Longhorn's Server Core is perhaps the most useful new edition of Windows in quite a while, and it's appropriate for use in many situations where rock-solid servers are required. If your clients have server farms hosting network-intensive applications, you will find the changes to the TCP/IP stack and other network performance improvements tantalizing. Hardware assistance also makes network scaling much more cost effective by requiring fewer physical servers than before. Security is, of course, paramount importance, and network access protection (NAP) alone is worth investing in Longhorn Server. Management capabilities are improved as well.
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For shops that are still running Windows 2000, the new version is significant apart from just the feature set improvements. Windows 2000 Server's mainstream support ended June 30, 2005. While extended support will be available until July 13, 2010, it's smart to consider a move. Longhorn Server, a fundamentally major release, provides a good jump up in new features, although it will likely require a hardware refresh if your customer runs Windows NT or Windows 2000 in production.
Here are some tips to help convince Windows 2000 clients that now's the time to prepare for a Longhorn migration.
- Put the fear of "no support" in your clients' heads: Windows 2000 is no longer supported or, for the most part, updated by Microsoft. Need I say more?
- Give notice early: Server migrations are expensive, take a lot of time and typically affect the core of business functionality. Your clients will appreciate as much advance notice of a fundamentally required upgrade as you can give them. Longhorn Server Beta 3 is just around the corner, and that prerelease code drop will be feature complete. It's a good time to begin notifying your clients of the new release, extolling its virtues and beginning to assist them with a needs analysis.
- Spec out a server hardware upgrade: Longhorn Server is the first major revision of Windows on the server since Windows 2000, but when it releases late this year, Windows 2000 will be close to eight years old. Hardware moves faster than that, which means not only will the software need a move, your clients' hardware will need a refresh. Dust off your capacity planning skills, take a look at the server consolidation benefits Longhorn Server brings to the table, and help your client assess the expense a server hardware refresh will entail.
- Look at your client's Active Directory deployment: Windows 2000 was the first Windows release to include Active Directory, and there have been many improvements since then. Forest and domain functional levels are different, more flexible, and otherwise improved. Federation is possible with Active Directory Federation Services. Group Policy has improved with better IntelliMirror, offline support, and remote network connection tolerance. Look at what your client has in terms of an Active Directory deployment and plan your upgrades around that.
- Give scheduling advice and counseling: You don't have to approach the move to Longhorn Server as an en masse upgrade. Where it makes sense, deploy Longhorn Server ahead of the curve, for example, on Web servers and Terminal Services machines. Give the core of the Active Directory forest a little more time. Especially for medium-sized businesses that lack the funds for a dedicated, experienced Active Directory administration team, your expertise in guiding a sensical, nonsimultaneous movement to Longhorn Server will pay dividends for your client and bolster their trust and relationship with you.
So take some time, acquire the beta code, and test Longhorn Server out. It's a most appropriate upgrade for your Windows 2000 clients, and they'll need your help sooner rather than later.
About the author: Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. His work is seen regularly in popular periodicals such as Windows IT Pro Magazine, SecurityFocus, PC Pro and Microsoft TechNet Magazine. He speaks around the world on topics including Windows administration, networking and security.