Grant Herbon manages a product development team at Rackspace Hosting responsible for operating systems, applications and security, with a heavy focus on enabling compliance.
The announcement concerning this summer’s end of life for Windows Server 2003 drives many questions, concerns and issues for the IT professional. For the data center professional, this concern is amplified by the vast number of servers occupied by an equally vast number of customers, be they internal or external. So often our industry focuses on hardware migrations and the potential pitfalls involved, but it is important to pay equal attention to software migrations and the changes they create for both the data center and the end user.
Operating systems (OS) evolve just as any other system, and with that evolution comes maintenance complexity. When a new OS is released as General Availability we are assured of some level of stability. Depending on the platform, the time between GA and generally accepted stability varies. As a system administrator you have to decide when it is worth maintaining and supporting a new operating system.
Key Questions to Consider
Should you decide to migrate the software on either all or a portion of your servers, there are many considerations which should be taken into account. How will the upgrade affect my application’s availability? What new features are important to me? For those features that are important to me, how do they positively impact the return on investment in the systems? How many systems will be affected and how much downtime will be experienced?
These considerations are the same regardless of the number of servers involved - you could be running a single server at your office or a data center full of them. What does change, however, is the scale of consideration. This scale is so much greater at the data center level not just because of the device number increase, but because of the numerous IT departments utilizing the servers for a myriad of applications.
Availability, then, becomes a top-of-mind concern, as does systems security. Planning for the security concerns inherent to any migration - along with patching, maintaining a library of system images, current packages and ensuring monitoring capability - are a great deal to be aware of and sensitive to when updating operating systems. The operational impact here is significant.
And then there’s the impact to the data center. Will the new operating system impact power consumption? Will the new OS force a migration that will entail a hot migration server in standby until the migration is complete? All these considerations must be planned for in a migration such as the one coming this summer.
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