Windows

Are you going to upgrade to Windows Server 2008?

In Windows Server 2008, you could use terminal services gateway (TSG) to allow your remote users securely through your firewall to applications running on terminal servers on your network. Combine this with the ability to publish applications, which is new in Windows Server 2008, and you have a much more secure deployment for end users. If none of this matters to you and you feel you have a secure VPN than migrating may not make much sense.

There is a lot of hype in the IT industry when it comes to new releases of products. Look at the iPhone, Windows Vista, WiMax, OSX Leopard, etc. Hype is a part of our culture. Being able to sift through the hype and make a logical decision is what separates a sound business decision from a poor business decision.

Windows Server 2008 (formerly Longhorn Server) comes out next year and I want to dig through the hype to help you make a decision for yourself whether migrating servers will be worth it in the next 18-24 months.

I can throw words like increased security, flexibility, ease-of-use, locked down, great protections, but what does it really mean and how does it benefit you? Do you just believe the wordsmiths or do you perform your own due diligence? I hope the latter.

In all honesty, my answer to the question of should you upgrade would be it depends. Let me explain. If your company is completely satisfied with the status quo of Windows Server 2003 and does not have any pressing need for any of the new features in Windows Server 2008, stay the course and save some money. An upgrade of systems and servers requires much planning and a good deal of money.

On the other hand, if you have a need for a Windows Server Core only installation, network access protection, read-only domain controllers, built-in virtualization, scripting, or any other new feature, migrating to Windows Server 2008 makes sense.

For example, in a perfect world, all domain controllers would be in a single server room with unlimited bandwidth and powered with constant surveillance. We do not live in this world, and in many corporations there are quite a few satellite or branch offices throughout the country or world. But Windows Server 2008 allows you to configure read-only domain controllers (RODC).

An RODC is a domain controller that you can install at a remote location. Its sole purpose is to host a read-only copy of your Active Directory (AD) database. This method gives you peace of mind in not having to worry about the physical security of a domain controller hundreds or thousands of miles away. The RODC holds a minimal set of information and all changes made must come from a domain controller with full control that replicates to the RODC.

In the real world, a major car dealership could have all of their domain controllers in corporate headquarters and put an RODC in every dealership throughout the country instead of the current, common practice of a full-control domain controller.

For many corporations throughout corporate America, this single feature will make migrating worth it. For companies who do not need this feature or any other “Hot Hype” features, they will not be fazed.

Let’s move on and talk about companies who are actively consolidating and wanting to really secure and streamline Windows servers. In your current server environment, you load the complete Windows OS and kernel environment on a single server. You then can use roles to only turn on certain features.

What if I told you that you can now perform a Windows server core installation with only the minimum environment necessary to run the specific role you have in mind? If your server is going to just be a DHCP server, you can configure the role to just be a DHCP server and only a DHCP server. You no longer have to install the whole Windows OS, just install the feature you want and best of all it has a minimum user interface (UI).

After installing Windows server core and booting up, all you get is a command line box and a minimum UI. With a Windows server core installation, you get none of the following: desktop shell (aero, wallpaper, etc.), CLR and .NET Framework, MMC console or snap-ins, start menu, control panel, Internet Explorer, Windows Mail, WordPad, Paint, Windows Explorer, run box, etc. It is bare bones.

You do get the kernel and that is all you need. It allows you to have a very secure deployment of a specific role of Windows. This type of configuration allows a corporation to easily consolidate Windows server to very specific locked down roles. For example, you can have a dedicated command line IIS Web server, dedicated DHCP server, DNS Server. You could even take it one step further and virtualize these systems. Many data centers and network operation centers (NOCS) will take advantage of a Windows server core installation. It is a very secure and tight installation.

Additionally, many IT administrators prefer command line over a UI. A new scripting language will be included in Windows Server 2008 called Powershell. It allows IT administrators to script out many tasks and allows for automation of many Windows administration tasks. Best of all the language is based on .NET and has more than 130 standard command lines tools if you are not up to speed on this technology or are not a scripting expert.

Imaging being able to write a script that quickly checks the service pack level and network configuration on every server in your environment. The sky is the limit with this scripting language. It is Microsoft’s plan to have you be able to script every task in Windows that has a UI.

The needs of your remote users could also cause you to migrate to Windows Server 2008 more quickly than other people. Currently, if you want remote users to access your system, you configure a virtual private network (VPN) connection into your network. Some may feel that this provides remote users too much access to the network and is an unacceptable risk.

In Windows Server 2008, you could use terminal services gateway (TSG) to allow your remote users securely through your firewall to applications running on terminal servers on your network. Combine this with the ability to publish applications, which is new in Windows Server 2008, and you have a much more secure deployment for end users. If none of this matters to you and you feel you have a secure VPN than migrating may not make much sense.

As you can see, there is no clear-cut answer on whether or not you should migrate to Windows Server 2008. If you can benefit from any of the new features of Windows Server 2008, it is a good idea for you to migrate to the new platform. If you are happy with Windows Server 2003, stay the course and be content.

Now, if you are running Windows Server 2000 the next logical upgrade would be to Windows Server 2008. You wouldn’t want to upgrade to Windows Server 2003 when a new server OS is coming out right around the corner.

On the other hand if you are planning a desktop upgrade from Windows 2000 Professional\Windows XP to Windows Vista, in the next 18-24 months, moving to Windows Server 2008 is ideal since it will be designed to run best with Windows Server 2008. The choices all revolve around your specific needs. There is no wrong decision.

31 comments
etc-9909
etc-9909

Absolutely NO! I have evaluated WS08 from RC1 thru RC2 and I'm greatly disappointed. The garrish Vista-like interface, the absence of a file & folder backup utility (NTBackup) like Vista and it's resource requirements (40GB system partition) are just a few reasons. The ease of maintenance has been lost as well. It looks like and feels like Vista on steroids. I had hoped that Microsoft would have learned that the business communitiy needs simple & straight forward OS and NOS systems. My clients will be retaining and running WS03 until they cannot get drivers for the new hardware, just like they are for WXP Pro. Unfortunately Linux distros are only for companies with dedicated IT staff, otherwise I would be guiding my clients in that direction.

pepeledog
pepeledog

YOU WILL COMPLY, RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. WE ARE THE...

MikeBlane
MikeBlane

I thought Powershell required .NET to be installed. If that is the case, then Powershell cannot be run on a core installation. Or am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

bernalillo
bernalillo

I am running all 2003 until I see a need for 2008. I'd like to wait for a service pack or two as well. I'm not opposed to 2008, I just have more important things to do right now.

reisen55
reisen55

I am writing this from the lobby of the Hyatt in Duluth, Georgia - visiting family. The lobby coffee here is STRONG Starbucks, avoid if possible. Here, I can use the dyndns client to remote control and do work for my clients quickly and efficiently, which renders the Server 2008 portal argument meaningless. If I put any single desktop in my clients onto Vista (and I have done ooff-line testing using critical business apps), they would not be in business. Vista failed to support or run or install the key, unique software they use for their business. Forget Word and office and all that rubbish. I refer to patient management systems, funding raising software, etc. Third party stuff. But that is only one system alone. That is part of the safety of Vista. But if I attempt to run Windows 2008 Server, I could affect everything in one easy (according to the Legendary vacuum that is the brain of Ballmer) upgrade step. And do I want to run the risk of affecting everything so nothing works? This is the power of servers here folks. And do I want lawsuits coming after me too? I would have to do extensive off-production testing too here, and copies of Windows 2008 server are not cheap. But if you have a not for profit client in your care, Dell Computer offers a super low cost way to get not for profit operating systems. The price will blow you away. Coffee here is better now. Do I want to upgrade? Nope, my businesses are running fine on Server 2003 and Windows XP and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Our product line will support it, but it will be a while before we migrate internally. Why? Because it's a HUGE task. 2k8 is very different than 2k3, so it means you have to move cold turkey from 2k3 to 2k8....just like you did when you moved from 2k to 2k3. On that note, SQL 2k8 is quite interesting and if it lives up to half the hype might be a very useful product.

cyberdragon666
cyberdragon666

As long as it is NOT Windows Server 2008 Vista! ;)

Craig_B
Craig_B

During my basic testing of Windows Sever 2008, I really liked what I saw. All the new features work well. The best thing is the TS Gateway, now it is possible to RDP to an internal machine, no VPN required (though you need Vista SP1 or Windows XP SP3). I have found Windows Server 2008 is very solid and has some nice new features.

Howard Holton
Howard Holton

We have upgraded several customers to Server 2008. The reasons to review the upgrade are plenty: RODC for enhanced remote site security, SMB 2.0 where possible, much better kernel thread handling for busy servers, New TS with Remote App for those that do not have the budget to go with Citrix, Hyper-V as an entry into virtualization. Server 2008 is a Major upgrade and should be given serious consideration by any IT professional. If you are using a VLA w/Software Assurance there is no charge for the software to upgrade and if you have a large forest with a lot of changes, or DC's on sites with poor physical security 2008 is worth a good look. Also keep in mind that server 2008 was released as a SP1 product - it uses the same Kernel found in Vista. The kernel in Vista was not, and is not, the problem - it is the most advanced kernel MS has ever released, too bad Vista is too complex to meet the needs of most environments when compared to XP.

TravisFx
TravisFx

Ok correct me if I'm wrong please.... So if I wanted a minimum install like the example with dhcp, I end up with a cmd line only server??!!! No gui option at all? What?? Are we suddenly to become scripting experts overnight? What have we been doing with "Windows" since it first came out? Using the mouse with a gui. And its worked pretty well. Sure some cmd line is always good but this sounds like they're trying to be linux. So the "new" environment is a overbloated Vista client with cmd line only servers??! What about fully loaded or multi-function servers? This is nuts. Have I missed something?

justin.townsend
justin.townsend

We recently upgraded our server farm to Server08 and had no hickups since we properly tested, tested, and tested!

Doug Vitale
Doug Vitale

Second paragraph: "Windows Server 2008 (formerly Longhorn Server) comes out next year and I want to dig through the hype to help you make a decision for yourself..." From Wikipedia: "Windows Server 2008 is the most recent release of Microsoft Windows's server line of operating systems. Released to manufacturing on February 4, 2008 and officially released on February 27, 2008, it is the successor to Windows Server 2003, released nearly five years earlier." Given the present functionality of Windows XP/Server 2003 and today's shaky economy, there are no compelling reasons for most businesses to upgrade to Vista/2008. Of course, any new workstations or servers that they order will come with Vista or Server 2008 preinstalled, but I really don't see any businesses actually buying separate licenses to install Vista/Server 2008 over pre-existing XP and Server 2003 installations.

mojmail
mojmail

Yes, I will upgrade Windows Server 2008 because of the new Terminal Services RemoteApp feature for remote useres. As Microsoft declares TS RemoteApp provide easier management and printing from terminal session.

reisen55
reisen55

Microsoft has a fine product in Server 2003 and had a fine product in Windows XP. The experience with Vista is a horror show of the first order. But that is a mere desktop upgrade so when you upgrade a SERVER or better yet A SERVER FOREST You can potentially destroy an entire company. For Microsoft to trust that an upgrade every 4 or 5 years on this scale is madness. If you DO upgrade, TEST TEST TEST

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

You've got to be kidding, right? Unless, of course, you have considerable more free time than I do. I plan to wait until MS comes out with a senseable server platform (minus the cutsie - this is NOT a desktop computer) that comes out after the Vista cult has died a natural death. If you're like me, I'm more interested in a solid, efficient platform that doesn't gobble system memory and resources just to feed the beast leaving less for the network users that it's supposed to serve.

reisen55
reisen55

You are wise. And never be the first to buy a product (from Microsoft or from anybody) to be the FIRST on your block to own it. Many IPod owners are now kicking themselves for paying top dollar when price came down and the IPod got enhancements. Secondly, it is necessary to do off-production line testing of Server 2008 before migration, and that is a hard thing to justify to management or client. You have to put in a redundant server and clone your office environment - what you can of it - and then purchase Windows 2008 Server (not cheap) to use it in a non-production network that does nothing for the immediate network functionality at all. Management and clients love to hear that!!! And then when you have finished testing, you have the additional burden of perhaps telling your client that "It did not work so we are fine on Windows 2003 Server after all." Joy, client or management loves spending money for that kind of report too. Until there is a tidal shift in functionality between Server 2003 and 2008, there will be no causal reason to migrate. Just as there is not tidal shift between Windows XP Pro and Vista (whatever flavor) to upgrade. Vista was and is sooooo bad it is really a major downgrade by itself. And based on Vista horror tales, it is twice is hard to even sell Server 2008 to anybody given the track record here. If I had a Windows 2008 copy, I would love to play with it on my off-line network. But that is a personal wish. Wise man here.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

What's your industry? What version of Novell? Are you using NDS?

scottneill
scottneill

Our Novell servers are so reliable why would we.

reisen55
reisen55

If this is a primary reason to migrate to Server 2008, then my arguments are vindicated. DYNDNS.org presents an easy way to RDP to an internal machine with no additional software needed at all. And the post comparing Vista interface to 2008 is most illuminating. I hope your implementation goes well ..... hope is the operative word.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Oh, you mean buggy, kludgy, and stinks on ice...then yes...Vista is too "complex." *wink wink* *nudge nudge*

chaneys
chaneys

It's accuracy like this that really gives credibility.

Deacon Z
Deacon Z

I already have Enterprise Edition on 5 servers.

Deacon Z
Deacon Z

They should release on an annual basis with smaller incremental changes.

drl.techrepub
drl.techrepub

How is it good for any of us to be forever trapped into a cycle of fundamental updates followed by often partial fixes? I would LOVE to see Microsoft take Windows completely apart and not come back until they've reduced the memory requirements and CPU spec by at least a half. Ah, that will not happen anytime soon. Sorry to get your hopes up. Needing a new operating system because the hardware technology has taken a large leap is a legitimate reason for a big change, but, requiring an extra gigabyte of ram just for graphics memory (when the graphics card already has its own on board ram) is most emphatically not a good reason for having to buy more hardware. It's a sign of an operating system gone wrong. Windows is, in my experience, arguably STILL the best operating system for the desktop, but like many of the people I support, I am now punch drunk with the sheer wastefulness of yet more operating system rollouts and even higher hardware requirements. This scenario is a nightmare that takes literally years to fully recover from, and just when everything settles into being stable again along comes another operating system. I could say ?stop fixing what ain't broke!? but, maybe it is broke? Windows Server 2008 may be superb, I don't know because I haven't been able to try it. Don?t get me wrong, I want to. I hope it's the best ever and all Microsoft can do is make it better, faster, leaner and friendlier to configure because I am sick and tired of Microsoft pulling me along by the gonads every 3-5 years in this endless "must have a new operating system" crazy mindset. Microsoft is being driven by a salesperson?s ethos where every year they have to sell more and more to get their commission, until they burn out. There IS a finite limit! Microsoft really needs to look at what has happened with Vista and face a rather uncomfortable fact, i.e. that Vista turned out to be just one (unjustifiable) step too far, and it is a very big warning that we've all had enough. Is Windows Server 2008 a Vista Server? So, I'm saying now that I'm genuinely concerned that OUR best interests, that?s Microsoft?s as well as yours and mine, are being damaged because Microsoft are not paying attention to the warning signs from the end users, i.e. that we desperately NEED to have a long term stable operating system. What is wrong with modular additions to enhance an operating system? Nothing at-all, providing the operating system is stable at its core! Prediction: If anything will cause irreversible damage to Microsoft I believe it will be the user base fragmenting because it simply cannot bear the cost or time of another update to an already bruised and fatigued infrastructure. Put in simpler terms, mobile phones can?t get smaller because our fingers are the limiting factor with that particular technology (at the moment) so it?s clearly a nonsense to make them too small, but some are and they don't sell well because they are IMPRACTICAL. The same common-sense has to be applied to operating systems too. Our users use Word, Excel, .NET applications, Adobe reader, Internet Explorer, probably Flash Player, Real or Media Player, and Outlook, and now I?m running out of requirements!!! That?s pretty much ALL they need supporting in an operating system. Make Windows modular so that we can give the users fast and lean machines that aren?t vulnerable because of over-complexity, are stable because of the simplicity, and are easy for US to maintain and write software for! A long diatribe, sorry, but I?ve had a hard day and I don't see why I should suffer alone! :-)

Still_Rockin
Still_Rockin

I agree, things are getting that way with respect to upgrades. What I see is many people utilizing Windows Server 2008 on newly-installed servers and leaving existing WS2K3 servers alone (at least for a number of years to come) unless it is absolutely necessary to upgrade an existing server for some particular reason.

reisen55
reisen55

The real issue with a solid test is that it should be done either off-hours (weekend time or evening time) which techs do not like doing but goes with the job - and in best simulation with precisely the same hardware format. This is harder to do because an ideal situation would have a redundant server setting for testing that can be moved over to production. Companies do not like to spend money for a one time job that offers little total benefit 365 days a year. Renting a server may be better and IBM has a fine data center restoration facility at Sterling Forest, NY (where a colleague of mine ran a great DR show for Girl Scouts of America). You've got to make sure the 2008 is not going to destroy your production load. I just came out of a datacenter job ran by a madman who dictated instant change TO BE DONE RIGHT NOW from BackupExec 11.0 to 12.5 and promptly every backup job failed and failed and failed. No testing, no caution, JUST GO THERE AND SOLVE PROBLEMS ALONG THE WAY. F'crissake that puts everything at risk. Go figure. Windows 2003 Server and XP Pro are great products, and Server 2008 (which I have touched) is soooooo much like Vista it is frightening. Why Microsoft has to migrate and migrate every 3 years is stupid. Corporate migrations are a bitch to do and worse to plan and if something is working, there is not need necessarily to fix it worse. I am writing this from a medical office I support and while there are a few things I could do to make change here, their network does work well and as it is a HIPAA office and patient access counts above all (with security controls in place) I am content to let it run. On Sundays I pickup backups from four sets of applications, solve issues free of staff interferance and leave food in the kitchen for them. It works and everything is happy. Now to go look at a printing issue.

blarman
blarman

Windows 2008 appears to be a step in the right direction (ie pare things down) but we'll see. Especially for servers where the focus is not on the flashy graphics effects when you move the mouse, the Server OS needs to be as small as possible and should defer as much processing power as possible to the applications running on it. Microsoft has always taken the approach that the OS is the most important part of a computer, when in actuality, it is the applications that are the most important part. People don't use computers to move the mouse around or look at a screensaver. They use them to create content, record data, etc. - none of which should be done by the OS. As for upgrading? No way. On a new server, sure, but upgrades to existing infrastructure that is working just fine? No thanks.

drl.techrepub
drl.techrepub

I wonder if the debate would have been so quiet if you had asked the following: Imagine for the moment that you would be fully trained up and supported in your choice of operating system, budget is not a problem and it is entirely your choice... Which of the following would you decide to install: 1) Windows 2008 Server. 2) A Linux based server such as SuSE or RedHat. 3) Something else. I believe that if training and costs are taken out of the equation that the answer to this will be so much more accurate than in other surveys that don't take these issues into account. By the way, I'm actually undecided myself when using the above criteria! It's only the fact that I develop using VB.NET and ASP.NET that pulls me toward Windows, but the MONO project is gaining ground so maybe even that doesn't matter so much... Hmmmm... Interesting.

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