IT modernisation series – Cloudhouse: Legacy Windows platforms & the future of functionality

Unlike digital-first organisations, traditional businesses have a wealth of enterprise applications built up over decades, many of which continue to run core business processes. 

In this series of articles we investigate how organisations are approaching the modernisation, replatforming and migration of legacy applications and related data services. 

We look at the tools and technologies available encompassing aspects of change management and the use of APIs and containerisation (and more) to make legacy functionality and data available to cloud-native applications.

This post – the full title of which is intended to be ‘Legacy Windows platforms: the future of functionality for systems with no support’ is attributed to Mat Clothier in his role as CEO of Cloudhouse — the company is known for its enabling Microsoft & Citrix customers to migrate their business applications from unsupported, insecure and non-compliant systems.

Clothier writes as follows…

Since Microsoft withdrew support for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 back in January 2020, glitches have started to appear – and purchasing Extended Security Updates (ESUs) from Microsoft is only a short term solution. Many users are unable to shut their systems down, while others aren’t able to view their documents folder in Explorer; and on top of this, an issued fix from Microsoft relating to a wallpaper bug in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 has left some systems unable to start.

Previously, Microsoft has continued to fix bugs in the background after officially withdrawing support. However, anyone on a legacy system such as Windows 7 or with applications on Server 2008/2008 R2 is now effectively flying solo, which in the long run, could be detrimental to business continuity.

Hackers target unsupported OSs

Hackers are in the business of pinpointing organisational weaknesses – and with the removal of vital support, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 will become top targets for cybercriminals: especially when it comes to 2008 R2, which has a reputation for being a popular choice among bigger enterprises.

As well as the increased threat of cybercrime, the reduction in maintenance will have a detrimental effect on the long-term usability of Server 2008 R2.

Extended Security Updates?

While Microsoft has officially withdrawn support, they are offering companies the option to extend their access to security updates until 2023. The scheme, known as Extended Security Updates, is a subscription service that will become increasingly expensive year-on-year until it expires in 2023; but while this might seem like a short-term safety net for organisations cut adrift by Microsoft, it will only cover “Critical and/or Important security updates” and no extra support.

Since January’s support cut-off date, the future viability issues of these legacy systems have only been highlighted by glitches that have already made themselves apparent.

It’s time for a re-think

As far as OS and app compatibility is concerned, it’s now time for a migration. Any critical applications on unsupported legacy systems now need to be moved onto up-to-date systems, into the cloud, or to Windows 10.

However, migrations are not risk-free. Ensuring the consistent availability of critical systems is not guaranteed, and as such, many organisations have forgone vital updates to avoid potential downtime.

With legacy applications not optimised for use on newer platforms such as Windows 10, this incompatibility poses real issues when it comes to modernising operating systems. Since business app libraries include everything from accounting to inventory and supply chain management software, to human resources, ERP and sales and promotions applications, this problem can be widespread across businesses, and simply migrating them onto new platforms is not a guarantee of future-proofed functionality. Applications built for legacy systems often won’t work on Windows 10, or in the cloud on Windows Server 2016 or 2019, and migrating them onto new platforms subjects them to regular security updates which can hamper performance.

This leaves businesses in an impossible position. Virtualisation and layering solutions are often touted as an obvious answer, but these can only create applications that can partly fulfil their original functions. While virtualisation allows for easier application deployment and resolves certain app-to-app glitches, it doesn’t have the capability to surmount app-platform incompatibilities.

The future of functionality is migration

Taking advantage of the latest and greatest technologies such as application compatibility packaging is one way for organisations to leave legacy systems behind and embrace the future. Using this technology, back-office apps can be migrated to cloud platforms such as AWS, Google and Azure; whereby migrating the underlying environment, there’s no need to recode or refactor in order to achieve full functionality. This also resolves any app-to-app conflict on the desktop or server.

When moving applications to new operating systems, there’s usually a requirement to repackage and retest them, which is time and labour-intensive. However, using application compatibility packaging means that this only needs to be done once. Regardless of whether applications are running in the cloud or in an on-site data centre, using a redirection and isolation engine means they can always be deployed on the most up-to-date Windows systems. This ultimately separates the application from its underlying operating system, where the application is then optimised for Windows-as-a-Service.

Modern platforms are, by nature, more secure due to the level of provider support, bug-fixes and updates. By enabling applications to run on these systems, organisations can rest assured knowing that their infrastructure is better protected against poor performance, vulnerabilities to cybercrime and incompatibility issues releasing them from forced reliance on outdated legacy systems such as Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2.

In an ever-changing world, digital transformation is essential for organisational viability, and the need to replace legacy systems with cloud-based platforms is becoming almost inevitable. As such, ensuring a smooth migration and ongoing app functionality is a real benefit as businesses embrace the future.

 

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