Someone plugging in an Ethernet cable into a server

A Guide to Side-by-Side Migration

15 Apr 2015 by Jessica Hall

Disk space was measured in megabytes. Random-Access Memory (RAM) was quantified by single gigabyte increments. Processors that delivered the highest performance computed 32 bits. That’s how the IT landscape looked when Windows Server® 2003 first launched more than a decade ago.

Today, the vast majority of companies with Windows Server 2003 are looking to migrate from a 32-bit physical server infrastructure to Windows Server 2012 R2, which has a 64-bit cloud-based infrastructure.

The most appropriate solution is to conduct a side-by-side migration.

Trent Viavattene, senior manager of the core infrastructure practice at Insight, explains, “You’re not doing an in-place upgrade of the existing operating system; you’re actually setting up a new server next to the old one — a source and a new target server with a new Windows [Server] 2008 R2 or, preferably, a Windows [Server] 2012 operating system on it.”

The migration only occurs when a company moves the application and associated data from the source server onto the new target server.

For a long time, Microsoft has had an upgrade path in which organizations can execute an in-place upgrade. “Back then, you could stick in the new CD and run the upgrade path,” Viavattene notes. “By the end of the day, you would have an upgraded machine with the latest version.”

Because they leave machines in a nonnative state for the new operating system, in-place upgrades present a lot of challenges. “Paths have to be rewritten, files have to be changed, and items left from the old operating system have to be addressed,” explains Viavattene. Failing to do these things can produce functionality problems within the new operating system.

It’s better to start with a known, clean build of a new target operating system. Organizations will experience longer and better functionality over the useful life of the new server. “It’s like cleaning out your garage. It’s always better to remove everything and start with a clean slate as opposed to trying to organize amongst the clutter,” illustrates Viavattene.

Common pitfalls can occur during side-by-side migrations. Viavattene says the single biggest mistake is not to plan adequately for the migration. “You need to have a good understanding of how everything is interconnected,” he explains.

“You’ll need to validate what applications you have installed, what are the IP addresses and what applications could have hard-coded entries for the IP address or the hostname of the old server, among other things.”

Identify the necessary information, set expectations and fully understand your environment. “If you don’t do all of those things, that’s the biggest single point of failure that you can have with any type of migration,” Viavattene warns.

Prepare for Windows Server 2003 end of support by getting more information at our Server Ignite page.

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