A Guide To Making Money Off Windows Server 2003 Migration Procrastinators

Going Beyond The Obvious

Solution providers won't be retiring early on the revenue they bring in from Windows Server 2003 migrations alone, but the smart ones will mint a fortune. Microsoft channel partners say they are looking beyond cut-and-dry hardware upgrades associated with Windows Server 2003 migrations and focusing on services and solutions sold in conjunction with Windows Server 2003 migrations, where the sky's the limit.

"If partners are only talking about Server 2003 migrations with their customers, they are missing out on some of the biggest opportunities," said Alan West, founder and board member of XMS Solutions, a Henderson, Nev.-based Dell partner. "Migration is a foregone conclusion. Starting a conversation with a customer about how modernization can help them be more efficient is the ultimate goal."

West said that the nuts and bolts of upgrading a server represent only 10 percent to 20 percent of the overall opportunity for solution providers. Here is a look at how smart solution providers are seeing double-digit growth in their Windows Server 2003 migration business.

Assessing The Opportunities With Procrastinators

The July 14 end-of-support deadline is looming, but it's never too late to create a dialogue with customers about their IT needs that goes beyond just a hardware swap and OS upgrade.

Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider, said the money to be made lies in helping a business not just rip and replace hardware that's 13 years old, but identifying decade-old business processes and helping it take advantage of what a modern infrastructure has to offer for its workflow.

A Perfect Time To Replace Aging Office Apps

When Windows Server 2003 was released, then-President George W. Bush had signed the CAN-SPAM Act into law, Apple had just released the Safari browser and Intel had launched the Pentium M processor. Some companies are still running their business on applications that are equally as ancient.

For solution providers, the No. 1 app that can use an update is Microsoft Office. The move to Server 2012 has prompted a huge uptick in migration to Office 365, solution providers said. Thanks to mailbox migration tools such as CodeTwo's Office 365 Migration and others such as Dell's OnDemand Migration, the switch has become a cash cow for some solution providers.

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure

For longtime Cisco Systems partner Sigmanet, a key to winning a bigger piece of the revenue pie during Windows Server 2003 migrations is to focus on a customer's infrastructure. Sigmanet's Monteros said early work with Cisco developing infrastructure solutions in anticipation of Windows Server 2003 migrations has paid off. Monteros said his sales teams go into migration strategy discussions with customers with "fully baked" infrastructure road maps.

"The infrastructure is the Holy Grail when it comes to margins," Monteros said. "The migration is a jumping-off point for modernizing the business, from Office 365, hybrid cloud, storage to you name it."

Active Directory Modernization

For XMS Solutions, the biggest opportunity associated with Windows Server 2003 migrations is around modernizing an enterprise's Active Directory. Through its partnership with Dell, which sells Dell One Identity Manager and Active Roles Server, XMS said it has been focused on post-migration optimization of user enrollments within heterogeneous environments. Another area of focus has been password self-management that takes the onus of resetting a password off an admin and empowers end users to do it themselves.

"Running Server 2003 prequalifies an enterprise as a candidate to not just modernize the data center, but also update key business process," said XMS Solutions' West.

Hardware Holdouts Breakdown

"Hardware including PCs, networking and storage are mostly what we are seeing as the opportunity around Server 2003," said Douglas Grosfield, CEO of Xylotek Solutions, a Cambridge, Ontario-based solution provider and Lenovo partner.

Grosfield said migrating off Windows Server 2003 has companies reassessing hardware needs as they consider a more modern architecture. "Believe it or not, there are still Windows XP holdovers out there," he said. "Getting rid of Server 2003 seems to be triggering a purge by our customers to get rid of everything over 10 years old."

Application Holdouts

Time runs out on the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" when companies cross the migration deadline of Windows Server 2003, said solution providers. Updating the OS to Server 2012 R2 is only half the battle.

"Chances are applications that range from running a factory floor, ERP and CRM can be done more efficiently," said Xylotek's Grosfield.

That's when the opportunity for solution providers to update those applications to more modern versions or new ones presents itself. "For a lot of companies, the discussion transcends applications and we can start talking about how new apps can improve workflow and really transform the business," Grosfield said. "Face it, most of what's running on Server 2003 is state of the art circa 2003."

When Upgrading Just Doesn't (Or Can't) Happen Right Away

Microsoft sells after-retirement support contracts, called "Custom Support," with the caveat that those businesses must have a plan to totally eradicate the unsupported product.

To be able to resell Microsoft Custom Support partners must be certified with a Premier Support for Partner Agreement.

The estimated cost of the extended support option starts at $600 per server, per year, with costs escalating each year thereafter. Custom support is also limited to security patches rated by Microsoft at its highest level of "critical."

Help From Distribution

Distributors such as Avnet, Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data also are helping partners realize better returns on cut-and-dry Windows Server 2003 upgrade opportunities. Each of these distributors has a dedicated Server 2003 practice focused on lead generation for solution provider partners and offering server assessments and solution designs.

Ingram Micro provided solution providers with sales and service teams with seminars and links for training information, as well as a webinar for staff. Some Ingram Micro partners report the distributor has certified their engineers in Windows Server 2012 R2 and helped pay for some of the certifications as well as providing training vouchers.

Kiss That Hardware Goodbye: The Virtualization Option

Is the best migration option not migrating at all? Maybe Software-as-a-Service is the right fit for a customer. As the Windows Server 2003 deadline looms, virtualization is considered one of the fastest ways to migrate a customer's infrastructure with the least amount of headaches.

First you'll want to ask yourself, will a virtualized instance of Server 2012 R2 be robust enough for a customer's workloads, such as analytics and collaboration tools that use high levels of processing power?

Given that Windows Server 2003 laggards are the least likely to make such a progressive jump, solution providers suggest taking a full accounting of applications. First, consider what apps can be retired and replaced and then categorize them from critical to less critical. There is a good chance several applications in any enterprise are ripe for virtualization.

Third-Party Tools For Keeping Geriatric Apps On Life Support

Solution partners that have customers with mission-critical applications that are unsupported by Windows Server 2012 have options. Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a compatibility mode to run such applications, but it's not foolproof.

The other option is reaching out to third-party app makers such as AppZero that will take applications, package them up, and make them a virtualized instance that can run on Windows Server 2012. Similarly, a firm called DH2i specializes in a container technology that enables workload portability for any Windows Server 2003 application or service.

But, as solution providers point out, some applications unsupported by Windows Server 2012 are close to 10 years old and face their own end-of-life issues.