Had an interesting day today. Call it either an example of planned obsolescence or an instance of deliberate system design but I ran into one of the biggest issues of proprietary operating system software.
For a customer's installation, we needed to buy a new rack mount server to replace a failed system. At first I was told that our newest software based on Java would be running on it. No problem. Just get Windows Server 2008 R2 since the server was coming from DELL. DELL recommends Windows (even when the customer doesn't want it). Actually Windows XP Pro SP3 would have sufficed. The new server would be replacing a previous 1U server that had been running Windows XP for nearly 6 years when it finally cratered. That's a phenomenal length of time for oilfield computer equipment.
I was mis-informed. The customer reports that they are using really old legacy stuff based on VB 5 & 6. Oh yuck. And that generates a problem. Turns out old VB5 & 6 software running old unsigned Active X components will not run on Server 2008 (“Visaster” server without the eye-candy). Not in WoW. Not in ntvdm. Not at all. I had message boxes popping out all over the place. I had to try to make it work. I was amazed that Server 2008 would actually let me install the software in the first place since the installer program was from the same era.
This is one of those situations where using a virtual machine could solve a problem caused by an incompatible operating system. I was tempted but I didn't bite the apple. This particular server system will be located on a drilling rig off-shore who-knows-where. The techs on the rig are fairly astute and have handled complex computer issues before. But asking them to learn a new technology just because the current OS cannot run what the old OS could is too much.
The system got “downgraded” to Server 2003 (XP Pro-like) and everything not only installed but ran without complaint. Since the system will be running behind at least 3 layers of managed routers and is on a private VPN supported intra-net it should be fine, I hope.
That kind of trade-off happens in the real-world. Microsoft knows that happens. You can't force your customers to upgrade their systems if they like what they have running. What would be wrong offering for sale old Windows operating systems with absolutely no warranty? If you read the current EULA you're not getting anything anyway from Microsoft even on the latest iterations or builds of Windows. As far as tech support goes, we don't even bother to call MS since it takes practically a “verbal hurricane” to elevate their attention.
What is wrong with selling old versions of their OS is that the old operating systems have so many ways to be compromised that botnets would be even worse than they are now. So in this instance I have to agree with Microsoft. Don't sell or install the old stuff but sometimes you don't have a choice.
I feel uneasy delivering something I know is broken and has been cracked by malware malcontents hundreds of times. When you “own” the operating system instead of just “leasing” it, you can better control the effects obsolescence, planned or otherwise, has on your corporate bottom line. I would have much more preferred to have installed a Linux based server for that very reason.
(endorsement) As to DELL tech support, I was pleasantly surprised. It took wading through about 6 or 7 phone voice menus but I did get some help. It turns out the Raid driver required was on a third disk. Quick and easy fix. (/endorsement)