Friday, 10th July 2020

Windows Server 2008 End of Life: A Storage Modernisation Opportunity

For organisations operating Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the end is near; both are being shelved by Microsoft and will officially reach “end of life” status as of January 2020 and July 2019 respectively. It is impossible to determine the exact market share of each individual Microsoft Server operating systems in use; however, Ned Pyle, principal program manager in the Windows Server high availability and storage group, provided information indicating that the market share of those operating systems was around 40% in 2018 (1). Although these figures aren’t completely current, it is obvious that an important number of Windows 2008 servers are still in use despite losing access to security updates. So, how will businesses cope? By Aron Brand, CTO at CTERA.

It is not all doom and gloom. The necessity to replace Windows servers also represents an opportunity for storage IT professionals to evaluate their file storage management, given that Server 2008 is used by many organisations as a file server. Today there is a strong push in the market for replacing legacy NAS systems and End-Of-Life Windows Servers with cloud-integrated storage solutions that offer modern collaboration, elastic scaling, and significant cost savings.

To overhaul an integral part of the IT infrastructure might seem intimidating yet this important decision presents an opportunity for organisations to evaluate their current system and solidify their infrastructure, bringing them a step closer to successful digital transformation.

Organisations should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their current storage and file systems, in order to stay competitive in an economy that is becoming increasingly data-centric. That means that all current users should be familiar with the limitations of Windows Server, if only to be aware and be better prepared for the issues that may arise:

1.Capacity concerns: Windows Server capacity is constrained to the size of the hardware on which it runs. As unstructured data continues on its massive growth trend, enterprises face difficult choices with regard to storage investment at the edge.

2.Limited cloud optionality: Windows Server offers cloud integration only with Azure, which means customers are locked into Microsoft’s cloud at a time when multi-cloud initiatives are increasingly the norm in enterprise IT environments. Enterprises today want to choose the right cloud for the right job, move data across clouds, and reduce storage costs without portability issues or vendor lock-in.

3.Lack of a global file system: Because Windows Server does not support a global namespace, distributed enterprises cannot enjoy the benefits of fast and efficient multi-site collaboration, a key driver of user productivity in the cloud era. These limitations extend to Azure File Sync as well.

For those considering a modern cloud-integrated file storage solution, some of the criteria they should be looking for are:

1.Ease of Migration

Enterprises should select a solution that provides native support for the Windows SMB Protocol to assure a smooth migration from Windows file servers. It goes without saying that the solution must fully support Windows ACLs and Active Directory with all their intricacies so that existing access rules are retained following migration, and end users and applications continue to operate smoothly over their existing mapped network drives.

2.LAN Speed Performance

Users do not tend to tolerate degradations in performance. Therefore, any solution chosen to replace Windows Server must provide LAN-speed access to cloud-based files through local caching.

3.Complete Data Privacy

In recent years data privacy has been critical for almost all organisations, even more so with legislations such as GDPR being enacted all around the world. In order to ensure compliance, enterprises need a solution that addresses their security focused requirements with a 100% private (in-firewall) deployment model, end-to-end encryption with private control over the encryption keys, and granular file sharing policies.

4.Global Collaboration and Mobility

Organisations are now increasingly distributed, with offices across various locations and employees working from the train or from home. To have a single namespace for distributed businesses to share and collaborate on files across any number of locations is becoming essential.

Furthermore, many organizations are embracing file sync and share applications for their laptops and mobile devices. It is beneficial for the chosen file storage solution to provide a holistic approach, exposing the same files using File Server interface for on-prem users, and a tightly integrated file sync and share solution for laptops and mobile users.

5.Multi-Cloud Support

It is crucial for the file storage solution to support a wide selection of cloud providers and on-premises object storage solutions, as well as to enable easy data migration between different storage providers without downtime. Multi-vendor cloud support allows an organisation the flexibility to negotiate with and select the cloud vendor or on-prem storage solution offering the best service terms, features and cost for each application or workload they run. Microsoft Server is limited by only supporting its own Azure cloud storage service.

6.Business Continuity

71 percent of organisations cited data protection and availability as one of the biggest challenges when moving to the cloud, according to a survey commissioned by CTERA.When evaluating storage solutions, look for solutions that include real-time backup of files to the cloud and ability to recover previous file versions. Modern solutions would also allow near-zero-downtime disaster recovery, by ability to quickly failover to the cloud, slashing restoration time from days to minutes. Organisations can keep offices running when their local storage is inaccessible – without having to buy a second server and mirroring data.

The Windows Server end of life brings an opportunity for IT managers to reassess their organisational needs and IT infrastructure. For organisations seeking to update their storage and file solution, modernise their remote office/branch office (ROBO) technology, the aim is often to provide a more comprehensive set of capabilities than their legacy server-based approach while simultaneously reducing management overhead. New ways of looking at office infrastructure options will help take them a step closer to successfully achieving digital transformation.


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