Three Approaches to Modernizing your SQL Server and Windows Server Environments

If your organization is like many, the fall is preparation and planning time. This means buzz words like “roadmaps,” “strategic priorities” and “growth drivers” start flying around in abundance. And yes, those are all important. But what makes detailed IT planning even more important this year are two critical events from Microsoft – the end of support of SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008. If you’ve waited until now to start a migration plan for SQL Server 2008, you’ve got some catching up to do as the end of support date has already passed. And for your Windows Server 2008 environments, the end of support date is coming in January 2020. With staff out for the holidays, peak shopping season, and end of the year wrap up, this date can pose a serious challenge.

And while it is tempting to cross your fingers and hope that everything is ok, we highly discourage that approach. This blog outlines the risks of doing nothing about your EOL environment.

While IT planning and budget discussions are taking place, we’d like to help you capitalize on this opportunity with a practical framework to modernize your SQL Server and Windows Server 2008 environments. At Dell EMC, we recommend looking at both your hardware and software platforms when thinking about modernization as the two are so intertwined. But ultimately there will a driving force – a need for a modern OS (perhaps caused by one of the aforementioned EOL events), the need for new hardware, or a third driver centered around an entirely different approach to IT delivery.

Approach One: Modernization Driven by the Need for a New Operating System or Database Platform

If your IT organization is using these Microsoft EOL events to drive a discussion around modernization (which they should) now is a good time to plan for a hardware refresh. The obvious reason is that without updating your server platform, you may not be able to upgrade to the latest version of the OS/DB. Say you’re running SQL 2008 or Server 2008 on an R720 – the best you’ll be able to do is upgrade to the 2012 edition of Windows Server or SQL 2017. That means you’ll be facing another end of life event in a few years. At the end of the day, you’re not buying yourself much time and it’s never a good idea to leap a chasm in two bounds if it can be avoided.

Furthermore, an incremental update will not give you access to all the latest features in Windows Server 2019. Specifically,

  1. Unique hybrid capabilities: A simplified migration process and the new Windows Admin Center make on-premises and Azure cloud management seamless.
  2. Faster innovation with containers: Windows Server 2019 provides support for Linux and Windows containers side-by-side, allowing businesses to run multiple isolated apps on a single system.
  3. Enhanced Security: Integrated Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) prevents and detects zero-day exploits, network attacks, and data breaches. It can also discover security breaches and secure the operating system.
  4. Unprecedented HCI Capabilities: Create highly available, highly scalable software-defined storage for a fraction of the cost of traditional SAN or NAS arrays.

Approach Two: Modernization Driven by the Need for new Server Platforms

If your IT organization has recognized the need to refresh your datacenter hardware, now is a good time to think about migrating to the latest Windows Server and/or SQL Server edition. There’s tremendous value in updating the hardware alone and this Forrester report demonstrates the advantages of modern server platforms. But that’s really only half of the story.

The latest editions of SQL Server and Windows Server are purpose-built to take advantage of some of the latest server advancements. And the Dell EMC PowerEdge family delivers on those advancements with:

  1. Integrated Security: Complement the security advancements in Windows Server with a secure hardware platform – from the logical hardware design through the physical security of the supply chain.
  2. Scalable Architectures: the flexibility and versatility of the PowerEdge Server portfolio means you can grow your infrastructure as you grow your business, and therefore your computing needs grow. Idle capacity is finally a thing of the past.
  3. Intelligent Automation: iDRAC and OpenManage are perfect complements to the advancements in Windows Admin Center and integrate seamlessly.

Approach Three: Modernization Driven by the Need to Change your IT Delivery Model

Perhaps the drive for modernization comes from a need to make a big shift in how you deliver IT services to your organization and to your end users. Five years ago, we saw many companies make a monumental shift from bare metal to virtualization. That shift required newer, higher performing hardware platforms and new software technologies, chief among those VMware’s V-Center and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

Today we are seeing an equally monumental shift with the emergence of hyper-converged infrastructure, containers, and hybrid computing. And it doesn’t come as a surprise that yesterday’s hardware and software platforms aren’t capable of delivering on the promises of these new technologies. They simply weren’t designed to do what is possible today.

And while we must all evaluate the benefit of adopting these new technologies, it’s also important to consider the impact of doing nothing. A recent study found that organizations who adopt modern cloud, data and AI technologies outperform:[1]

  • Nearly double operating margin
  • $40K more revenue per employee
  • 50% higher average net income on revenue

Where do I start?

If you’re ready to get started on your modernization journey and get ahead of the Windows Server 2008 End of Life deadline, you’ll first need to understand your environment as it exists today. Dell EMC offers a free tool to do just that. Live Optics is an online software application you can use to collect data about your IT environment. Nothing is more convincing than your own data, so take advantage of this tool to understand your organization’s needs and make a compelling argument to implement the latest data management and analytics applications.

If you’d prefer, Dell Technologies Consulting Services can perform a thorough, validated and rationalized view of your server and data estate to determine which Windows Server require attention and which SQL Server versions you want to move and/or consolidate.  Once you understand your landscape, then what? If you’re like most organizations, you don’t have the time or skilled resources to upgrade and migrate workloads to Windows Server 2019. And given most SQL Server databases/instances are running on Windows Server, it makes sense to upgrade both at the same time. The more complex the environment, the more complex upgrades and migrations can be.

Even though you may have a highly skilled IT Team, do they really have the expertise to migrate instances, database and/or applications to better performing and secure hardware infrastructure? Maybe not. As a Microsoft Gold Certified partner, Dell Technologies Consulting Services can help with the entire process. Depending on how much help your team needs, we offer services for every budget. Choose from one of our pre-packaged (ProConsult Migration or ProConsult Flexible) services or a fully customized engagement for both Windows Server and SQL Server.

Planning to be at Microsoft Ignite 2019? We will have Windows Server and SQL Server experts on site at Ignite. Please come see us at booth #1547 to chat with one of our specialists. We hope to see you there!


About the Author: Kristin Waldrop

Kristin Waldrop serves as the technical marketing lead for integrated PowerEdge and Microsoft solutions at Dell. Her whole career has been in technology helping clients, customers, and partners navigate the complexities of cloud and helping them get the most out of their IT investments. In her current role, she has the privilege of evangelizing two of the most ubiquitous IT platforms in the world – Dell EMC PowerEdge Servers and Microsoft technologies. Kristin is from New Orleans but currently lives in San Antonio with her husband, two kids, and a standard poodle. When she’s not nerding out over technology, you’ll find her tending to her bees on the family ranch in central Texas.