thirds of businesses were not going to make today's deadline to upgrade.
Microsoft has made no secret of its end of life plans - the package moved to the Extended Support phase four years ago - but it has to be said that the firm hasn't always done the best job of explaining the importance of such a major upgrade to a company's IT infrastructure in a time of austerity. After all, if it ain't broke, right?
Adrian Foxall, CEO of Camwood, told us last week: "The potential repercussions of the end of support for Windows Server 2003 are no less severe, yet levels of interest are low compared to the demise of XP.
"One reason is that Server 2003 just isn’t ‘interesting’ enough. Server maintenance isn’t user-facing, it’s considered a back-end process and therefore somewhat invisible to the majority of people and organisations it will impact."
And he has a point. Taking a look at the migration page today, less than 24 hours to go, we see three options:
1. Get started with the Migration Planning Assistant. Nope. Bit daunting.
2. Read the IDC white paper Why You Should Get Current. Nope. I think I'd rather self-flagellate with a 2x4 with rusty nails embedded.
3. Register for the migration webinar series. Hmm. Maybe if I stare at the page long enough it'll come up with an option called 'Make this incredibly dull thing palatable.' Nope. Didn't happen. Pass the 2x4.
Nick East, co-founder and CEO of hybrid cloud vendor Zynstra, believes that we should have evolved beyond such obsolescence by now, the way that Windows 10 will do for the consumer market.
"The Windows Server 2003 end-of-support deadline presents an opportunity for organisations to refine their IT strategy. Ideally, they will adopt hybrid IT to take advantage of the performance and control of on-premise IT as well as the cost and scalability benefits of the cloud," he said.
"Provided as a service, the hybrid IT model takes these benefits one step further, offering it as a subscription-based model with no capital expenditure and no management required.
"Hybrid IT-as-a-service may well be the best option for organisations faced with a complete infrastructure refresh in the wake of the WS2003 end of life."
But then he would say that. So should Microsoft have done more?
"The end of support for Windows Server 2003 is an issue a huge number of businesses are facing and one that needs to be addressed with immediacy,” said Ian Finlay, COO of Abiquo, another hybrid storage vendor.
"According to Microsoft last month, there were 11 million Windows 2003 servers still running and, with less than a month to go before end of support, businesses that have not taken action will be at risk.
"Migrating can be daunting but this offers a solution which will protect your information and buy some more time before investing in a full move to Server 2012."
The fact is, there's not a lot more that Microsoft could have done. As we've said before in these hallowed pages, the repeated failure of a worldwide Armageddon caused by faulty software has made people complacent.
The Millennium Bug promised planes falling out of the sky. What we got was the Queen not knowing the words to Auld Lang Syne.
We were warned of a virus apocalypse when XP reached end of life. In reality, millions of people around the world are still using it with no ill effects.
And when the leap second came around again, like it does every few years, and yet still gets treated like the first leap second that e'er there were, the worst thing we saw was a slight delay at Qantus check-in desks.
So when you go to your boss with a plan to spend tens of thousands on an upgrade for something that he doesn't understand, isn't broken and the only things you have to compare it with are non-events, it's not surprising that he looks at you with contempt and starts musing about whether Bangalore-based outsourcing is called for.
The other big problem which has not helped matters is that the newest version of Windows Server was supposed to be out by now. Needless to say it isn't and Redmond remains very cagey on what sort of timescale we're looking at. Why would you want to upgrade to the current Server 2012, only for it to be out of date in another year?
In short, upgrading has been made boring, difficult, unattractive and impractical. And if that sounds more like a reason to divorce someone than a list of reasons to upgrade your software infrastructure, you've hit the nail on the head.
Microsoft isn't the only game in town and if it plans to put customers through hell every four years, the firm shouldn't be surprised when they run off with the OS next door who is increasingly becoming more reliable, more attractive, more open to experimentation and, best of all, downright cheap. µ
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