Microsoft Warns of File Replication Service's Demise

Windows Server 2003 will reach its end next summer and with it the operating system's File Replication Service.

Microsoft FRS

In a little over a year, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows Server 2003 in a move that will also spell the end of File Replication Service (FRS).

FRS first debuted in the Windows 2000 server. The software component is used to replicate files and folders in the System Volume (SYSVOL) shared folder and Distributed File System (DFS) shared folders on domain controllers. Essentially, FRS maintains data consistency between servers by detecting changes, communicating those updates and resolving file and folder conflicts.

While handy, the feature was replaced a year later by a better technology, according to Ned Pyle, a Microsoft Windows File Server senior program manager.

Upon the release of Windows Server 2003 R2 in December 2005, Microsoft replaced FRS with the Distributed File System Replication (DFSR). "Starting in Windows Server 2008, DFSR gained the ability to replicate SYSVOL on domain controllers and became the preferred engine," wrote Pyle in a company blog post.

By the time Windows Server 2008 R2 came around, "we deprecated FRS and reduced its replication capability to SYSVOL alone," said Pyle. FRS was only available as an option if administrators "created a new domain with a Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2000 domain functional level."

Now, as the company gets ready to pull the plug on Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015, Microsoft is warning Windows administrators that FRS' future is similarly bleak.

"Deprecation simply means a product has reached obsolescence, often with a superseding feature," stated Pyle. "You should stop relying on it to exist in the future, stop expecting functionality changes, and stop expecting non-security bug fixes."

After enough of a warning and at least a full OS release, "we reserve the right to remove the feature," stated Pyle. That's precisely what Microsoft is doing.

When Windows Server 2003 is put out to pasture, "there will no longer be any technical requirement to keep FRS around," he said. "All supported OSes will happily replicate SYSVOL with DFSR. Thus ends the legacy."

FRS binaries will not appear in the next version of Windows Server that the company ships after July 2015, informed Pyle. "You will not be able to promote that OS to be a domain controller in a domain that is still running FRS for SYSVOL, thereby blocking upgrades until you migrate to DFSR."

Fortunately, the upgrade process from FRS to DFSR is a simple one "that most customers perform in minutes," he claimed.

"This migration procedure has been around for six years and after all that time, you only need to review one KB article." Pyle further added that Microsoft's procedure is "is solid and tested, with no migration bugs found in DFSR itself after Windows Server 2008."

Pledging to follow up with an outline for a streamlined process, Pyle teased that it is "possible to perform the entire migration with a single command—really!"

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...