Migrating to Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012

Hi, I’m Joel Sider, Senior Marketing Manager, Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. Following the Windows Server 2012 launch this past fall, we’re seeing great interest from many people who are evaluating the product and looking for best practices when implementing virtualization and private/hybrid cloud solutions. Information Week published an interesting report discussing things to consider when migrating to Server 2012, for example.  Recently I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a few of our customers and industry partners on these topics. Over coming weeks, we’ll be sharing those conversations with readers here on our blog. Our first guest is Rand Morimoto of Convergent Computing.

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Rand, following our Windows Server 2012 launch this past fall; we’re seeing interest from many people who are evaluating the product and looking for best practices when implementing virtualization and private/hybrid cloud solutions. Information Week published an interesting report discussing things to consider when migrating to Server 2012, but we’d like to share your personal experiences as well.

Q: In what ways do you see Windows Server 2012 and the Microsoft stack most helping enterprises adopt cloud computing?  

A: Working as a consultant for some of the largest enterprises in the world as well as with small and medium businesses, the biggest challenge orgs have in adopting the cloud has been the “all or nothing” approach offered by most cloud providers.  With what Microsoft offers, organizations can move some workloads to the cloud while retaining other workloads on premise, and with things like Windows Server 2012 and Azure Virtual Machines, or with Exchange on-premise with Office 365 in the cloud, organizations can even have a very robust hybrid configuration with some on-premise and some in the cloud.  This ability for organizations to put their toe in the cloud, try out some workloads and tasks, yet maintain stability and comfort for other areas has helped organizations better adopt the cloud with the Microsoft stack.  Windows Server 2012 and new functions around Hyper-V, Storage Spaces, and IIS Web have been initial workloads that organizations have been shifting to cloud-based workloads.

Q: What guidance would you have for a company evaluating or implementing Windows Server 2012? 

A: As with any new operating system, my recommendation has always been to pick something that is easy to implement that provides immediate value to the organization that the organization either didn’t have available before or better than what they had before.  In over 2-1/2 years of early adopter deployments of Windows Server 2012, I found organizations implemented the following with great experience and success!  Hyper-V Shared Nothing Live Migration; Hyper-V Replica; DirectAccess; IP Address Management (IPAM); Disk Deduplication; Storage Spaces; Remote Desktop Services.

Q: What are the benefits of Microsoft’s products and technologies vs. VMware for virtualization and cloud computing? 

A: Some of the key technologies built in to Windows Server 2012 specific to virtualization that have really resonated with VMware customers are the Hyper-V Shared Nothing Live Migrations and Hyper-V Replica.  In the past, when organizations wanted to “failover” a guest session from one server to another, they used VMware VMotion or Microsoft Live Migration to seamlessly move guest sessions from one host to another.  However, those solutions required high speed network connectivity (10 Gig Ethernet or Fiber), Storage Area Network (SANs), and the host servers configured in a cluster.  Of course, you could skimp on the configurations if you are only moving one session at a time, but still, it required a fair amount of an infrastructure to do real time migrations.  With Windows Server 2012, the servers do not need to be in clusters, you can Live Migrate systems in the middle of the day without interruption to the guest session, you can do the migration on standard network backbones, an incredible solution that comes “in the box” with Windows Server 2012 that requires no special software, license, configuration or tool.  Same with Hyper-V Replica to replicate guest sessions across a WAN.

Q: In your experience, what is the level of difficulty in migrating from VMware’s vSphere to Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V?  

A: Migrating from vSphere to HyperV is not so much a technical difficulty as organizations can build new HyperV guest sessions and replicate data to the HyperV guest, or use a Virtual to Virtual migration tool to convert guest sessions.  The #1 difficulty in migrating from vSphere to Hyper-V is culture and fiefdoms.  VMware administrators want to maintain their VMware environments, it’s what they’re good at, it’s what they have a job to do.  If the virtualization goes to HyperV, then the VMware person can be replaced by any of thousands of Microsoft administrators.  So the decision to switch from vSphere to HyperV has very little to do with feature to feature shootouts or performance comparisons or the like as Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V now meets VMWare feature for feature.  The decision has to be made at the executive office, namely with the CFO or the CIO who looks at the spend on VMware licensing, wants to do the same thing with Microsoft without the licensing cost, and mandates the organization makes the move.

Q: What types of organizations have you seen already begin to migrate or fully migrate off VMware? 

A: Small organizations have made the move off VMware to Hyper-V because in many of the small (under 1000 employee organizations) they didn’t have a huge investment in VMware, and the cost, even if only $10,000 or $25,000 in licensing is significant for the small organization.  Also, smaller organizations tend to be more nimble in terms of technology adoption to things that are newer, cheaper, and better.  For larger organizations or organizations that have heavy investments in VMware infrastructure (trained employees, support contracts, support arrangements, etc.), HyperV has made inroads to those organizations when an Exchange migration or SharePoint implementation project is initiated, the Microsoft application environment is built on HyperV instead of VMWare as a trial or test experience.  That way the organization doesn’t’ need to migrate everything off VMware, but gets an opportunity to experience HyperV and learn how it works.

Q: Microsoft has been spelling out its Cloud OS strategy. What are your thoughts?

A: The Microsoft Cloud OS Strategy as outlined by Satya Nadella, the President of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business in his Sept 4, 2012 TechNet blog post, the direction that Microsoft is heading on Cloud OS is right on!  As we have been seeing from a consulting standpoint working with enterprise organizations, the “operating system” and its ancillary features and functions are like plumbing, it’s there, it’s needed, but it’s not strategic.  Obviously it all has to work well, but just like switches, routers, storage, the operating system and for that matter the hypervisor are underlying components.  The benefit Microsoft has over EVERYONE else in the marketplace is Microsoft has a solid OS in Windows Server, has a cloud platform in terms of Azure, and has the hypervisor that glues things together!  We have found this integration of on-premise and cloud, with Windows 2012 being the foundation of the on-premise datacenter as well as the direct tie to the cloud the enterprises we work with.

About Rand Morimoto
Twitter: @randsnet 


Rand Morimoto , Ph.D., and Microsoft MVP is known as a pioneer in architecting and implementing technologies that help organizations improve business efficiencies through their use of technologies that create a competitive advantage in their operations.  Rand has written on topics ranging from internet security to electronic messaging to network communications with recent topics on Windows 8, Exchange 2013, System Center 2012, and Cyber-security.  On a day to day basis, Rand runs Convergent Computing, a 65-person technology consulting firm in Walnut Creek, CA. (photo courtesy of http://ScottChernis.com)


Comments (2)

  1. Michael Cherry says:

    Seems like one consideration of migrating has to be licensing. Once you bring up on Windows Server 2012 server you have to upgrade all the Client Access Licenses in the organization (with some small exceptions). Therefore, organization should consider some functionality that warrants making the upgrade, as the cost of CALs likely exceeds the cost of the server license.

  2. Tim says:

    Is Microsoft suggesting that people focus on costs?  OpenOffice has near feature parity with Microsoft Office, should we look at switching?  What about Apple licensing, should we switch to OS X?

    In the words of Steve Jobs:  The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products.

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