Why Not To Upgrade To Windows Server 2012

Downplay The Upgrade

Are some of your customers having network troubles after upgrading to Windows Server 2012? Or maybe they're hesitant to make the jump in the first place. Console cosmetics and wasted wages aside, Microsoft's latest server OS comes with enough concrete business reasons to make some organizations think twice about making the switch.

With the popularity of CRN's tutorial on how to downgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 7, the CRN Test Center thought people might want to downgrade from Windows Server 2012 to Windows Server 2008 for some of the same reasons. But what we found were even more compelling reasons not to upgrade in the first place. Here are the top five reasons not to upgrade to Windows Server 2012, in order of their potential impact on the enterprise.

5. Business Continuity

For customers that are humming along on Windows Server 2008, there might be more reasons to let them stay put than to subject your service techs to the many meandering paths of Win-Server Upgradeville. Aside from the time required to migrate the servers, clients, data, printers, VMs and all the services, consider also the labor costs, training, unforeseen problems and potential interruptions to business associated with migrations. "We're not pushing any of our clients to upgrade," said David Hafke, co-founder of Fairdinkum Consulting, a N.Y.-based network and systems engineering firm. "Windows 2008 R2 is working just fine and we don't see any reason our clients should spend the money." A Microsoft partner, Fairdinkum prefers VMware's virtualization capabilities despite strides Microsoft has made there and in its networking stack. "Link aggregation is great, but VMware has been doing that forever. And we don't use Hyper-V, so aside from improvements there, Microsoft didn't do anything except rip apart the interface." Unless Server 2012 provides some functionality that the client must have to run the business, it might be best to leave well enough alone or consider the next slide.


4. That Dang 'Metro' UI

We scratched our heads at the sight of Microsoft's Modern UI (a.k.a. Metro) in WS2012. Does Redmond think there will someday be tablet-based servers? Touch-screen ones, perhaps, but Live Tiles on a server doesn't make sense considering Microsoft's position that IT Pros will rarely use the local server desktop. "Windows Server 2012 R2 is optimized for Server Core deployments and remote management scenarios, and most capabilities will be managed through consoles such as Server Manager," the company wrote in reply to our Metro question. "Even in large organizations, I think that people will continue to use the console," said Keith Josephson, co-founder and CTO of ION Computer Systems, a high-performance servers and storage systems integrator. Josephson said he thinks smaller companies with just one or a few servers will most certainly be visiting the console on a regular basis. Unlike in Windows 8, Microsoft from the start allowed WS2012 to boot to the desktop rather than to Metro. "We also tweak some other settings to make the desktop more familiar," he said. These include enabling the Desktop Experience to bring back the app menu and My Computer icon.

3. WS2012 Can Run Virtually

It's possible to run Windows Server 2012 in a virtual machine within Windows Server 2008 R2, as long as Service Pack 1 and a hotfix have been applied. It's pretty clear from the hotfix page, WS2008 SP2 will not run WS2012, and other restrictions apply to running it virtually. It's limited to Enterprise and Datacenter editions and supports a maximum of four virtual processors.

Here's a full list of what will run as a guest on a Windows Server 2008 host.

2. No Direct Upgrade Path For SBS Or WSE

When expansion time comes for customers currently using Small Business Server or Windows Server Essentials, they'll be steered to Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials or Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard or Datacenter.

The upgrade process is well documented. It's also lengthy and circuitous. There are eight main steps, each with between four and 10 additional sub-steps. This process applies to anyone running SBS 2003, 2008, 2011 (Standard or Essentials) or Windows Server 2012 Essentials. It also covers organizations running Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard or Datacenter along with the Essentials Experience role.

The one bright spot in all this seems to be that Redmond is continuing to consolidate its SKUs.

1. No SharePoint Or Exchange Support

As difficult as it might be to believe, Microsoft shipped Windows Server 2012 R2 without support for Exchange 2013 or SharePoint 2013. According to a company spokesperson, both will be compatible following their respective SP1 releases "in early 2014," but no further specifics were provided. That makes lack of support for some of Microsoft's own most popular products the No. 1 reason not to upgrade.

To find out more about the development of either of these products, visit or monitor the Exchange 2013 support page and/or the SharePoint 2013 support page.

It's interesting to note that the Windows Server 2012 R2 issues page mentions neither Exchange nor SharePoint.