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July 14, 2015

Tech Brief – Windows 2003 to 2008 In-place upgrades - Part 1

By now we’re sure that many of you are knee-deep in Windows 2003 server migration and decommissioning projects as the deadline rapidly approaches (and swiftly passes).   As mentioned elsewhere within these blogs, these migrations are a hot topic for us.   So what have we discovered on our travels?   As with all projects it’s all in the preparation and communication, however once we get past those hurdles what awaits us?
   
This blog discusses the merits of Inplace Upgrades and some of the ‘gotchas’ that we hope will save you time and stress!  Everything you read within these blogs is the result of our own (sometimes painful) discovery. 

The In-Place Upgrade Process

Note this blog does not cover your key processes such as Change Management and Communication.
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Before we get going with the technicals – Inplace upgrades are generally frowned upon within the IT community.  However, those of you that have faced upgrading legacy implementations where the inhouse support is poor or non-existent have had to find a way to preserve the operation of a production environment.    Inplace upgrades can help you achieve this and give the stakeholders valuable extra time to find alternatives and we have found that as long as you spend enough time checking system requirements and application compatibility, the upgrades are successful.
The key areas to watch out for when performing these upgrades are:-
  • You cannot cross architecture platforms when upgrading.  
  • You cannot upgrade from Windows 2003 to Windows 2012.  Be ready to justify this to the Stakeholders. 
  • Hyper V integration tools (if upgrading a Virtual Machine).
  • Legacy drivers.
  • Internet Information Server (IIS)
  • Poor system builds and bad practices.
  • Lack of documentation.
  • Application support.
  • Frontpage Server Extensions.
When performing inplace upgrades, there are a number of checks prior to the upgrade process that will save you an enormous about of frustration and time.  Do not assume the so called ‘Compatibility Checks’ Windows 2008 setup performs is thorough enough!  

Virtulisation and Inplace upgrades.

Working with Virtual Machines is far easier than Physical, particularly as you will find the need to increase CPU, RAM and Disk Space to satisfy the requirements of Windows 2008.    We highly recommend performing a P2V of a Physical Machine to get around the difficulties of Resource Allocation.   There are many tools available to do this for VMWare and Hyper V, in addition to free toolsets such as DISK2VHD.    We cannot stress enough how much easier this will make the upgrade process.  The advantages are:-
  • Removing legacy hardware risk.
  • Easier resource allocation.
  • Ability to snapshot and rollback.
  • Ability to test upgrades without Operational Impact.
  • Faster deployment times.
When you have completed your P2V, you will need to clean up the VM.  This means removing all the software the Physical version of the machine needed to run.   Often these take the form of Raid software and Management software etc.
Additionally some of these components can caused a VM to massively underperform or even crash.   Take the time to clean up the VM before you perform the upgrade as this will increase your chances of success.
Another tip is to always take a clone of your target machine and work on that.   That way if it all goes horribly wrong, you have a very easy rollback option.   

System Requirements for Inplace Upgrades to Windows 2008.

The System Requirements for Windows 2008 are far greater than Windows 2003.  Microsoft’s recommendations for Windows 2003 were:-
Processor One or more processors with a recommended minimum speed of 550 megahertz (MHz). The minimum supported speed is 133 MHz. A maximum of four processors per computer is supported. Processors from the Intel Pentium/Celeron family, AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processors are recommended.
Memory  256 megabytes (MB) of RAM (recommended minimum). 128 MB is the minimum supported, and 4 gigabytes (GB) is the maximum supported.
Available Diskspace Not detailed!  Microsoft only suggest that you have at least 2gb available for the setup.
 
And for Windows 2008……
Processor 
• Minimum: 1 GHz (x86 processor) or 1.4 GHz (x64 processor) • Recommended: 2 GHz or faster Note: An Intel Itanium 2 processor is required for Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems.
Memory 
• Minimum: 512 MB RAM
• Recommended: 2 GB RAM or greater
• Maximum (32-bit systems): 4 GB (Standard) or 64 GB (Enterprise and Datacenter)
• Maximum (64-bit systems): 32 GB (Standard) or 1 TB (Enterprise and Datacenter) or 2 TB (Itanium-Based Systems)
Available Diskspace
• Minimum: 10 GB
• Recommended: 40 GB or greater
Note: Computers with more than 16 GB of RAM will require more disk space for paging, hibernation, and dump files.


CONCLUSION:

The key area to watch for here is the available disk space for your target machine.   Many Windows 2003 servers were built in a time where Hard Disks were expensive to purchase and therefore many System Partitions are small – sometimes less than 10GB.

You will need to extend these partitions prior to the Inplace upgrade. You will be aware that Windows 2003 doesn’t natively support extending System Partitions, however there are free tools available to assist you.

We have used Dells ‘ExtPart’ very successfully. You will need at least 15gb of available disk space for the setup to complete successfully with 40gb being recommended.  Obviously if you server estate has already been virtualised this is very easy to accomplish, however you may struggle if you are working with a Physical Machine.

That’s it for now – next week we'll look into more ‘Gotchas’ to watch out for when performing upgrades to Windows 2008.

why to migrate to windows server 2003


 

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