Data center managers in no rush to adopt Microsoft Windows Server 2008

Data centers shouldn't rush to upgrade to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 if they run Windows Server 2003, says Gartner analyst John Enck.

LAS VEGAS -- Most large enterprises will hold off on Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Server 2008 operating system, which is due out early next year, suggests a poll of data center managers attending the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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Gartner Inc. analyst John Enck polled audience members on their W2K8 deployment plans: 73% said they were either evaluating or had no current plans to deploy Windows Server 2008, 19% said they plan to introduce it on new servers, while 8% said they were planning an overall "forklift" upgrade. That's consistent with Enck's thinking about Microsoft Windows Server 2008, "If you're on Windows Server 2003, eh, take your time." he said.

Enck's justification is that the new operating system is "not the life-altering, be-all, end-all change we've seen before."

Windows Server 2000 the exception
The situation changes if a company is still on Windows Server 2000, however. Enck suggests testing Windows Server 2008 as soon as possible and upgrading before support concludes, which is just a few years away.

We won't roll out [Windows Server 2008] until there's a clear consensus in the industry that it's working.
Erik Heyerdahl,
senior system administratorKaiser Permanente

"If you're on Windows Server 2000, you should feel a little nervous," he said. "You're running a product that is pretty much going to be end of life by 2010. Windows Server 2000 replacements, I think that's where Microsoft really needs to hit the mark."

And if you're still running Windows NT 4.0, Enck's advice is even simpler: Upgrade yesterday.

Erik Heyerdahl, a senior system administrator for Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit health plan company Kaiser Permanente, said that for the past few years his company has been phasing out Windows Server 2000 in favor of 2003. Although some members of Kaiser's IT organization are probably considering the move to Windows Server 2008, said Heyerdahl, the company typically rolls out releases only after they've been tested in the market.

"Kaiser's general operation has been to let the smaller companies break their teeth on the new releases," he said. "We're not going to roll it out next year. We won't roll it out until there's a clear consensus in the industry that it's working. Maybe mid-2009."

W2K8's allure
For other users, the temptation of new features in Windows Server 2008 has driven an upgrade sooner rather than later.

SwapDrive Inc., an online data backup in Washington, D.C., and storage company, is in that minority. It has Windows Server 2003 but plans on adopting Windows Server 2008 "quite aggressively," said Christopher Saben, the company's data center manager. He said the new operating system's storage and file system improvements are too tempting not to upgrade, and SwapDrive has begun testing already.

Saben cited the self-healing NTFS as a big plus, saying that taking a 128 TB file system offline to correct errors was a drag. "The limitation of the current file system really limits us," he said. Other benefits for SwapDrive include the 64-bit addressing scheme, getting better storage performance with failover server clusters, and the ability to use a GUID partition table (GPT) to see disk partitions larger than 2 terabytes.

Enck said that one of the most important, but less heralded, features of Windows Server 2008 is Microsoft's certification process. Microsoft has streamlined the process to make it easier for independent software vendors to participate, he said, a particular benefit because the 64-bit deployment of Windows Server 2008 might have otherwise caused independent software vendors to drag their feet on certifying products for the operating system. Still, it remains to be seen whether it will create abundant certifications quicker.

Hyper-V still hype
As for Hyper-V (code-named "Viridian"), the virtualization technology due out in the six months after the release of the operating system, Enck doesn't think it will have matured enough to put a dent in VMware. He also said that if you plan on using it, start testing now.

"I would suggest getting your hands on the beta and play with it," he said, adding later that "I would just caution you to be slow. I think it's going to be right over time, but there needs to be a series of investments to get it up to par so it's competitive in the market."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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