Windows Server 2008: worth the upgrade?

Windows Server 2008 is set to be officially launched on February 28. Given the timings between major releases of the OS, it may have been better to launch on Feb 29th.

The last major upgrade was in 2003 and it is highly unlikely anyone who has standardised on Windows 2003 Server will be upgrading.

These days, the main driver to upgrade the server OS concerns the need for the business to remain on a supported platform. People on 2003 have plenty of time to decide, as support doesn’t end until 2015. However there are still people who have the unsupported Windows NT4 Server.

Now if you are still running NT4, it must be for a very good reason. Maybe the server application simply is no longer available or there is no compelling business case to upgrade. Whatever the reason, it is very likely that you have pretty much figured or everything you need to run the unsupported NT4 system in a business environment. Upgrading could introduce unnecessary risk and I think people still running NT are probably going to be still running NT4, for as long as hardware and virtual server support exists.

People running Windows 2000 have a completely different set of requirements. They will have already migrated to the Windows Active Directory so the pain of upgrading is far less than upgrading from NT4. They had the choice to upgrade to Windows 2003 or Windows 2003 R2 and chose not to. They may simply have decided to skip a release and upgrade to Windows Server 2008.

However, like the people still running NT4, they may be happy with what they have. After all, Windows 2000 was considered a very good platform, certainly compared to Windows NT4.

Now if this is the case, I think Microsoft has a big problem. Thanks to its Trustworthy Computing initiative, each iteration of Windows has improved stability over its predecessor. Microsoft also spends a lot of time developing additional functionality like server core, Bitlocker, network access protection in this latest release, to make the products compelling. On top of all that there’s a whole new programming framework in Visual Studio 2007, to allow programmers to build increasingly richer, more powerful Windows applications more productively.

But if people are happy running Windows 2000 or Windows 2003, then there is no business case to upgrade.

Without the revenue that comes from mass upgrades, how will Microsoft be able to budget research and development for the next major upgrade of Windows server.

NT4 has demonstrated that current Microsoft server products are either stable enough or users are happy to live with the flaws. I’m keen to hear from anyone who has been looking at Windows Server 2008, especially those who have found a compelling reason to upgrade.