Microsoft today added a new licensing option for Windows Server and SQL Server that extends support by six years, for a total of 16 years of vulnerability patches.
Called "Premium Assurance," the six-year support addendum will be available for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, and later. Enterprises may first purchase a support extension in early 2017, Microsoft said today in a post to a company blog by a pair of Microsoft executives.
"[Premium Assurance] helps you continue to meet compliance requirements and ensure security on systems you aren't ready to update," wrote Mark Jewett, senior director of cloud platform marketing, and Tiffany Wissner, senior director of data platform marketing.
The oldest eligible products -- Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 -- have the most pressing retirement dates, January 2020 and July 2019, respectively, for the traditional 10 years of "mainstream" and then "extended" support. For instance, adding Premium Assurance to a Windows Server 2008 license would kick in the extra support in January 2020 and continue until January 2026.
Under Premium Assurance, only those security updates classified as patching "Critical" and "Important" flaws will be provided, Jewett and Wissner said.
Microsoft will discount Premium Assurance for the first two to two-and-a-half years of availability, a ploy to get companies to commit. From March to June 2017, for example, customers pay 5% of the current licensing cost for each year of coverage. That amount climbs to 7% from July 2017 to June 2018, to 9% from July 2018 to June 2019, and then finally to 12% from July 2019 onwards.
A company datasheet spelled out those discounts in dollars. Adding Premium Assurance to a Windows Server two-core license would run $31 per year if purchased between March and June 2017, but more than twice that, or $76 per year, if bought in July 2019 or later.
In some ways, Premium Assurance could be seen as a substitute for what Microsoft has called "Custom Support," a highly individualistic program that extended support after the usual 10 years, but was typically not publicly discussed in detail. "It is a replacement for a CSA," said Dolores Ianni, research director at Gartner, referring to the Custom Support Agreements Microsoft wrote for additional support.
Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, agreed, but only up to a point, stressing some of the differences between Custom Support and Premium Assurance. For instance, Miller called the lack of migration commitments in the latter "very significant."
CSAs usually required the customer to pledge to migrate to a supported edition of a product, with contract milestones expressed as percentages of the CSA-covered systems upgraded to a newer version within a given period, say a year. Failure to meet those migration "thresholds" meant Microsoft would refuse to renew the deal or cut off support.
That's not the case with Premium Assurance: Customers can continue to run the old edition up to six years longer than usual, without any pressure from Microsoft to upgrade, as long as they're willing to pay for the privilege.
Only licenses covered by Software Assurance -- the annuity-style, subscription-like program whose biggest benefit is upgrade rights -- can have support extended by Premium Assurance. Also, licenses must have been originally acquired through one of four programs, including Enterprise Agreement, meaning that some licenses -- ones purchased via a Microsoft Open licensing deal, say -- are ineligible.
Another requirement: Premium Assurance must be bought before the version of Windows Server or SQL Server goes out of support.