As Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 move to end of life - how to immortalise enterprise IT in the cloud

Significant challenges are emerging for enterprises migrating their IT into the cloud. A primary issue is the migration of business-critical applications built to work specifically with legacy operating systems. Lack of compatibility with cloud environments provided by the likes of AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud means those critical applications can fail to function.

As the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 end-of-life deadline rapidly approaches, enterprises running applications on these or any other unsupported servers will need to act quickly to save those critical applications from obsolescence.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Enterprises have the opportunity to migrate and immortalise crucial legacy applications in cloud environments through the emerging process of application containerisation.

Sizing up the challenge

Gartner predicts worldwide cloud services will grow by 17 percent this year to hit $214bn, compared with $182bn last year. Applications are right at the heart of this. More than a third of the 550 enterprise-level IT chiefs surveyed for the IDG Cloud Computing Survey last year said they are under pressure to migrate all applications and infrastructure to the cloud, while nine in 10 plan to have some part of their applications or infrastructure in the cloud this year, with the rest following suit by 2021.

Many enterprises are reluctant to move to Windows 10 because of concerns about being moved onto the treadmill of six-monthly or annual updates. This involves almost continual testing and a risk of damage and disruption through application failure.

The middle-tier and back-office threat

All these challenges mean the majority of enterprises will still have critical middle-tier and back-office applications stuck on legacy Windows systems even after the end-of-life deadlines have passed. These are often applications that have become absolutely critical to the running of the enterprise, for instance manufacturing, stock monitoring or accounting.

Assumptions are commonly made that these are simply too mission critical to touch and therefore cannot be migrated to the cloud without a huge amount of risk – not to mention cost and disruption - to the business. Consequently, these applications are often removed from the scope of a cloud migration, leading to a significant reduction in the potential benefits being delivered by the migration in the first place!

This approach extends the life of the current systems and keeps them out of the cloud until further notice. Microsoft, for example, has been ready to sell Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) on a per-device basis to enterprise users with volume-licensing agreements. Yet this too is costly, with the price doubling year-on-year to January 2023 – a tough sell for any IT department to take to their CFO.

Microsoft is campaigning hard to persuade enterprises to shift workloads into Azure, having offered, for example, three years of free support for VMs running Windows Server 2008 R2 after the January 2020 end-of-life date. But enterprises want to avoid being locked in to one provider. Many CIO’s mitigate this by working with multiple cloud providers.

Virtualisation or encapsulation – which way to go?

Virtualisation is often touted as a solution. Although it simplifies deployment and addresses some application-to-application conflicts, it fails to solve compatibility problems between the application and the cloud-provider’s system.

The most effective solution to emerge from the need to move legacy applications into the cloud is in application encapsulation. It is a simple enough concept. Experts in encapsulation lift an application from its legacy environment and successfully transpose it into any cloud system, future-proofing it through the power of advanced encapsulation technology.

This encapsulation technology provides the redirection, isolation and compatibility needed for the application to function in the external cloud service environment exactly as it did on the old Operating System. It isolates the application from the underlying Operating System, meaning that Windows Servicing Updates can be rolled out to the server or device without it impacting the application. No recoding or refactoring is required. The application will remain evergreen into the future, running as if cloud-native without the need for a single piece of additional infrastructure.

No longer should it be necessary for IT teams to “hope for the best”, leaving some of their most fundamental applications on insecure and unstable operating systems. And since this is a cloud-agnostic solution. The danger of an enterprise being locked into a single cloud vendor, with all the risks that entails, is removed.

Cloud vendors fully support encapsulation

Because encapsulation needs no additional third-party infrastructure or software, and requires no code changes, it is already supported by all cloud vendors.

Encapsulation services will ensure business-critical applications remain evergreen in the cloud, reducing the financial burden and business disruption of migration. This is true digital transformation in progress.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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