IT departments in Windows shops will soon face the huge task of evaluating Windows Server 2003, Microsoft's newest server platform. Its long-awaited release next week will force companies to tackle some tough decisions -- the largest of which is whether to migrate now or hold tight.
Experts on Windows Server 2003 say the job will not be easy. Even the reviewer's guide is chunky, coming in at over 360 pages, and Microsoft claims the product boasts more than 600 feature improvements.
Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that tracks Microsoft's activities, suggested that enterprises focus on three key areas when evaluating Windows Server 2003, starting with reliability and security.
The overall stability of the underlying code make Windows Server 2003 more stable than earlier editions, he said.
"It remains to be seen whether or not the code review will lead to fewer patches, but the 'secure-by-default' tightening of security will reduce the attack surface," he said.
Caveats apply, however. Some applications, such as Exchange, will need to be upgraded to run on Windows Server 2003, and others might fail under the beefier security. Companies need to keep these factors in mind as they evaluate the new server software.
Enterprises should also concentrate on Windows Server 2003's data center readiness and its abilities to consolidate servers, said Cherry. Support for 64-bit processors and better management tools, as well as an overall increase in performance, put Windows Server 2003 in a better position than earlier versions to handle large-scale databases.
The advantage? Companies may be able to reduce costs by consolidating numerous small Windows servers onto fewer, more powerful systems. If that's a key determiner in migrating, hardware purchases will need to be made to host the server and must be taken into consideration.
The third evaluation aspect to key on, said Cherry, is Windows Server 2003's improved PC management skills. Enhancements to Active Directory, Group Policy, and IntelliMirror make it more feasible, he said, to centrally manage large numbers of Windows 2000 and XP machines. Putting these into a return-on-investment equation, however, will require significant investments to roll out a Windows Server 2003-based infrastructure.
Chris Burry, a technology fellow at Avanade, says the starting point for evaluating Windows Server 2003 should be at the beginning. Literally.
"The advice we give clients is to ask them 'Where are you starting from?'" Burry said. "You need to step back -- that shapes how you think about migrating to Windows Server 2003 -- and look at its value to your organization."
The farther back, Burry noted, the more likely that Windows Server 2003 will provide substantial benefits. In particular, shops running Windows NT will see major improvements in not just performance, but also new functionality, including support for Web services.
But companies using older server operating systems such as NT shouldn't migrate for the sake of migration. Those that simply replicate their infrastructure with Windows Server 2003 "are going to leave an enormous amount of value on the table," said Burry.
This story courtesy of TechWeb.