As we know, in July this year, Microsoft ended support for all versions of the SQL Server 2008. Additionally, by January 2020, the company will also end support for all versions of the Windows Server 2008.  Which basically means that Microsoft formally stopped supplying patches and security updates to users of the SQL Server 2008 to protect their environment, and the same fate is soon to follow for the Window Server 2008. In an era of aggressive cyber attacks and data breaches, running unsupported softwares or servers is a massive risk that could lead to disastrous results. How can a business justify to stakeholders the decision to continue using outdated technology that left them exposed to security concerns and regulatory compliance failures? Clearly, leaving their environment unsecured in the hope that things will run smoothly for a long time is a risk that businesses cannot afford to take. In such a scenario, upgrading is the only real option that is viable in the long term available to businesses. While active subscribers of the software assurance licensing program have the option of buying extended security updates from Microsoft, it can only be done for three years — which only means delaying upgradation, not solving the problem.

When it comes to upgrading, Microsoft has enabled two paths to help users of the 2008 servers make a smooth transition.

  • The most direct solution is to upgrade to the newest or recent versions of these products, which would mean Windows Server 2019 and SQL Server 2017. These versions will offer users the most updated features and secure environments. Businesses can choose to on-premise versions or the cloud version that is recommended by Microsoft. Since Microsoft’s standard policy is to offer software updates for 10 years after the release of the product, businesses upgrading now will know that at least the earliest update deadline they will have to contend with will be in 2017. The on-premise version is a good option for enterprises that have invested heavily in hardware and need greater control over their data, until such a time that these businesses are cloud-ready.
  • The second, more cost-effective solution is to migrate the workload on the Windows Server and SQL Server to Azure, using Azure Virtual Machines. This option enables businesses to receive three years of free extended support for their 2008 server environments as they transition to the cloud. Basically, it gives businesses the protection of extended support for on-premise servers, without having to buy it. The only thing that the business pays for is the cost of computation and infrastructure. Even better, computational cost can further be reduced with the help of Azure Reserved VM Instances for Windows Server and Azure SQL Database Reserved Capacity for SQL Server. In addition to be the best option financially, migrating to Azure as Microsoft ends support for 2008 servers is a great opportunity for businesses to consider leveraging operational capabilities they were so far unable to access because they weren’t on the cloud. It can also be a great relief for businesses that were already planning to migrate to the cloud, but were being held back due to in-house operational issues that they are unlikely to resolve before Microsoft’s end-of-life deadline.

Ultimately, the best option for a business to deal with Microsoft’s end-of-life and end-of-support deadlines requires a careful assessment of the complexity of the business’ environment, compliance risk, security threat, budgets, and plans for the future. The one thing that is certain, though, is that change is inevitable, and businesses need to have a solid plan for the transformational path they choose to walk.