This is the second part of a two-part article. Part 1 was published yesterday.

Step 3: Develop a 64-bit migration plan

Microsoft has been encouraging IT managers to think about a move to 64-bit computing for some time. Ralston says that Windows Server 2008 will be the last 32-bit server operating system that Microsoft releases, and he notes that it's important for customers to begin the 64-bit migration steps early to weed out incompatibilities with other servers that don't offer 32-bit as an option.

Voce agrees that this is an important piece of work for most shops. "We've reached the ceiling of 32-bit applications, which date back all the way to the 486 processor," he says. "Microsoft Exchange 2007 is a 64-bit-only application because of the requirements in memory handling and running efficiently in a larger memory envelope. Exchange introduced safe sender lists and unified communications for large user bases" of 12,000 to 15,000 users in an Active Directory, "and it would just be inefficient in a 32-bit envelope. That's why it is so important to start qualifying applications for 64-bit."

Step 4: Take advantage of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program

Continental Airlines partnered with Microsoft through the vendor's formal Technology Adoption Program (TAP), an invitation-only party for which not all customers will qualify.

But for those who can sign up, there are benefits. Continental tested, deployed and configured many WS2008 services in its own R&D lab. With TAP, Continental can communicate directly with Microsoft technical contacts and discuss inconsistencies in the code base with engineers.

"This testing, configuration, break and fix life cycle generates quality that enables Continental to confidently take Windows Server 2008 into production," says Foster. "Mitigating the risk in our lab, with our engineers, builds the technical competencies that set us apart from the industry."

Step 5: Thoroughly test critical applications for WS2008 stability

Part of the beta testing process should involve testing applications for stability under WS2008. One example of the importance of this step is how WS2008 changes Web applications. Microsoft says the .Net framework will be more robust, with a new control interface.

HostMySite.com depends on hosted applications to provide services to its end users and is already planning for WS2008. The new server operating system provides new services for application control, such as Automatic Space Load Randomisation, a technique for controlling application memory usage. HostMySite data centre administrators have already started learning the interface for these controls, setting up clustered server farm environments and provisioning sites in Internet Information Services 7.0, which is part of Windows Server 2008.

"Since the .Net framework plays a vital role in Windows Server 2008, and is intertwined with the OS, coding in .Net for administrative tasks, such as provisioning, will become much more important," says Neil Heuer, chief technology officer at HostMySite. "From a Web application perspective, we suggest a move away from classic ASP to ASP.Net."

Step 6: Learn the intricacies of PowerShell now

Another relatively easy step in planning for Windows Server 2008 is to start testing PowerShell, which is currently available for download and testing with existing servers.

Although the command line interface is daunting, PowerShell affords new time-saving and error-reducing measures. Administrators can deploy a new employee account in Active Directory in just one command line, adding the employee to the correct user groups and configuring e-mail, rather than having to populate multiple fields like they must do now with Windows Server 2003.

Voce noted that while many companies will move to Windows Server 2008 for the 64-bit support and new security controls for domains, they will quickly see a better workflow and automation for data centre operations. Microsoft promises that System centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) will provide more automated services as well, and it says SCVMM should ease the virtual server-management burden.

Functions that can be automated with SCVMM, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, include bulk VMware to Microsoft file conversions and bulk physical to virtual (P2V) conversions for server consolidation.

"We are already working with PowerShell against our WS 20003 environment," says Steve Cole, lead system support specialist at Quixtar, a health and beauty retailer.

"On our next revision of scripts for building and configuring our servers, we are using PowerShell. We hope for this initiative to be completed before the release of Windows Server 2008, so that we can use PowerShell scripts to completely set up and configure the Web servers."

Step 7: Use the Microsoft Windows Server Deployment Solution Accelerator

This autumn, Microsoft will release a more comprehensive deployment planning tool called Windows Server Deployment Solution Accelerator (WSDSA), which will be available through Microsoft's TechNet.com site. Similar to the Windows Vista tool for desktop deployment -- known as Business Desktop Deployment 2007 -- the Windows Server 2008 kit will include white papers, e-learning material and software to help server administrators.

However, Microsoft has decided that it will not release details about WSDSA or make public any deployment-specific Web sites until after WS2008 is released to manufacturing, or just weeks prior to that time.

Step 8: Time your server virtualisation schedule

One of the decisions facing IT managers is whether, and how, to deploy Windows Server 2008 in a virtualised environment. For those companies planning to deploy Microsoft Windows Server Virtualisation (WSV), the timing is especially critical. Microsoft has indefinitely delayed some of its planned server virtualisation features, including live migration and the ability to add storage and other hardware on the fly, and it pared processor support back to a maximum of 16 cores.

Microsoft's Ralston noted that development efforts for WS2008 and WSV are not specifically coordinated with each other -- WS2008 will ship first. Voce says that WSV will likely ship a few months after that.

This means companies may opt to wait until they can deploy WS2008 in a Microsoft virtualised environment, so testing and implementation planning for the operating system could easily be put off several more months until the WS2008 and WSV schedules can be synced with one another.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

In the end, even with a detailed deployment plan in place for the technology changes in Windows Server 2008, no infrastructure is immune from surprises. Part of the deployment process should involve disaster recovery planning. A new server operating system appears only once every five years or so, and a wise approach is to hope for success but plan for any mitigating circumstances, such as down time and other negative infrastructure surprises. The technology benefits will hopefully outweigh the disruption, even in the largest server environments.

This is the second part of a two-part article. Part 1 was published yesterday.