To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade - Page 1

Aug 10, 2007

Steven Warren

There is a lot of hype in the IT industry when it comes to new releases of products. Look at the iPhone, Windows Vista, WiMax, OSX Leopard, etc. Hype is a part of our culture. Being able to sift through the hype and make a logical decision is what separates a sound business decision from a poor business decision.

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Windows Server 2008 (formerly Longhorn Server) comes out next year and I want to dig through the hype to help you make a decision for yourself whether migrating servers will be worth it in the next 18-24 months.

I can throw words like increased security, flexibility, ease-of-use, locked down, great protections, but what does it really mean and how does it benefit you ? Do you just believe the wordsmiths or do you perform your own due diligence? I hope the latter.

In all honesty, my answer to the question of should you upgrade would be it depends. Let me explain. If your company is completely satisfied with the status quo of Windows Server 2003 and does not have any pressing need for any of the new features in Windows Server 2008, stay the course and save some money. An upgrade of systems and servers requires much planning and a good deal of money.

On the other hand, if you have a need for a Windows Server Core only installation, network access protection, read-only domain controllers, built-in virtualization, scripting, or any other new feature, migrating to Windows Server 2008 makes sense.

Perfect World

For example, in a perfect world, all domain controllers would be in a single server room with unlimited bandwidth and powered with constant surveillance. We do not live in this world, and in many corporations there are quite a few satellite or branch offices throughout the country or world. But Windows Server 2008 allows you to configure read-only domain controllers (RODC).

An RODC is a domain controller that you can install at a remote location. Its sole purpose is to host a read-only copy of your Active Directory (AD) database. This method gives you peace of mind in not having to worry about the physical security of a domain controller hundreds or thousands of miles away. The RODC holds a minimal set of information and all changes made must come from a domain controller with full control that replicates to the RODC.

In the real world, a major car dealership could have all of their domain controllers in corporate headquarters and put an RODC in every dealership throughout the country instead of the current, common practice of a full-control domain controller.

For many corporations throughout corporate America, this single feature will make migrating worth it. For companies who do not need this feature or any other “Hot Hype” features, they will not be fazed.

Let’s move on and talk about companies who are actively consolidating and wanting to really secure and streamline Windows servers. In your current server environment, you load the complete Windows OS and kernel environment on a single server. You then can use roles to only turn on certain features.

What if I told you that you can now perform a Windows server core installation with only the minimum environment necessary to run the specific role you have in mind? If your server is going to just be a DHCP server, you can configure the role to just be a DHCP server and only a DHCP server. You no longer have to install the whole Windows OS, just install the feature you want and best of all it has a minimum user interface (UI).

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