To upgrade or wait?
Once again, we are faced with the age-old IT question – should we upgrade or wait? In this case, the question refers to Windows Server — “Should we go to 2012 now or should we wait?” As in most cases within IT, the answer depends on the situation and is different from environment to environment. Let’s look at the timeline that bring up this question:
- Windows Server 2016 is expected to be released first quarter 2016.
- Windows Server 2012 R2 released in October 2014.
- Windows Server 2012 had a general availability release back in September 2012.
- Windows Server 2008 R2 has a tentative End of Life (EOL) set for 2020.
Currently, Windows 2008 R2 makes up the majority of the server workloads in use today. Many organizations have barely started working with 2012, if at all. Most organizations are still operating Active Directory at the 2008 level. Some are still on Windows Server 2003, even though it has already hit EOL. The past repeats itself because we have again hit a point where the most utilized version of a Windows software is going to be two or more generations behind the latest release. Server 2012 adaptation increased when R2 was released and particularly when Server 2003 hit EOL and companies needed to migrate off that platform. Timing and other factors went into the slow adaptation of Server 2012. However, Server 2012 suffered from the same issue Windows 8 did – the interface. Server 2012 is a solid product, but the interface turns off so many IT professionals who have to live in it day-to-day. The interface is based on the Metro Interface used in Windows 8. The Metro Interface was designed with touch screens and tablets in mind. How many IT professionals have touch screens available or use tablets when connecting to their Windows servers? Yes, you can put a start menu in 2012 with a third-party product. But how many of us are against the cluttering of our servers with unnecessary software installations?
Given what was just stated, let’s get back to the question at hand. Should you got to Server 2012 now or wait? The answer depends on your organization’s needs, plans, and project timeframes. At this point, the most compelling reasons to install server 2012 right now is if you are installing or upgrading to the latest versions of a particular application, you are still on server 2003, or a company mandate is in place. Here are some reasons to wait for server 2016:
- At this point in the year, if you have not budgeted for an upgrade/migration project for this year, then you can put it in the budget for next year.
- Server 2016 has an interface that is based on Windows 10’s interface. Yes, it has a start menu.
- Going to server 2012 R2 in the near future will immediately put you one version behind.
- Along with Server 2016, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint 2016 will be released as well.
- The preview builds have had favorable reviews.
- Needed improvements in Hyper-V.
- If you migrate now, how long before you will need to migrate again.
Let’s look at the reasons against waiting for Server 2016:
- Keep in mind that even though the release is expected first quarter, it is not a good thing to have your production environment on the bleeding edge. I usually advise my clients that adapting a new version of a software should be held off for a few months after the release at the least. The major issues will most likely be found and resolved within the first few months. I usually advocate waiting until the equivalent of the first service pack comes out.
- If you are still on a 2003 environment, you are waiting too long and sitting on vulnerabilities that will no longer be remediated.
- Application compatibility. We are looking at a new operating system. You know there are going to be applications that are not compatible with it. Even if a piece of software proves compatible, you may still need to wait until the vendor says it supports the installation.
- Knowledge and the ability to support the features. This is a new Operating System. You can relate what you know about previous versions of Windows Server, but there will definitely be new subject matter to learn. Features like containers will need some research and knowledge. If you are not comfortable with PowerShell, you better get comfortable.
In short, if you are not on server 2012 at the moment, are off of Server 2003, and you can wait about eight months, then consider waiting for Server 2016 to do your migration. The nice thing I have seen so far, is that you can treat 2016 like another version of Windows Server with improvements for what you know and use now. However, it is the new features and concepts that will make it worth the wait. I will be posting a blog or two (or three) concerning the release of Windows 2016 in the next few months. I usually write blogs like this one for a wide range of readers involved in IT from the technical to the not-as-technical. The future blogs on Windows 2016 will be more technical.
Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.
Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org
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