UPDATE: We have changed the color codings to reflect what’s overdue and what’s upcoming in terms of support expirations. Additionally, we’ve updated it to include the changes to the Semi-Annual Channel pack with Windows Server 2016.
Microsoft support. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to call it and never will have to call it. Microsoft support for many people is the last resort, the punt after all other attempts have failed. However, when you need it, there’s nothing worse than calling and having them tell you, “Sorry, this is unsupported,” and then you’re left on your own again (often after having wasted two hours finally getting a technician).
Far more importantly though are security patches. There’s nothing worse than finding a bug or security vulnerability and then finding out that you are not entitled to getting that bug/vulnerability patched, so you’re just stuck with it. With that in mind, it’s vital to keep up to date on your software so that you maintain support. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easily said as done.
Microsoft’s high-level support metric is that a product is supported (mainstream) for five years after it goes GA. After those five years, it goes to Extended support. That means that you can pay to have additional support (phone and full patches). Without investing in the additional support, nothing but the most critical of security vulnerabilities will be released (maybe), and you won’t be entitled to phone support and the normal updates you are used to will not continue. For this reason, unless you’re a big company with a few hundred thousand dollars sitting around to pay for extended support, you need to be off of an OS BEFORE it gets to extended support. Okay, so that’s a pretty easy to follow cycle, right? Well … no, because Microsoft treats Service Packs specially.
Service Packs, Modern Lifecycle Policies and Microsoft End of Support Timelines
If a Service Pack is released, then support for the previous Service Pack (or OS version) ends two years later. For example, Windows 2008 R2 came out on October 22, 2009. By default that would mean that 2008 R2 would have mainstream support through 2014, and extended through 2019. However, Service Pack 1 for it came out February 2, 2011, meaning that the end of support for the NON-patched Windows Server 2008 R2 is actually April 9, 2013 (two years after Service Pack 1), rather than the normal date. Meanwhile Service Pack 1 inherits the normal expiration of the OS – and is supported mainstream through 2014, with extended through the end of 2019. Yes, those dates don’t quite line up exactly with five years. It’s unclear why they often get an extra couple of months. Confused yet? It gets even better though — for modern Microsoft products, an R2 version doesn’t get a refresh on support lifecycle. Let’s look at Windows Server 2012.
Windows Server 2012 entered mainstream support on October 30, 2012. Which, with five years added on, gave it an end of mainstream in January 9, 2018, and an end of extended support on January 10, 2023. Windows Server 2012 R2 entered mainstream support on November 25, 2013, though, but its end of mainstream is January 9, 2018, and end of extended is January 10, 2023. Even though it was a “new” OS since it was just a second release of a previous, it did not start a full new five years, but rather inherited 2012’s end cycles. Yay!
Even further still, there is a new type of support called the Modern Lifecycle Policy which essentially means if you pay for Software Assurance (SA), the product will be supported indefinitely … until Microsoft gives you 12 months of notice they are terminating support on it.
So, what does this mean practically? Well, here’s a chart with some very common products and their support lifecycles:
Red = end of support
Yellow = end of support coming soon
Green = end of support is not too imminent
*Please note that the base product and its service packs are listed separately, so check for which version you have carefully.
End of Mainstream
End of Extended
|Windows Server 2008||5/6/2008||7/12/2011||7/12/2011|
|Windows Server 2008 (SP2)||4/29/2009||1/13/2015||1/14/2020|
|Windows Server 2008 R2||10/22/2009||4/9/2013||4/9/2013|
|Windows Server 2008 R2 (SP1)||2/22/2011||1/13/2015||1/14/2020|
|Windows Server 2012||10/30/2012||10/9/2018||1/10/2023|
|Windows Server 2012 R2||11/25/2013||10/9/2018||10/10/2023|
|Windows Server 2016||10/15/2016||1/11/2022||1/11/2027|
|Windows Server 2016 Semi-Annual Channel 1709||10/17/2017||±4/17/2019||±4/17/2019|
|Skype for Business 2015||7/30/2015||10/13/2020||10/14/2025|
|SQL Server 2005 (SP4)||12/13/2010||4/12/2011||4/12/2016|
|SQL Server 2008 (SP4)||7/7/2014||7/8/2014||7/9/2019|
|SQL Server 2008 R2||7/20/2010||7/10/2012||7/10/2012|
|SQL Server 2008 R2 (SP3)||9/26/2014||7/8/2014||7/9/2019|
|SQL Server 2012||5/20/2012||1/14/2014||1/14/2014|
|SQL Server 2012 (SP3)||12/1/2015||7/11/2017||7/12/2022|
|SQL Server 2014||6/5/2014||7/12/2016||7/12/2016|
|SQL Server 2014 (SP2)||7/14/2016||7/9/2019||7/9/2024|
|SQL Server 2016||6/1/2016||1/9/2018||1/9/2018|
|SQL Server 2016 (SP1)||11/16/2016||7/13/2021||7/14/2026|
|SQL Server 2017||9/29/2017||10/11/2022||10/12/2027|
|Exchange 2007 (SP3)||6/7/2010||4/10/2012||4/11/2017|
|Exchange 2010 (SP3)||2/12/2013||1/13/2015||1/14/2020|
|Exchange 2013 (SP1)||2/25/2014||4/10/2018||4/11/2023|
|SharePoint 2010 (SP2)||7/23/2013||10/13/2015||10/13/2020|
|SharePoint 2013 (SP1)||2/25/2014||4/10/2018||4/11/2023|
Well, that was quite an adventure, wasn’t it? If there are particular products you want to find out about, this page has the full Microsoft product list, just search for the product you want and click on it to get a customized support description. What this table really shows is that it’s very important not to just keep your OSes on a modern version, but to ALSO keep them patched if you expect support. Furthermore, if you’re getting ready to install a new server, you should always go with the most recent OS if at all possible in order to stay in support for as long as possible. If you have products that are in extended support (or heaven forbid, past extended support) you should work immediately to try to rectify the situation.
If you’re running Exchange 2013 or earlier, it is time for you to upgrade. Here’s a great article that outlines your potential options.