Microsoft extends its product life cycle

Slipped into a blizzard of product announcements and demos at the TechEd conference was welcome news about Microsoft's policy on long-term support of its software products.

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SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft has offered IT administrators some breathing room -- and saved their organizations some money -- by extending life-cycle support for Microsoft's products.

At the TechEd conference on Tuesday, Andrew Lees, a Microsoft vice president for server and tools marketing, said the company will extend its product life cycle from seven years to 10 years starting on June 1. The news was part of a blizzard of product announcements and technology demonstrations on Tuesday that included the release of Redmond's new "Common Engineering Roadmap" and a preview of the refresh for Windows Server 2003 that is due out next year.

"It's a big deal for us," said Rob Rhodes, manager of technical services at Kindred Healthcare Inc., of Louisville, Ky. His company recently

When the service packs get out and tested, it's time to turn around and do it again.

Rob Rhodes,

Kindred Healthcare,
completed the installation of Windows 2000 on its desktops -- a three-year process -- and it is still migrating its servers.

"It's not just important for the OS, but also for the service pack support," he said. "When the service packs get out and tested, it's time to turn around and do it again."

The new Microsoft life-cycle policy will offer five years of mainstream support for a product after the date of its general availability, or two years after a successor product ships, whichever is longer. In addition, the software maker said that it will provide extended support for five years after mainstream support ends, or two years after the second successor product ships, whichever is longer.

This means that the new life-cycle policy will offer a minimum total of 10 years of product support.

For some large companies, the steps to migrate from one operating system to the next can sometimes take 10 years or more, said Stephan Thurek, chief executive of Triomis, a Dortmund, Germany-based integration company.

Most enterprise customers are not happy about being forced off of a product, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, of San Jose, Calif. Enderle said that by extending its product life cycle

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to 10 years, Microsoft is matching what IBM offers today. "Microsoft is just stepping up to what IBM has traditionally promised," he said.

For some IT managers, however, the idea of staying on software for a decade means missing out on important changes that can ultimately hold back a business. "There are a lot of advantages to moving, and few applications need to be kept around for 10 years," said one IT executive for an Atlanta-based energy company.

Microsoft also outlined the first delivery of its Common Engineering Roadmap, a long-term strategy for delivering common services across its server infrastructure, which is known as the Windows Server System. The Common Engineering Criteria for 2005, the first piece of the road map strategy, is a set of capabilities that will be contained in all Windows Server System servers that are released after Jan. 1, 2005.

Elements of the criteria plan include the ability to use Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 to remotely manage and monitor Windows System servers. Also, it will also support for the latest versions of Windows Installer and Windows Update. And the new technologies will include the ability to roll back changes if needed.

Other products announced Tuesday include:

  • Storage Server 2003 Feature Pack
  • A best practices analyzer tool for SQL Server 2000
  • Native data encryption in SQL Server 2005
  • Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) for Exchange Server 2003, which will be available to all Exchange Server 2003 customers
  • When Exchange Edge Services is released next year, it will include e-mail caller ID capabilities as a means of reverse Domain Name Server lookup to help eliminate e-mail spoofing.

In a related announcement, Microsoft said on Tuesday that it has formally agreed to merge its proposed e-mail authentication standard with another leading proposed standard. Microsoft said its Caller ID for E-mail proposal will be unified with the Sender Policy Framework (SPF), which was authored by Meng Wong, co-founder and chief technology officer of Pobox.com.

The proposed specifications both aim to cut the flood of junk e-mail by eliminating domain spoofing, and they are also designed to protect against phishing schemes, which also employ spoofing to ensnare unsuspecting users.

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