D&H Mounts Massive Server 2003 End Of Service Upgrade Offensive

D&H Distributing has launched a massive solutions offensive aimed at helping its solution provider partners capture the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 end-of-service upgrade opportunity.

Microsoft has established a firm July 2015 date to end technical support in what it is calling end of service for Windows Server 2003.

That technical support termination by Microsoft is expected to spark a race by the vast majority of the 2.3 million customers still running Windows Server 2003 to upgrade to a new server infrastructure. Some analysts estimate that as much as 65 percent of the Windows Server 2003 installed base is in small-business environments.

[Related: Sales Soar For VARs As Businesses Seek Windows XP Upgrades ]

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D&H Distributing Co-President Dan Schwab said the Windows Server 2003 end-of-service deadline represents a "once in a decade opportunity" for solution providers to upgrade the entire back-office infrastructure for those small businesses still running the operating system.

The Harrisburg, Pa.-headquartered D&H is rolling out a full panoply of financial promotions, marketing collateral and educational sessions designed to provide partners with everything they need to take advantage of the opportunity to move customers to the secure and robust Windows Server 2012 R2 , said Schwab.

D&H has more than 20 vendors participating in the upgrade program, including security, storage, networking and server manufacturers, said Schwab. "This is the single biggest initiative over the next year for D&H," he said. "It is our largest education and marketing campaign of the year."

The expectations around the potential for a significant uptick in sales is particularly strong given the success D&H had getting solution providers to drive a major desktop refresh as a result of the April 2014 Windows XP end of service. D&H solution providers said in that case they have seen double-digit sales growth.

Schwab said he expects strong double-digit sales growth for the third and fourth quarter due to a combined increase in server and XP migration sales. He calls the Server 2003 end-of-service opportunity the "next boon" for solution providers opening the door to a "comprehensive selection of products almost as a requisite, including storage, security and networking solutions."

Mark Pontius, the CEO of Compass Network Group, one of the top dental technology integrators in the country based in Lancaster, Pa., said he sees the Windows Server 2003 revenue opportunity as potentially as big as the Windows XP one given the back-office infrastructure sales that it could drive into the channel. That’s no small matter considering the Windows XP end-of-service upgrade opportunity sparked a 300 percent to 400 percent increase in workstation sales.

NEXT: Lessons Learned From Windows XP End Of Service

"I think this is going to be another big boost to our business," said Pontius. "We learned a lot of lessons from XP [end of service], which frankly initially overwhelmed us. That was actually a good practice run for the Server 2003 replacement. Our plan is to start earlier so we are ready for the onslaught."

In the case of Windows XP, Compass started its upgrade campaign last August, but did not get traction until early 2014. "We are going to start alerting our clients that have Server 2003 now, telling them that this is coming up and they need to start planning for it," he said. "This is going to be a lot more intrusive for companies than coming in and doing a workstation replacement."

Compass is planning on doing an extensive analysis of potential upgrade prospects with Windows Server 2003, with an eye toward evaluating backup, disaster recovery, networking gear and security software, said Pontius.

Compass is relying heavily on D&H for the programs necessary to deliver a stellar upgrade experience for its customers, said Pontius. He praised D&H for providing incentives and marketing collateral aimed at educating customers.

Beyond the programs and marketing collateral, Pontius said what sets D&H apart is the personal relationship that it has developed with solution providers like Compass.

"It's more of an up-close-and-personal relationship with D&H," said Ponitus. "I get a lot more focus from D&H because of the length and depth of the relationship I have with them. They make a real effort to alert us and put together educational programs on new opportunities and how to take advantage of them."

Pontius said he has had a relationship with D&H that dates back to the 90s, when he was working for another solution provider before he started Compass in 2001. "D&H is our go-to source for servers and operating systems," he said.

Schwab, for his part, said the D&H secret sauce is the great amount of "basic block and tackle training" the distributor provides for solution providers, including education, marketing materials and unique sales tools.

"The difference at D&H is we are willing to roll up our sleeves and approach educating, training and providing unique tools for the reseller on a customer-by-customer basis," he said. "Our team reaches out to their accounts, making sure that all our solution providers understand the opportunity. We want to make sure they can maximize what is a once-in-a-decade opportunity."