Microsoft's long-serving Windows Server 2003 operating system has finally reached the end of its lifecycle, and all support and security fixes for the venerable server platform will be withdrawn on 14 July 2015.
Organisations that are still running Windows Server 2003 now face an increased risk of security breaches, according to experts, and are also likely to fall foul of IT governance regulations stipulating that firms should use the most current versions of software.
However, a recent survey by Spiceworks among users of its IT management platform found that about 61 percent of organisations worldwide still have at least one instance of Windows Server 2003 in their IT infrastructure.
This is despite Microsoft issuing warnings about the deadline for several years, joined by numerous security experts and those in the server and systems integrator marketplace that have been keen to offer solutions for firms seeking a migration path away from the ageing platform.
It's July 14, 2013. The kill date for Windows Server 2003. http://t.co/hqNnAAJbvq— Mikko Hypponen (@mikko) July 14, 2015
So why are so many organisations still using a server platform that was launched over a decade ago? There are likely to be many answers to that question, but often there has been no compelling reason to change until now.
Many firms around the globe have had applications and services running quite satisfactorily on Windows Server 2003, and been loath to tamper with them.
Just as with Windows XP, application compatibility issues may have been a factor for some users, especially as Window Server releases have been 64-bit only since Windows Server 2008 R2.
But the most common reasons may be more prosaic, and simply down to a lack of time or resources to fix the problem before the deadline.
Dell has been offering migration services since last year, and said that just identifying which systems require remediation can be a major challenge.
"Simply relying on what's in [Microsoft] System Centre or your Systems Management Server database is not good enough. In every single customer so far, we have found servers and services that they didn't know they had running," said Tim Loake, UK director of Dell Services, in an interview with V3 last year.
Meanwhile, HP warned earlier this year that mid-size firms are likely to be the worst affected by the end of support for Windows Server 2003.
"For most small companies, it's a relatively simple transition. They are probably buying one or two servers every three or four years and the next server they buy will have an up-to-date operating system version," said Iain Stephen, HP's vice president and general manager for servers in EMEA.
"The customer that worries me is the one that has 30 or more servers, probably of mixed ages, and they may have heard something about the end of life deadline, but they may not be doing anything about it."
Microsoft is naturally recommending that customers migrate to its latest platform, Windows Server 2012 R2, and has a special web page with advice and links to resources including the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit.
For those unwilling or unable to migrate to the latest platform, an interim solution could be virtualisation. By moving Windows Server 2003 instances onto virtualised infrastructure machines, they can be more easily protected by multiple layers of firewall and security tools.
One firm touting such a move is managed services firm Fusion Media Networks, which proposes using Double-Take Move from Vision Solutions to migrate workloads to the Microsoft Azure cloud, managed using tools from hybrid cloud specialist Abiquo.
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