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What Can Be Done When Microsoft Products Pass the Extended Support Deadline?
Over the last decade, Microsoft aimed to reduce the the number of years of support that is required per product and streamline update cycles. This in turn would minimize the number of product versions, exemplified by the turn from on-premises licenses to subscription based with an 18-month lifecycle. This has enabled the decrease in number of customer support hours and problem resolution tickets leading to significantly reduced costs and shifting resources from firefighting to innovation.
Microsoft’s existing product support lifecycle policy is five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. At the end of extended support, Microsoft does offer Extended Security Updates (ESUs). Per Microsoft, ESU “includes Critical* and/or Important* security updates for a maximum of three years after the product’s End of Extended Support date. Extended Security Updates will be distributed if and when available. ESUs do not include new features, customer-requested non-security updates, or design change requests.” ESUs are available for SQL Server, Windows Server, and Windows OS.
Eligibility requires Software Assurance be on the relevant server and CALs licenses, and at a cost of 75% of on-premises license per year. This is in addition to all other license and SA costs paid. ESUs can be purchased through the Enterprise Agreement, Server and Cloud Enrollment, Enrollment for Education Solutions and Cloud Solution Provider program. This SKU does not need to be purchased for all three years, but rather can be added for the required number of years. ESUs are not a benefit of Unified Support.
An alternative option for extended security updates is to migrate legacy servers to Azure. In past years, Microsoft has offered organizations free extended security benefits on Windows Server and SQL. As of March 2020, these offers are still available. An example can be found on Microsoft’s website, “To address this need, we are pleased to announce that Extended Security Updates will be available for free in Azure for 2008 and 2008 R2 versions of SQL Server and Windows Server to help secure your workloads for three more years after the end of support deadline. You can rehost these workloads to Azure with no application code change.”
If migrating to Azure is a possibility, it is necessary to calculate potential uptime costs examining factors such as RAM, storage, and high availability. This will be in addition to testing for compatibility, migration timeframes, and any other costs such as dedicated resource time.
- Align upgrade cycles with Microsoft’s support lifecycle. Once server products are at end of support by Microsoft, organizations leave themselves vulnerable to security flaws and potentially attack, which could have more costly implications than extended support costs.
- Where necessary, leverage ESUs, but with a plan to upgrade legacy systems to newer versions. This effectively pushes the decision a few years down the line on what should be done.
- Use Azure for specific workloads in a cost-effective manner. It is easy to over quantify what may be needed, and in the time frame a migration can be achieved. Start small and scale from there.
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