Today, Microsoft has quietly announced the addition of a third tier to its product lifecycle, expanding the shelf life of both Windows Server and SQL Server by an additional six years.
Starting in 2017, customers will be able to purchase Premium Assurance to extend the lifecycle of both products, that is in addition to the traditional 'extended support' period.
Microsoft traditionally offered a two-tiered lifecycle for Windows / SQL Server products;
- Mainstream - 5 years from product launch
Includes new features, security updates and non-security updates.
- Extended - 5 years remaining - 5 years since product launch
Includes security updates and non-security updates. No new features.
Once the extended period of 10 years (total) comes to an end, Microsoft deems the product end-of-life and stops issuing critical and security updates, as well as support by its premier support service.
Under the current support arrangements, both Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 would go end-of-life in 2020, meaning that products on which many companies still rely on would effectively become unusable because of a lack of support options and crucially, no critical or security updates being made available by Microsoft.
With the addition of Premium Assurance, both 2008/2008 R2 products have been given a pardon, as they will now be supported until 2026.
That is, so long as companies are willing to pay.
Microsoft states that the cost of Premium Assurance will be up to 12% of the total license cost in its blog post;
"Premium Assurance pricing will start at 5% of the current product license cost, and will increase over time (up to 12%). Buying before the end of June 2017 means you will save nearly 60% on the cost of Premium Assurance."
They also point out that in order to purchase Premium Assurance, you must already have Software Assurance;
Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance are purchased as add-ons to active Software Assurance for each product.
Software Assurance is Microsoft's 'maintenance agreement' model, which entitles companies to automatically upgrade purchased licenses to the newest version of the same product.