It’s Time to ModernizeNigel Stokes
Change can be difficult. It requires focused effort and learning. For all primates, humans included, learning is paired with frustration. We’re all familiar with the ebb and flow of two steps forward and one step back. Doing nothing is less frustrating. We believe that procrastination is easy – when in reality procrastination wastes time and energy and makes you feel bad. It holds you back from embracing change and creating a future.
A look at procrastination and application modernization, and why procrastination isn’t the key
Here’s a classic tech industry example: Microsoft WS2003 reached end of support on July 14, 2015 (more than 18 months ago). Sure, it’s a pain to implement new operating systems patches and manage the consequences of upgrades. But end-of-support deadlines for an operating system can’t be ignored forever. If you’re still running WS2003, you need to get to work. You need to modernize.
As a Christmas gift to all IT procrastinators, Microsoft announced late in 2016 that it was extending support (for an insurance fee) for both WS2008 and SQL Server 2008 for another 6 full years, until 2026. Yes, a decade from now. Procrastinators everywhere rejoiced.
As you can tell, I don’t think delay is a good strategy for the tech industry in general and Microsoft users in particular. In my view, the new Microsoft WS2008 support scheme is a bet against innovation. Now, every inertia-driven ISV and IT organization can tell its customers running on 8-year-old servers: what you have is what you get – until 2026. IT can go ahead and procrastinate. They can find more important stuff to do.
However, if Microsoft customers want to move forward, move to the cloud (which won’t be an option for WS2008 users), use new Docker-managed Windows containers, and unlock new innovations, they need to modernize now. All Microsoft’s new and innovative technology runs only on the latest versions of its software; none will run on WS2008, despite the rubric of 10 more years of paid support.
Bottom line is that if you want to lead in any business, you need to innovate or be disrupted by new entrants with new technology. In 2026, you had better not be running on WS2008 or SQL 2008 (which will be a doddering 18 years old). You can bet that disruptive new players in the field won’t be running on senile technology.
The risk of running on old stuff
Organizations face several options when it comes to modernizing. Choices range from doing nothing, investing in a decaying platform for another decade, and migrating applications in part or completely. Some key questions to help you assess risk and exposures include:
- Do you have applications that must comply with operational or quality standards, such HIPPA, SSAE 16, or ISO 27001?
- Do you have applications where failure will affect revenue or disrupt business?
- Are legacy apps causing operational problems, data or malware exposures, or increasing maintenance costs and reducing agility?
- Do you have regulatory compliance commitments; such as exist in financial services or healthcare industries?
- Do you have sufficient in-house expertise for managing operating systems, aging technology, virtualization, modernization efforts, and security?
For example, from a security standpoint, WS2003 has become an increased target for malware and ransomware since end-of-support. Resolving security exposures without vendor-supported OS patches is impossible. These risks aren’t theoretical – they can and do impact business and ruin reputations.
Once you’ve assessed your risk and exposures and understood and budgeted for the benefits of modernizing WS2003 and WS2008 platforms, the remaining challenge is to discover how to modernize efficiently and effectively.
Modernizing efficiently and effectively
The next steps on the modernization path are to:
- Examine migration scenarios and select the combination most appropriate for you.
- Monitor and discover the applications running on your existing server environment.
- Assess and size applications.
- Determine where workloads or applications can be moved, for example to new servers or to the cloud.
- Migrate and verify results.
The good news is that it’s never been easier to assess and migrate production server applications to newer operating systems and to clouds. There’s little need for labor-intensive approaches for upgrading apps, such as re-installing and manually upgrading machines or rebuilding them.
Container-based server application modernization
Earlier generations of copy tools that moved the entire machine have given way to a new container-based approach, which automatically detects, migrates, and separates applications from the underlying operating system. Containerization allows packaging of nearly all types of Windows Server applications for migration from older operating systems, (such as W2000, W2003, WS2008) to newer OS versions (WS2012 or W2016).
With containers, applications are encapsulated to have all their dependencies and configurations “contained,” so that no matter where they are deployed, they run independent of the OS infrastructure. These containers can then be provisioned and run natively on any newer Windows OS, server, or cloud.
The application virtualization process known as containerization isn’t new. What’s new and innovative is using application virtualization software to extract installed server applications for modernization and cloud on-boarding. New techniques in application containerization automate IT processes that were once manual and labor intensive, providing a scalable modernization and migration solution.
Modernization creates the future
When it comes to Windows Server modernization, there are no rational reasons for and no real benefits from sticking with a procrastination strategy. When it comes to procrastination and application modernization, procrastination is a costly dead end.
Modernization will likely mean a learning curve and effort, projects to initiate and work on, and perhaps even some challenges and frustrations. Change isn’t always easy nor swift. But modernization also offers paths to the future that you can explore now, and innovative tools and techniques exist today to ease the way forward.