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Windows Server 2008 potholes snag Exchange, in-place upgrades

Servers used to host applications or Exchange require specific steps to follow in order to avoid migration problems, questions

By , Network World
February 19, 2008 11:41 AM ET

Network World - Users planning to run Microsoft Exchange on Windows Server 2008 and those contemplating in-place upgrades of the new server operating system coming out next week may face installation problems unless they heed specific advice from Microsoft.

The vendor is already warning users that the RTM version of Exchange 2007 cannot be installed on Windows Server 2008 and that it is impossible to do an in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2008 on a server running Exchange 2007 SP1.

Microsoft also has said "rolling upgrades" of failover clusters for Exchange are impossible.

Microsoft has published three migration options, including one long set of steps around off-loading data, uninstalling and reinstalling numerous Exchange components.

The other upgrade issue centers on a confusing dialog box that partners say could freeze administrators doing in-place upgrades and points to the fact that in-place Windows Server 2008 upgrades for application servers could be a crap shoot if not impossible much like Exchange.

The dialog box carries the message: "If you are using 3rd-party apps you are not supported" and will pop up during in-place upgrades from Windows Server 2003 to 2008 on servers running applications.

Microsoft acknowledges the existence of the dialog box, which was added during the Release Candidate beta cycle
of Window Server 2008.

Microsoft partners say the vendor told them it made changes in the in-place upgrade procedures for Windows Server 2008, but Microsoft has not detailed those changes to partners.

The only supported option for in-place upgrades is when replacing servers that run core infrastructure services such as DNS, DHCP or Active Directory, according to Microsoft.

In other cases, Microsoft recommends before installing Windows Server 2008 that users uninstall third-party applications or applications that did not ship with Windows Server 2003 or that were not delivered via Windows Update. Once the server is installed, the applications and any corresponding data can be reinstalled, a similar procedure suggested with Exchange.

Microsoft officials say in-place upgrades are not considered a best practice and that most large IT shops do thorough testing before deployment.

"The majority of customers will do testing, but they will want to do an in-place upgrade because it is the least time-consuming," says one systems integrator who asked not to be identified. "If you wipe and reinstall, that is a lot more work."

Microsoft officials have begun to publish some of the guidance they are working on to educate users on in-place upgrades and say that many large users would initially encounter the dialog box during testing and not live deployments.

"Almost all of the in-place upgrades that we see are in the core infrastructure areas," says Alex Hinrichs, group program manager for applications server. "We don't think this will be a major issue for most customers. We feel good that customers will be very clear on whether their apps are in a supported state or not before they get to any type of deployment."

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