Dell, HP Chase Upgrades From Windows Server 2003; Whither IBM?
August 18, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It is less than a year before Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows Server 2003. Why should IBM i shops care? Because most of them are Windows shops, too, as it turns out. And many of them are likely running old releases of Windows.
Microsoft is pulling support for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 in July 2015, and frankly, now is even a little late for a lot of IBM i shops to start planning for the transition to Windows Server 2012, which presumably is the jump that most customers will make. According to Dell, Microsoft is estimating that it can take at least 200 days to do a server migration off Windows Server 2003 and application migration could take more than 300 days. Microsoft polling suggests that 94 percent of companies on Windows Server 2003 intend to stay on a Windows platform and migrate to a more current release of the operating system or move their workloads to the Azure public cloud that is based on the Windows Server 2012 stack. Many will do a combination of the two.
For the past two decades, most of the companies that had systems running the OS/400, i5/OS, or IBM i have also had Windows Server machines running side-by-side with these IBM midrange boxes. There used to be OS/2, NetWare, and Unix kit sitting beside these boxes in the old days as well as Windows for Workgroups and Windows NT Server, but over time as Windows Server became more popular, it came to dominate as the alternative and adjunct platform in IBM midrange shops.
Industry analysts estimate that there are around 11.7 million servers in the world running Windows Server 2003. The best estimates I have seen had it that somewhere between 85 percent and 90 percent of IBM midrange shops also ran Windows Server in some form, usually supporting Exchange Server email and groupware or SQL Server for analytics database processing and often running the application serving layer in an n-tier application that put the database back on the IBM midrange platform. Assuming that most of the 150,000 IBM i sites in the world have a handful of Windows servers, this could be anywhere from many hundreds of thousands to possibly a million or more servers. And the odds are pretty high that those with vintage OS/400 and i5/OS releases are also running older Windows Server versions, too.
Dell has announced its Windows Server 2003 migration services, and Hewlett-Packard has followed suit with its own migration services aimed at modernizing Windows servers. (HP reckons that the Windows Server 2003 end-of-life for support represents a $10 billion opportunity for its partners and itself, but does not quantify what that means.)
The only link I can find on the IBM site for Windows migration services is very old, and offers to transition customers from NetWare, OS/2, and Unix to Windows Server 2000 or Windows Server 2003. But someone at IBM should be a bit more clever than this.
Knowing that about 120,000 of the 150,000 IBM i shops are running old OS/400, i5/OS, or IBM releases on their Power machines and very likely using vintage Windows Server operating systems on their X86 servers, Big Blue should create a promotion and service of its own to get customers to upgrade both in succession and as a plan to get everything in their IT shop up to date. Such a program would include migration assessments, services to do the migration, and volume discounts for customers who upgrade all of their iron before, say, the end of 2015. IBM should not let HP and Dell get all of this business, and Lenovo Group, which is trying to buy IBM’s System x server business for $2.3 billion, should encourage IBM to do such deals because it protects the base that Lenovo is trying to buy.