Windows Server 2012 is dead. Long live Windows Server 2012.

A lot can change in 11 years.

Cast your mind back to 2012. The latest Apple smartphone was the iPhone 4, the most popular song was Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know, and Barack Obama was just re-elected to his second term as United States president.

The iPhone 4 is now obsolete, Gotye’s hit is now played on ‘classic rock’ stations, and Barack Obama now delivers sponsored speeches at corporate events.

There was also wide speculation that the world might come to an end as it was the year an ancient Mayan calendar stopped. While the apocalypse never arrived, the end is nigh for another product of 2012 still in use across many Australian enterprises – Windows Server 2012.

End of an era

On October 10 this year, Windows Server 2012 will no longer be supported. It will have officially reached ‘end of support,’ meaning newly discovered security flaws will no longer be patched and customer support will not be available.

This operating system (OS) has been critical to maintaining servers and data centres for the past decade. It saw widespread implementation due to its ease of use and was one of the first Windows OSes to provide functionality that placed an emphasis on cloud computing.

While it was pivotal to many businesses in the early days of cloud computing, with its updated native hypervisor (Hyper-V) and Remote Desktop Protocol, this is one asset that can no longer be sweated. 

End of support

Typically, when something as central to an enterprise’s operations like a server OS reaches the end of its life, organisations must choose from the following options:

  1. Use the solution without vendor support. This is a daunting prospect considering recent research found that unpatched vulnerabilities remain the most consistent ransomware attack vector. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) also says applying patches to OSes is “critical to ensuring the security of systems.”
  2. Retire the application. Unfortunately, many — if not most — of the applications still using Windows Server 2012 are critical applications running key business functions. Retiring or replacing these applications with the short runway available is simply not an option for many.
  3. Upgrade to a later version. This is traditionally the most common option in this situation. However, this takes significant amounts of time and money, and ultimately delivers little business value as the same application will simply continue to perform the same functions.
  1. Pay for extended support. This is a stop-gap measure that is often overpriced to discourage its adoption. It provides limited support and has almost zero business value.

But in this case, there is a different choice available: Microsoft Azure was only two years old when Windows 2012 was released. The public cloud was beginning to be thought of as a viable hosting strategy, but today 44% of organisations have at least some workloads hosted on it.

Microsoft has offered organisations still running Server 2012 a lifeline in the form of free extended support to all 2012 workloads running on Azure for three years.

Chance to transform

This new option is a chance for organisations to reinvent themselves, fast forward their application modernisation strategies, and transform their technology foundation for the future.

Up until recently, the time, cost, and work involved in re-architecting an application so it could be migrated to a cloud environment made it near impossible – especially if that application was business critical.

But today’s breed of hybrid multi-cloud management platforms make the process of migrating an application much simpler, far quicker, and extremely cost-effective. Once the process is complete, this gives organisations access to all the advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and database automation that have become available since 2012.

To put it another way, the best-selling car in Australia 11 years ago was the Mazda 3. Today, one of the most popular cars is the Tesla Model 3.

Would you rather your enterprise’s IT infrastructure resemble a used Mazda 3 or a new Tesla Model 3?

The ‘cloud-first’ strategies of 2012 have long since gone the way of the Mayan calendar. Today, hybrid multi-cloud strategies are seen as the way forward. In fact, in the next three years, 74% of organisations expect to use multiple IT environments, according to Nutanix’s fifth annual Enterprise Cloud Index report.

These new strategies see organisations weave together multiple different public cloud providers, along with their private cloud and edge cloud infrastructure, together into a cohesive whole.

This allows the business greater flexibility and freedom of choice as it allows individual apps and workloads to live in the environment that best matches business requirements.

Whether that business need is cost, security, performance, or data sovereignty, each app can be hosted in the environment of best fit.

Critically, as those needs change, so too can the location of each app.

This functionality simply wasn’t conceivable back in 2012. But today’s hybrid multi-cloud platforms make it a reality.

Any business still running Windows Server 2012, and from my conversations it appears many are still doing so, has no choice but to replace this OS.Where they do have a choice though, is how they do so. They have a chance now to truly transform their business, in the same way Tesla changed our definition of what a car could be.