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Survey Reveals Slow Windows Server 2012 Adoption

It's been about eight months since the folks in Redmond honored us with Windows Server 2012. Microsoft has, as usual, crammed a few hundred new features in the latest Windows Server update, including some major improvements to its SMB file access protocol and Hyper-V hypervisor. So the question of the day is: How is the market accepting Windows Server 2012? Luckily, Symantec commissioned a survey to find out.

The survey, which was conducted by an independent research firm, polled some 530 IT professionals across the world. The respondents represented organizations from 50 users to large enterprises.

Of course the most significant questions in the survey were about organizations' plans to virtualize their existing servers and to upgrade to Windows Server 2012. As I would have expected, the vast majority of users (76%) primarily run Windows 2008 or its R2 variant. On the other hand, I was impressed that 7% are already using 2012 as their primary version of Windows.

The news was more disappointing when survey respondents were asked about their plans for Windows Server 2012 adoption, with fully 44% saying they had no plans to upgrade and only 32% indicating they were migrating this year.

Curiously, 13% said they were waiting for the first service pack before upgrading, reminding me that system administrators have learned their lessons too well. Back in the day, many of us learned the hard way that Windows NT servers would be more stable if they were running a single application or service, and that new versions of Windows often included a few big, crunchy bugs. We would therefore wait for Microsoft to release SP1 of a new product before putting it in production.

Waiting for the first service pack may have made sense in the days of Windows NT 4, when SP1 was released just 77 days after initial release, or for Windows 2000, when SP1 followed the release by about six months. However, between Microsoft's overall better testing of initial releases and the more regular release of patches through Windows Update, Microsoft no longer even tries to release multiple service packs for a new version of Windows on a regular basis, with the first service pack now trailing new versions of Windows Server by average of more than 450 days.

Survey respondents said the biggest drivers for Windows Server 2012 adoption include virtual desktop infrastructure updates, which surprised me as I've not seen a lot of Hyper-V based VDI. They also cited Hyper-V improvements and storage improvements, including ReFS, SMB 3 and data deduplication. For me, SMB 3, which now supports true multipathing and RDMA, and Hyper-V, with the inclusion of Storage Live Migration, are the big technical drivers.

When respondents were asked about migration inhibitors, cost and assorted factors that all added up to "It ain't broke so we ain't gonna fix it" were the leaders. Unfortunately, the survey didn't include the Modern/Metro user interface as an inhibitor. While I can see the advantages of a touch-based interface on a laptop or tablet, it makes no sense on a server, and some Metro actions require finer mouse pointer control than a typical IP KVM switch or IPMI connection provides. Luckily, Microsoft improved the text-UI-only core configuration, making it the configuration of choice.

The survey also revealed that respondents are more open to a multihypervisor environment than I would have thought, with 83% of users that are changing hypervisors indicating they are moving to a multihypervisor environment, not replacing old with new.

Of course, since Symantec sponsored the survey, there were a few data protection questions similar to our 2013 Backup Technologies Survey. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they use different backup solutions for their physical and virtual servers. When asked if they'd prefer a single solution, 37% would jump at the idea. However, most (54%) would have to be convinced. Interestingly, only 9% were completely happy with the idea of multiple solutions for backup.

The full Windows Server 2012 survey is available from Symantec.