Windows Server and Clients – Kernel Divergence

April 14, 2015   //   Microsoft System Center, , , ,

Much media focus has been given to the forthcoming Windows 10 client operating system currently in preview form with an expected release in Q3 2015. However, there has been a lot of less publicized yet quite interesting news on the server front as well. What is going on with the long-standing Windows Server 2003? Should my organization be moving to 2012 R2 if a new version is expected in 2016? What’s the future direction of Windows Server?

Windows Server 2003 is fast approaching its end-of-life date: July 14, 2015. As with its companion client Windows XP, which exited extended support one year ago, this means that no new security hotfixes or maintenance patches will be publically released. Aging operating systems are more vulnerable to zero-day attacks and ever-evolving security threats, which can rapidly emerge in the modern cloud-connected world. Thus, if your organization still has active Server 2003 systems, it’s time to begin migrating their workloads to newer platforms. For 64-bit versions of Server 2003, it is possible to perform an in-place upgrade to Server 2008 R2 if necessary. However, a much cleaner and safer approach is to do a side-by-side migration directly to Server 2012 R2.

Because Server 2012 R2 has been broadly adopted and well documented for over two years, it is the most logical step for migration. Moreover, there is no reason to wait because Microsoft recently announced that Windows Server 2016 will not release alongside Windows 10. This is a noteworthy coincidence, as it represents the first time that the client and server kernels have diverged since Windows 2003/XP. It was nice that Windows 7 and 2008 R2 shared the same internal code base because you could be assured of high interoperability with applications and a similar interface. But given the upcoming changes in both client and server paradigms, it makes sense to differentiate them going forward.

Windows 10 aims to be faster-paced in general, with the new end-user features delivered regularly, although IT organizations can instead align their strategy with the “long-term serviceability branch” and opt for consistency and stability as desired. In contrast, Windows Server 2016 aims to be an even more cloud-optimized system, drawing heavily on technology derived from Microsoft Azure. In particular, the so-called Nano Server feature will be one of its cornerstones, with refactored PowerShell CoreCLR as the primary management interface.

A compatibility mode will exist to support the current generation of server roles and applications in the marketplace, such as traditional RDS farms and IIS web services, plus improvements in virtualization and storage. Meanwhile, the micro-services layer will move towards being the future foundation of containerized Docker applications, Windows Fabric and PaaS. In short, this means it won’t always be necessary to run a full VM in order to achieve isolation of enterprise software applications, resulting in reduced overhead and increased ability to scale dynamically.

Management of this new technology will also fall under two comparable umbrellas. When the Windows 10 client OS launches later this year, an updated SCCM will release alongside it. The remainder of the System Center suite, which is more closely tied to the server release cycle, will come out in 2016.

Need help aligning Server 2012 R2 or SCCM with your business needs? Let SWC’s 35 years of experience implementing technology solutions go to work for you. Contact SWC today and tell us about your business. Don’t know where to start with your migration? Call 630-572-0240 and we will determine the best solution that works with your current on-premises environment and your cloud computing needs.

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