Microsoft yesterday started selling extended support for its Windows Server software, letting corporate customers add up to six years to the lifespan of Windows Server 2008 and later, and SQL Server 2008 and later.
The company had announced this "Premium Assurance" in December, saying then that the extended support would be available for purchase this month.
Under Premium Assurance, only vulnerabilities graded as "Critical" and "Important" will be patched. The extended support costs between 5% and 12% of the current licensing cost for each year of coverage, depending on when a customer commits. The sooner a plan is bought, the lower the price.
If Premium Assurance for Windows Server Datacenter is bought before the end of June, for example, the price would be approximately $31 per license. But from July 2019 on, the cost would be $76 per license, representing a 145% increase.
Caveats abound. Only licenses covered by Software Assurance, the annuity-like program Microsoft sells whose biggest benefit is an upgrade right, can have their support extended by Premium Assurance. And the additional six years must be added before the product reaches the end of its traditional decade of support. That means Premium Assurance for Windows Server 2008 must be purchased before Jan. 14, 2020.
Also, said Microsoft, to buy Premium Assurance, the customer must purchase it for "all servers with active Software Assurance that were purchased using ... Enterprise Agreement (EA), Enterprise Agreement Subscription (EAS), Enrollment for Education Solutions, [or] Server and Cloud Enrollment."
Support for Windows Server or SQL Server licenses bought through licensing programs other than those four cannot be extended with Premium Assurance, Microsoft said.
In December, Microsoft described the extended support option as a way for customers to "meet compliance requirements and ensure security on systems" they were not ready to upgrade to a newer Windows or SQL Server edition.
Yesterday, the explanation was slightly different. "These new offerings are designed to provide flexibility by enabling legacy applications to continue running without disruption as you modernize applications and infrastructure, or move to cloud," read a post to a Microsoft blog.
Three months ago, analysts said that Premium Assurance was being offered to keep customers from jumping to rival server and database vendors when support for their Microsoft software ended.
Microsoft's long-term goal, argued the experts, is to pull customers to Azure, the company's cloud-based service. "I see this as the first phase in a longer-term strategy to get people to move [server workloads] into the cloud," said Dolores Ianni, research director at Gartner, in a December interview.