Microsoft has decided to extend the mainstream support window for Windows Server 2008. The change is likely welcome news for businesses running the operating system that don’t have immediate plans to move to Windows 2012.

Stay of Execution

Microsoft originally planned to transition Windows Server 2008 from free, mainstream support to fee-based, extended support on July 9, 2013. Customers will now receive two additional years of free support, which will end on January 15, 2015. The company made a similar move with Windows XP (whose support will finally end in April 2014), but the Windows 2008 support extension was not driven by customer demand. It was due to the release date of the next version of Windows.

Microsoft typically offers five years of free, mainstream support for every Windows release. However, the release date of a product’s successor can also impact the free support duration. Customers receive free Windows support for 24 months after a new version of Windows ships, if that date is later than the normal five year window. Once mainstream support ends, customers have five years of optional, paid, extended support. During extended support, security updates remain free, but other updates require a fee and a hotfix contract. Once all support windows end, Microsoft stops releasing all updates or fixes for the product.

The Future of Microsoft’s Software

In addition to the support Window extension, Microsoft also released a new Community Technology Preview (CTP) for SQL Server Service Pack 1. The release includes:

  • Improved AlwaysOn Availability Group migration
  • Better query capabilities over XML data
  • Better SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) for Express users

Microsoft’s profits are heavily driven by Windows, Office and its server products. However, the company’s dominance continues to be challenged by cloud-based alternatives. It’s obvious that while Microsoft must focus on continuing to innovate the capabilities of its core product families and strengthen its cloud offerings, the company should also consider its support strategy. 

Engaging with Microsoft’s support organization is not always a pleasant experience. Additionally, some customers may develop a lower tolerance for software having an end-of-life model when most cloud solutions offer lifelong updates (for a monthly- or use-based fee, of course). Microsoft and other vendors may need to start rethinking their release and support strategies.