Windows XP post April 2014: Non-Microsoft support emerges

Windows XP post April 2014: Non-Microsoft support emerges

Summary: With roughly seven months to go until Windows XP's end-of-life deadline, an alternative to Microsoft support has appeared in the form of Arkoon's EXP.

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Thousands of organisations seem hell-bent on sticking with Windows XP after the axe falls on official patching for the aged OS next year, so inevitably IT departments across the planet are on alert for non-Microsoft support alternatives.

One company that's already thrown its hat into the ring to provide Windows XP support after Microsoft's deadline of 8 April 2014 is Arkoon, working with its north and south America distributor Matrix Global Partners.

Paris-based Arkoon, which is owned by the Cassidian security arm of European defence giant EADS, is offering its ExtendedXP, or EXP, product to organisations that can't or won't make the move away from Windows XP before the end-of-life date.

Matrix Global Partners CEO Bob Foley likens selling the new product, available from October for testing, to selling fallout shelters.

"We're selling a solution to a problem that doesn't exist yet. But we want to let people know there may be an option that can buy them some time," he said.

According to Foley, many of the organisations caught up in the issues created by the Windows XP support deadline have multi-year rollover cycles for upgrading desktops and laptops.

"Unfortunately, this deadline by Microsoft is imposing a new rollover plan that doesn't match their budgets, staffing or timescales. If they know there's an option, then they may be able to readjust their budgets," he said.

Sticking resolutely with XP

Another category of XP-using companies can be found, for example, in retail, but in their case they are staying resolutely with the operating system.

"'We've got XP out in the stores. We're not changing. We have no intention to change. There is no advantage for us having a point-of-sale cash register running Windows 7 or Windows 8. None'. It's running a specific application. There're not in a rollover plan. They're going to keep XP," Foley said.

Arkoon's product, which is based on its StormShield endpoint protection technology, consists of an 8MB security agent that sits on the XP machine.

The IT department also gets a management console with a SQL database to keep track of the nodes and the agents, and access to an external monitoring service that identifies emerging vulnerabilities to the operating system, first released to manufacturers in August 2001.

The monitoring service will employ a variety of resources to spot new vulnerabilities and then apply updates to the XP security template sitting on a company's server.

"It will automatically update all the protected agents and continue with this ongoing protection as long as long as they want to use XP. There's the agent component and then there's the monitoring team that's supporting that," Foley said.

Microsoft info on future flaws

Arkoon has always had a close relationship with Microsoft, according to Foley, but he remains unclear what bearing that will have on its attitude to information about future Windows XP vulnerabilities.

"For this particular area we're not sure yet how much they're going to share with anyone. We're working on the presumption that there will be little sharing by Microsoft because they want people to move. The more information we can gather from them, great," he said.

However, even in the absence of direct information from Microsoft about emerging threats and vulnerabilities, there should be clues elsewhere.

"If we look at a patch Tuesday for Windows 7 in March 2014, we believe that's going also to be an indicator of a potential vulnerability in XP," Foley said.

"So even if they aren't sharing information about XP vulnerabilities, we think we'll see trends that will pop up because of what they're doing in patching the later operating systems," he said.

Alerts and thresholds

Arkoon helps the customer configure and install the software. Movement of logs from the agents up to the management console is monitored by the system, which raises alerts if certain thresholds are breached or certain events occur.

"It isn't an appliance-based product. We're not going to deliver it on a PC but you can virtualise it, stick it in a virtual system, and just let it run and watch for an alert to pop up if there's a violation of some policy you've set, or watch for us to send you a template," Foley said.

He envisages that EXP will be used as one element in a series of defences to protect Windows XP.

"We expect all our customers using XP will have a multi-part security strategy with multiple components that will complement what we're doing. All those things combined without a patch Tuesday are still not going to protect those customers. Those things will help but ours will be the end protection, the last line of defence," he said.

Organisations that opt to pilot EXP from October could be looking at its ease of use and impact on XP performance, Foley suggests. They could also use patches from previous patch Tuesdays to test the software and simulate attacks.

He is optimistic that EXP will help organisations that are sticking with Windows XP but are fearful of its impact on their compliance certification.

"The ultimate test will be one of our clients having an auditor come in after April 2014 and blessing EXP as a compensating control. We've met with a number of consultants in those areas and they tend to believe [EXP] will be a compensating control so we're pretty optimistic about that," Foley said.

The EXP agent will cost about $15 per seat for a one year's subscription for a contract covering a few hundred PCs but discounts apply to larger volumes.

The product is available in three packages: the first covers the operating system, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office; the second is a web package covering Adobe Flash, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome; while the third is for Adobe Reader and Java. Further custom packages can be created.

"If you buy 100, it's $15 per seat. If you 50,000, it would be less. Each of the packages is around $14 and there are discounts if you combine them. If you want the two basic components it would be between $28 and $38 for a subscription," Foley said.

He is keen to make it clear his organisation is not opposed to Windows 7 or Windows 8 or people moving to them.

"But we've all seen the numbers. A significant number of people — is it 500 or 600 million people are going to be using XP after April 2014? It would be nice if they had an option to do so securely," Foley said.

More on Windows XP

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Security, Software, Windows

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25 comments
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  • People think this is about cost, it's about control and privacy.

    XP is the last Microsoft OS that you can actually own and that means it may never go away now that Windows 8 is our there. Windows 7, Vista, and especially Windows 8 are never really free of the MS yolk, be it WGA, automatic updates, or a constant push to install "Live" tools. It has a small foot print and why not use it if it does the job. Most of these companies will probably move to Linux rather than update to Windows when they finally have no choice...but in the meantime, why give up all the features Linux can't support because Microsoft is holding onto a 30 year patent portfolio and building an empire on proprietary libraries, standards, and applications. While many groups will try to scare users with the vulnerabilities XP might create. XP machines are easily sand-boxed in any VM, they run happily autonomous without patches, and can be replaced with a simple file copy when they fail.
    Socratesfoot
    • Linux?

      You're crazy if you think that companies are moving to Linux.

      Mac OS maybe, but Linux is still a very compromised experience.

      When your support has to come from an open-source community, bad things are bound to happen sometimes.

      The only use for Linux in business is for servers and the occasional backup OS.

      Oh, and take off the aluminum hat.

      It'll give you cancer.
      ForeverCookie
      • Google tossed out XP and has moved to the GNU/Linux desktop: Goobuntu

        And Canonical, Ltd. provides enterprise support to Google's enterprise GNU/Linux desktops.

        Am not saying that it will work for all, or even most, enterprises, but it is indeed an option for some.

        P.S. Both Red Hat and SUSE also provide a GNU/Linux desktop for enterprises, including support.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • While true

          it's clear this isn't going to happen. Canonical has yet to turn over a profit with desktop Linux. It's largely a charity project. Nothing wrong with that, but desktop Linux adoption is stagnant. The only place it's got any shot is on the server side and with developers for those systems.

          The only *nix desktop that's gone anywhere is OS X and it's growth may have peaked...plus it's less secure than most *nix implementations.
          Windows may lose at some point, but only if the desktop/laptop PCs go away.
          notsofast
        • Linux (not GNU/Linux) can't replace XP

          in Enterprise in most cases... if people are holding back, it is because they have apps that don't work going forward. If an app is so XP tied that it can't even be run in Windows 7, what are the odds that something that fussy will run in WINE or Crossover Office? Not great, I'd say.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • You'd be surprised...

            Backwards compatibility for age-old programs is better in WINE than in Windows Compatibility Mode
            bean520-0b405
    • Huh?

      1. If you aren't savvy enough to turn off automatic updates, you need them turned on. I remotely manage several relative's computers and if I log in a week after PT and they aren't installed, WU is changed to auto install.

      2. Where's this push in Vista/7 to install "Live" tools? It must be a stealth push, because with the possible exception of when I installed 7, I haven't seen any "Live" data.
      3. Last time I used XP WGA was required for many non-security updates.
      4. How is it that 7 is less owned than XP?
      notsofast
    • Ownership

      If I remember correctly, all copies of Windows, regardless of version, are "licensed, not sold". Please elaborate.
      John L. Ries
  • New

    This is nothing new there are hundreds of MSPs out there providing very similar monitoring support for existing XP, 7, 8, Linux and OSx machines. I would wager that a good portion of them will offer to 'Support' XP past its lifetime, although I am skeptical about how effectively any of them can do it.
    SovereignTechnology
  • Companies that won't get rid of Windows XP

    Also known as the list of companies to short sell in 2014.
    AsParallel
    • Just curious

      Can one short sell a local government or a State government agency?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Still using Windows XP SP3

    I have 8gb of ram all of which is supported via PAE, I have a hardware firewall, It boots in seconds, I like it, I will never go to Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 8.1, EVER. I will move to Linux first. I run a small business and (costs aside) I would just rather run XP in a vm and continue using my applications. Simple as that.
    Christopher.wortman
  • Re: Third Party Windows XP Support post April 2014....

    It is and has been for some time to put Windows XP on offline virtual machines. Though not connected to the internet their is still a huge amount of productivity that can be achieved especially in the likes of raw data and accounting. The host machine communicating with the outside world therefore minimising any security risk.

    Extended third party support only clouds the issue of security and could lead to a false sense security when working with the platform. Windows XP has been patched many times over and its time to put it to bed on primary production machines.

    Most Hardware designed to run XP will readily run Windows 7 with few driver issues and that includes most of those Pentium 4 machines still out there.
    5735guy
  • MSFN.ORG anyone?

    MSFN.ORG is a bunch of enthusiasts who keep old Windows versions working. They even put together "unofficial service packs" by testing new DLLs on old platforms, keeping them if they work. It's more successful than you'd expect. Their most recent Windows 98SE "service pack" is from August 2013!

    I'm sure they'll be ready to tackle USP4 for XP next year. :)
    JFrostOZ
  • XP Forever

    I hope Windows XP can continued after Doomsday 2014. Please don't let it fade. I'm happy with my setup. It's not fair that the XP users are being forced to leave a great OS. Just so Microsoft can get more money. Blackmailers. They would make more money having the XP users paying yearly for the updates. And they really should give us DirectX 10, IE9 and write to DVDs as a goodbye present. Plus a SP4 with every update combined.
    jackie33
    • RE: Nothing to do with fairness

      But stupidity. Microsoft can support or upgrade its operating system whenever they damm please. Since there customers love/need XP so much and are hellbent on keeping it no matter what why would they not keep on putting service packs out indefinitely. If the cost is to much nothing stops them from charging a fee to add service packs after a certain point say SP4.
      edkollin
      • All software companies give up

        supporting older products. It doesn't make sence to put resources into a product your not selling anymore. My company is still in XP but we are moving to Windows 7 or Windows 8 depending on software compatibility. I welcome the move as I'm tired of using a different browser for every app. We have 3000 computers. We use Gmail and when you try to use IE it gives you the message you need a more modern product. We can't use Chrome as our default because we have Sharepoint apps that require IE. We have certain apps that require java and Chrome and Firefox don't work well with Java.
        Orlbuckeye76
    • Get over it.

      The OS is is ancient. Unless you're running H/W from 2005, or earlier, buy an upgrade license already. Or wait until black friday and pick up a cheap 8.x license. When Vista came out, I got sticking with XP (because graphic drivers were awful and there was a few bugs in the OS itself that weren't fixed, via hot fixes, until summer 2007. But 7 was better than XP out of the box and while I don't use it, buy all accounts, 8 is faster than 7.

      XP is has been supported longer than any other MS OS. Apple drops support of H/W faster than MS drops support of any OS.

      I'm sorry, but you can buy 8 upgrades for under $30.00 (in some cases under $20). Add 5-10 bucks to make it look like 7 (or perhaps even your beloved XP).

      It costs money to patch multiple platforms. Every company eventually quits writing for old systems. At one time, everyone wrote for DOS. Then they supported 9x and DOS. Then just 9x (or perhaps XP). Eventually it was just XP.

      Honestly, i can't imagine doing real work on a non-64 bit OS. But I suppose if you just do email and web browsing XP is fine. But in that case, if you're too cheap to fork over 20 bucks, install Linux. I wouldn't use it for my home system, but it might work for you...then again, if you're running old h/w, nothing is going to be zippy. I remember XP with 2GB of ram, and it was pretty awful compared to 7.
      notsofast
      • OK, you do know that businesses running XP

        are probably already on Software Assurance? They already have the licenses... this isn't about, and has nothing to do with, money. Usually it is because of an unusual custom hardware or software configuration that has strategic importance to the company.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
        • MacPCFenceSitter, notsofast is notsoswift in discernment

          He doesn't understand how much runs on XP for years, and how well it runs, after SP3. He doesn't know the importance of backwards-compatibility, which XP actually enables. Anything on my DOS, Win95 or Win98 machines, including the peripherals, can be 'understood' by XP. Can't say that for Windows 7.

          He certainly doesn't understand the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit. Almost nothing a business normally needs, runs well on 64-bit, as it came late to the party, and we already had 32-bit and 16-bit infrastructure to maintain. At least Win8 32-bit is somewhat backwards-compatible, though less so than even Win7. And, you've got DOS emulators like Taos Computing's sandbox, so those old 16-bit installers, still work. But with XP, we don't need any of that, in 32-bit.

          Every hospital, school, government, law office, accounting office and all banks, stores -- use XP still. So this article is a boon for them. I only wish there were a way it could provide some kind of bundled package, for the many mom-and-pop organizations who need it as well.

          You get that; but nottooswift, does not. Neither does MSFT, who could make a TON of noble profit, if it would just do a 'Windows Classic' version of XP, going forward. That WAS company policy, but Microdaft's millions-a-year top brass, suddenly became notsoswift, too.
          brainout