The Windows Server Application Life Cycle: Why Moving Legacy Apps to a Modern OS May Be Your Best First MoveNigel Stokes
For decades, internal software development teams have been successfully building Windows Server apps. Regardless of the tools or methodologies used (whether agile, joint, lean, extreme, or waterfall), software builds take years to build and refine. They can also involve considerable risk. Once a useful legacy application has successfully gone through all the build cycles (design, build, test, train, implement, and enhancement) over the years, it’s understandable if a team might be reluctant to start all over again with a rebuild or rearchitecture. “We just got this system working the way it’s supposed to,” system owners might be thinking; “Please don’t change it.”
Several additional factors can make it difficult to redevelop functionality. Frequently, the original application owners and builders who developed the system have left. System amnesia may develop, and nobody knows the business logic in the application nor why it was implemented in a specific way. With enhancement cycles, apps get more complicated over time; adding to complexity, apps are often interconnected with other corporate databases or applications.
The reality is that applications don’t last forever
Redevelopment may be challenging, but the reality is that applications don’t last forever. Eventually, the Windows Server application life cycle comes to a natural end. The standard Microsoft Windows Server application life cycle policy is 10 years of support (5 for mainstream + 5 for extended support) for business and developer products, such as SQL and Windows servers. At the end of the extended support period, patches or security updates are no longer provided, creating security and compliance issues. Driving the need for change are these security and compliance issues and the advent of new technology. A team may reconsider their position on redevelopment with the end of support for an operating system. App rebuilds could be prompted by the tide of modern software tech like cloud computing, microservice architecture, or containerization.
At VirtaMove, we think there are many valid reasons to move your applications and software stacks forward. We also know that rebuilds take time. Getting a CFO to sign off on application redevelopment isn’t easy. The business case for application redevelopment needs to be strong because CFOs know that the biggest ROI comes from not investing in risky projects with uncertain pay offs.
We often recommend an alternative best first move, which IT can do in parallel with a rebuild. This best first move is moving legacy applications to a modern operating system. A stateful re-install of your legacy Windows Server application.
Squeeze more life out of legacy apps & buy time
Imagine that you’re planning redevelopment. While planning is happening, you’re moving Windows 2000, WS2003, and WS2008 applications to new virtual machines and servers running WS2012, WS2016, and WS2019. A recent VirtaMove survey on migrating legacy apps showed that 50% of organization are already running some applications on WS2016 and 2019. Half of IT shops are running modern platforms, on modern hardware. Why not consider re-installing an old app on your new software and hardware?
Moving and planning are concurrent activities that are not mutually exclusive; one activity extends the useful life of legacy apps by several years, while the other addresses new functional and business requirements for the long term. A stateful re-install could buy you 4-8 years of extra life out of legacy apps. This buys your organization 4-8 years to properly plan and implement software redevelopment projects.
Planning for application redevelopment requires time, investment, user involvement, and sign off. Once a redevelopment project is started, it takes time and effort to redevelop applications, test them, educate users on new systems, run old and new systems in parallel, and finally cut over and roll out applications.
Frequently, redevelopment projects run old and new applications in parallel for months to ensure a smooth cut over, minimal disruption, and to confirm that all business requirements have been met.
Moving old apps to new, faster, secure, and supported servers buys you critical time to undertake appropriate planning, parallel testing, and successful redevelopment.
As an added benefit, your future redevelopment project will be implemented on a modern system, using modern tools.
Extending the Windows Server application life cycle – what does that mean?
When you move legacy apps from an old server running an unsupported OS to a modern supported OS on new hardware, nothing really changes from an app life cycle perspective. Moving is essentially a stateful re-install on a new OS. You get to keep all the historical information that you put into the app over time – patches, configuration data, etc. – and you get to extend the life of the applications on a new OS.
The upgrade cycle and maintenance process for the application stay the same. You can develop, manage, and install application upgrades as usual. You can manage development, test, and production instances as usual. Application improvements can be planned and implemented over time as needed and justified. Given a solid business case, full redevelopment can also be undertaken, as the business needs it. You’re not forced into application redevelopment immediately simply because you want to run on modern servers.
Benefits to running old apps on new servers
There are five tangible benefits to running legacy applications on new servers:
- A new operating system closes known security exposures on WS2000, WS2003 and WS2008 systems and compliance issues raised from running on an unsupported OS.
- Modern hardware improves system performance and lets users do more work.
- Stack components such as IIS and SQL Server can be upgraded during the move to a new OS.
- A modern OS opens the opportunity of moving apps to the cloud, where they can be managed with cloud management tools and easily scaled to meet demand.
- The life cycle of legacy applications can be extended, and normal enhancement cycles can occur to address new functional requirements, such as GDPR, multi-tenancy, or Azure SQL on the modern OS.
Companies can get great returns now from moving old apps to new, faster, secure servers. It can be your best first move if your organization needs to buy time for an app rebuild project.
If you’d like to learn more about how moving legacy applications extends their useful life, how VirtaMove can help you buy time to properly plan for application redevelopment and extend the life cycle of legacy applications, give us a call, register for a free demo, or send us an e-mail. We’re always delighted to show you what we can do.