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Windows Server 2003 End of Life Imminent

On June 30, the Countdown Clock to Windows Server 2003 end of life stands at two weeks. No less than the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued an alert; applications and data can be lost for good, should they be hacked while running on servers no longer kept current with Microsoft patches or security updates. Servers that lose Microsoft’s support coverage lose PCI compliance, for one example, in the process. Third-party application vendors can similarly tie their support commitments to Microsoft server support.

CloudPhysics, provider of data analytics for data-center operations, has analyzed information from thousands of vSphere virtualized data centers in coming up with its findings on the impending state of vulnerability. Among its findings:

  • One in every five Windows Server virtual machines runs Windows Server 2003, and as recently as this April, 2003s still outnumbered 2012 VMs. The analysts don’t expect deployments of the unsupported OS to fade into insignificance till the first half of 2018.
  • Windows Server 2012 VMs’ share will rise to half of Windows server VMs by the second half of 2018, when mainstream support for Windows Server 2012 will end.
  • The 2012 edition grew from 2 to 19 percent of the server OS market from 2013 to 2015. The current favorite is Windows Server 2008, at 63 percent of Windows servers.

Study author Krishna Raj Raja points out that virtualization enables IT decision makers to put off OS refreshes precisely because there is no longer any hardware to replace. While new physical servers could not run aged OSes, virtualized platforms such as vSphere can and do, supporting legacy 32-bit and even 16-bit systems. In fact, says Cloud Physics’ Raj Raja, “It is possible to run a legacy OS like Windows NT on modern processors that Windows NT natively wouldn’t even recognize.”

CloudPhysics’ dog in this hunt is, in fact, a bloodhound-as-a-service that sniffs out OSes about to run or running past their expiration dates. It catalogs all OSes across multiple vCenters. This is being offered as a freemium through the end of July. And if a company’s solution is cloud migration, they’re offering cost calculators for moves to Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS.

Not all companies letting the clock run out are simply living with the risk. According to Microsoft consultant and SI partner Avanade, which surveyed 100 companies on their Windows Server migration plans, 40 percent of financial-services clients plan on signing a custom support agreement (CSA) with Microsoft, which ensures security patches while migrations are in progress, at $600 per machine. The same goes for 28 percent in manufacturing, 24 percent in retail, distribution and transport, and 20 percent in “other” commercial.

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