Microsoft offers Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 users a new way to extend support for free

With end of support looming for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, Microsoft has a new option for those users to keep getting security updates: By moving workloads to Azure.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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Microsoft is offering users on Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 and SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 a way to keep getting security updates for free after the official support period ends.

Read also: Here's how you can still get a free Windows 10 upgrade

There's a catch: They have to bring their workloads to the Azure cloud. But for some users, this could be a feasible option.

Extended support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 is set to end in July 2019, and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 in January 2020. After that point, Microsoft will no longer provide security fixes for these products to users, unless they pay for custom support contracts -- or if they agree to move workloads on these products to Azure.

Microsoft announced the new move-to-Azure option today, July 12, ahead of next week's Microsoft Inspire partner conference, as the company expects the move to be a potential opportunity for its Cloud Solution Providers.

Here's how the new extended support option will work. Customers who agree to migrate their Windows Server 2008/R2 and/or SQL Server 2008/R2 workloads to Azure will get extended security updates for free for three additional years (so, until January 2023 for Windows Server and until July 2022 for SQL Server). Customers do not have to show any kind of migration plan to Microsoft to get this deal, which is not the case if they buy custom extended support agreements that require them to show a timeline for migrating off the expiring product.

Read also: Here's how you can still get a free Windows 10 upgrade - CNET

Those customers who can't or won't be ready by the time Extended support ends for Windows Server 2008/R2 and SQL Server 2008/R2 still will have the option of buying custom extended security updates, which will go for 75 percent of the license cost of those products, which is consistent with what Microsoft has charged for those agreements in the past, said Corporate Vice President of Azure Julia White.

Customers who opt to take the free, move-to-the-cloud option also can move their Windows Server/SQL Server workloads to Azure Stack, Microsoft's on-premises version of Azure, if they'd prefer to go that route.

Once the three year free support period ends, customers will have a few possible routes to take to continue to stay supported. They can upgrade to a more recent version of Windows Server and/or SQL Server. They could leave the workloads they put in the cloud in a virtual machine and/or containerize their apps and update them from there.

Read also: Windows 10: A cheat sheet - TechRepublic

This new cloud-based extended support option is replacing a plan that Microsoft unveiled two years ago that was meant to provide Windows Server 2008/R2 and SQL Server 2008/R2 users with another way to gain more time before the end of support.

That option, which Microsoft started rolling out last year -- Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance -- was crafted to add six more years of support for those products beyond the current 10. Microsoft officials said anyone who purchased Premium Assurance will be grandfathered in and given the option of moving to the new extended cloud-based support offer, as the Premium Assurance plans will be discontinued.

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