To R2 Or Not To R2?

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...that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the server cabinet to suffer the outrageous lack of valuable new functionality, or to take arms against the powerful improvements to the core Windows Server operating system. And by opposing, manage without them? To sleep (or hibernate): perchance to dream of an easy upgrade. I guess you can see why I don't write poetry very often - it always seems to end up sounding like somebody else's.

So the disks for Server 2008 R2 dropped through my letter box the other week, and since then I've pondered on whether to upgrade. It's less than a year since I spent a whole week crawling around inside the server cabinet installing two sparkly new servers running Windows Server 2008, upgraded the networking, set up four virtual machines on Hyper-V, and generally dragged my infrastructure screaming and cursing into the twenty-first century. And now it seems it was all to no avail. I'm out of date and running legacy systems all over again.

OK, so I assumed that there would be a Windows Server 201x at some point, and that I'd once again fall by the wayside, but I never expected it to be this soon. While the hardware might not last out the next decade, I kind of hoped that I'd just have to drop the VMs onto a couple of new boxes when the existing ones decided it was time for the bits of bent wire and plastic to give up the ghost. But now it seems the ones and zeros need to be replaced as well. Maybe they're nearly worn out too.

So I printed off all the stuff about fixing upgrade problems (with the fair assumption that - if they exist - I'm going to find them), read the release notes, and then tossed the disk into the drive of the standby machine. At least if I break that one I can reinstall from a backup without interrupting day-to-day service. Of course, it would also be an interesting test of my backup strategy, especially as I've not yet had the misfortune to need to resurrect a Windows 2008 box using the built-in backup and restore feature.

After a few minutes rummaging about inside the machine, the installer produced its verdict. OK, so I did forget about domain prep (it's also the backup domain controller), but it also said it needed 18+ GB of free space on Drive C. Not something I was expecting. But I have 17GB free, so I could probably move the swap file to another drive (there's over 100GB available there), but would that break the upgrade? And the VMs have a lot less free disk space. I'll need to grow the partition for them, and then try and shrink it afterwards - otherwise it will take even longer to export backups. Hmmm, not such a simple decision now is it?

One thing is clear, next time I order any machine I'm going to specify it with 4 x 1 terabyte drives. I seem to spend my life trying to find extra disk space, even though the current boxes have nearly 400 GB in them. And they spend 99.9% of their time with the performance counter showing 1% load. It's a good thing I'm not trying to do something enterprisy with them.

So with it looking likely that I'll be confined to my legacy version of Windows 2008 for the foreseeable future, I decided to review what I'd be missing. Maybe it's only a facelift of the O/S, and there are just a few minor changes. Well, not if you look at the "What's New in Windows Server 2008 R2" page. There's tons of it. Pages and pages of wonderful new features that I can drool over. But do I need them? I guess the one area I'm most interested in is updates to Hyper-V, and that list seems - to say the least - a little sparse. I don't need live migration, and I'm definitely convinced that, with the minimal workload on my systems, I don't need enhanced processor support or bigger network frames. And dynamic virtual machine storage won't help unless I stuff the box with bigger disks.

The one feature I would like is the ability to remove the redundant connections* that Hyper-V creates in the base O/S (see "Hyper-Ventilation, Act III"), but I guess I can live without that as well. So what happens if I don't upgrade? Will I become a pariah in the networking community? Will my servers fall apart in despair at not getting the latest and greatest version of the operating system? Will I be forever dreaming about the wonderful new applications that I can't run on my old fashioned O/S? Will I still be able to get updates to keep it struggling on until I get round to retiring?

Or maybe a couple of bruisers from the Windows Server division will pop round with baseball bats to persuade me to upgrade...

* Update: In Windows Server 2008 R2 you can untick the Allow management operating system to share this network adapter option in Virtual Network Manager to remove these duplicated connections from the base O/S so that updates and patches applied in the future do not re-enable them.

  • Or maybe a couple of bruisers from the Windows Server division will pop round with baseball bats to persuade me to upgrade...

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To R2 Or Not To R2?