Earlier this week on July 14, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Server 2003, as it has cautioned it would do for some time now. That means there won't be any more feature, security or other kinds of fixes/updates coming for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2.
There's an exception to that rule: Those who shell out for typically pricey custom support contracts will be able to continue to get security patches via custom support contracts. Microsoft offers these kinds of contracts to business users for a number of no-longer-supported products, including Windows XP.
Around the time Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April 2014, the company began chopping the prices of custom support contracts for that operating system. It may be doing the same for Windows Server 2003, according to some customers who requested anonymity.
One customer told me Microsoft recently offered his company 50 percent off the cost of a custom contract, plus the option of buying only a partial, rather than a full year's contract. The original cost estimate from Microsoft was $3,000 per server for custom support for the first year, this user said.
I've also heard of a Windows Server 2003 user getting a custom support contract for it for free for committing to upgrade according to a jointly-agreed-upon schedule with Microsoft.
"At this point I haven't heard of a discounting trend, but I will say that the prices (for Windows Server 2003 custom contracts) are all over the board," said Paul DeGroot, Principal Consultant at Pica Communications.
"One customer told me they were told that $3,000 for the first year was the 'list price' and MS wouldn't go below that -- unless, of course, the customer agreed to sign up for some other expensive and unnecessary stuff. In that case they'd cut it to $1,500," DeGroot said. "One very large customer told me they were being quoted $600 (per server)."
"My advice to customers and especially for customers being quoted really high prices, is that it's easy to gamble on this," said DeGroot, echoing advice he gave earlier this year. "Skip the Custom Support Agreement (CSA) for now, keep working to reduce your Server 2003 numbers, and if you get into trouble later and need a patch you can always purchase it retroactively, except the cost will be lower because you have fewer servers to patch. And if you tell the Microsoft account team that's your strategy, watch the price drop."
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had no comment on its pricing around Windows Server 2003 custom support contracts.
The company is encouraging its partners to work to get customers off Windows Server 2003 and onto Windows Server 2012 R2 and/or Azure as soon as possible. Here is a collection of Microsoft-published links for those looking to move off Windows Server 2003.