Windows ROI Strategies

In the midst of a jobless economic recovery, Microsoft released a major new version of its Windows server operating system.

In many ways, the timing couldn't be avoided. The economy has been in the tank almost continuously since 2001, the earliest that Microsoft could have shipped an upgrade to Windows 2000. Various factors dictated that Microsoft couldn't ship Windows Server 2003 much later than now -- feature demands due to maturing deployments of Active Directory, feature demands due to regular changes in technology, the urgent requirement to produce a more secure server operating system and the implicit promise in Software Assurance that server upgrades will appear within four years.

But Microsoft is not blind to economic realities. As Windows Server 2003 came closer to delivery, Microsoft made continuous nods to the need for what it calls Rapid Economic Justification of the operating system. In many ways, the software giant has done an admirable job of providing that.

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So is this the time to upgrade? If you're one of the customers who've been bugging Microsoft for specific features, better overall security or to make good on your aging Software Assurance contract, then obviously.

If you're not one of those customers, the advice is the same as any time Microsoft comes out with a new OS. It's rarely appropriate to upgrade for the sake of having the latest and greatest technology, especially when budgets are tight and IT staffing is short. It's always appropriate to upgrade because there's a specific requirement in your organization that the new technology will fix and where the payoff of fulfilling that requirement outweighs the expense of the technology.

There are other things to consider. Support for Windows NT 4.0 servers formally evaporates at the end of 2004. That's a definite danger to staying on the seven-year-old technology. But that doesn't automatically mean moving to Windows Server 2003. The story behind Linux as an infrastructure platform continues to improve, with the tools market maturing for the open source operating system by the day. (See next month's ENT In-Depth report for more detail). Meanwhile, if you've just finished the jump to Windows 2000 Active Directory, you should probably sit tight and enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

In this special report, we look at return on investment in two ways. In the first article, we explore quick hits, where swapping out a server here and there brings obvious benefits that quickly pay for themselves. In the second article, we look at the potential return on investment of more involved, large scale migrations of whole sections of your infrastructure to Windows Server 2003.--Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.