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Windows Server 2012 Technology Primer : When Is the Right Time to Migrate?

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4/14/2014 3:03:15 AM

Every time a new version of Windows ships, organizations wonder when the right time to migrate to the new operating system. It used to be that you waited until the first service pack shipped before installing any Microsoft product. However, Windows Server has been extremely solid in its release over the past decade; even the beta program for Windows Server 2012 didn’t turn up any surprises. Early-adopter organizations were implementing Windows Server 2012 (known early on as Windows Server 8) in their production environments upward of 12 to 18 months prior to the product release.

So, the decision of when to implement Windows Server 2012 comes down to the same decision on migration to any new technology: Identify the value received by implementing Windows Server 2012, test the solution in a limited environment, and roll out Windows Server 2012 when you are comfortable that the product meets the needs of your organization.

The cost and effort to migrate to Windows Server 2012 vary based on the current state of an organization’s networking environment, as well as the Windows Server 2012 features and functions the organization wants to implement. Some organizations begin their migration process to Windows Server 2012 by adding a Windows Server 2012 member server into an existing Windows 2003/2008 network. Others choose to migrate their Active Directory to Windows Server 2012 as their introduction to the new operating system.

Adding a Windows Server 2012 System to a Windows 2003/2008 Environment

Many organizations want to add in a specific Windows Server 2012 function such as Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services (previously called Terminal Services), Hyper-V R2 virtualization, DirectAccess, or BranchCache. Such functions can be installed on Windows Server 2012 member servers in an existing Active Directory 2003 or Active Directory 2008 networking environment. This allows an organization to get Windows Server 2012 application capabilities fairly quickly and easily without having to do a full migration to Active Directory 2012. In most cases, a Windows Server 2012 member server can simply be added to an existing network without ever affecting the existing network. This addition provides extremely low network impact but enables an organization to prototype and test the new technology, pilot it for a handful of users, and slowly roll out the technology to the client base as part of a regular system replacement or upgrade process.

Some organizations have replaced all their member servers with Windows Server 2012 systems over a period of weeks or months as a preparatory step to eventually migrate to a Windows Server 2012 Active Directory structure.

Migrating from Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 Active Directory to Windows Server 2012 Active Directory

For organizations that are still running an Active Directory 2003 environment, migrating to Active Directory 2012 can provide access to several additional capabilities, including Active Directory Recycle Bin, global catalog cloning, managed service accounts, PowerShell administration, and offline domain join.

Organizations that have already migrated to Active Directory 2008 or 2008 R2 already have most of the new functionality available in Active Directory and may determine whether a movement to AD/2012 will be of value. Effectively, Windows Server 2012 uses the same Active Directory organizational structure that was created with Windows 2003 and 2008, so forests, domain trees, domains, organizational units, sites, groups, and users all transfer directly into Windows Server 2012 Active Directory. If the organizational structure in Windows 2003 or 2008 meets the needs of the organization, the migration to Windows Server 2012 is essentially just the insertion of a Windows Server 2012 GC server into the existing Windows 2003 or 2008 Active Directory domain to perform a GC update to Windows Server 2012 Active Directory.

Of course, planning, system backup, and prototype testing  help minimize migration risks and errors and lead to a more successful migration process. However, the migration process from Windows 2003 and Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 is a relatively easy migration path for organizations to follow.

 
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