Microsoft tweaks legacy software support program

Microsoft has restructured its custom support program for those who choose to patch products forever.

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For IT administrators who are slow to migrate off of legacy platforms, Microsoft has always given them the option of buying extended custom support.

This week the company said it was restructuring its Custom Support Agreement program by adding streamlined pricing and extra benefits. The new options include problem resolution for the legacy product, distribution of security hotfixes for the most serious vulnerabilities, access to the existing database of security and nonsecurity hotfixes produced during the mainstream support phase and the ability to request hotfixes for new bugs.

In May 2004, Microsoft extended its product-support lifecycle from seven to 10 years, which pleased many administrators who had trouble migrating off of stalwart platforms such as Exchange Server 5.5 and Windows NT.

IT experts said they are glad for the additional support, but the idea is to avoid having platforms that fall into this category. "It's great that Microsoft is doing this, but we tend to build walls around older systems simply for the security issues," said Dale Maw, a regional IT director at Niagara Health System in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

"My thought is, why not just upgrade," Maw added.

The custom support program can be valuable for a small subset of customers who need to stay on an older platform and are willing to pay the money, said Al Gillen, research vice president at IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm.

"My guess is more people will be interested in the infrastructure-oriented layers," Gillen said. "They may want an old implementation of Exchange or SQL Server. But for some customers, maybe they need Office 97 [for example]. They don't want to be on something more current."

Next Steps

Microsoft extends its product life cycle

More firms use Web services to integrate legacy apps

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