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Microsoft pulls the plug on outdated products

Latest software to fall off the support roster includes Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Millennium Edition.

By , Network World
July 14, 2006 04:40 PM ET

Network World - As certainly as Microsoft is working on new software, its old products are being retired, leaving some customers needing to plan as carefully for decommissioning as for deployments.

The latest Microsoft software to fall off the support roster included Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Millennium Edition. Those desktop operating systems may seem ancient in the face of the hype around Vista, but Windows 98 represented 5% of the corporate Windows installed base at the end of 2005, according to IDC.

It isn't only aging operating systems, however, that are losing support. Windows XP Service Pack 1 will be retired Oct. 10, and users are being advised to start planning for completing upgrades to XP Service Pack 2, which has been touted for its security improvements.

While Microsoft has extended end-of-life dates, most notably for Windows NT and Exchange 5.5, extensions are not the norm.

"Generally, it is a bad idea to run unsupported software, but there can be a business case to run it," says Cary Shufelt, Windows infrastructure architect at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The university still has some NT machines running in isolation in its labs.

But Shufelt says there are security risks in allowing connections to legacy machines and that the university makes sure to minimize those risks.

"We don't allow [Windows] 9.x clients to connect to our Active Directory," he says. "We try to stay current with technology so these issues don't typically come up."

Others say they also stay current to avoid headaches and fire drills.

"If you are on a product where support is ending, it puts a new kind of pressure on you," says Tom Gonzales, a senior network administrator for the Colorado State Employees Credit Union in Denver. He says he didn't flirt with end of support when upgrading from NT to Win 2000 (support ended in June 2005) and then to Win 2003.

When support ends for an operating system, users are left to their own devices to troubleshoot problems or devise hot fixes.

"There was no compelling reason for us to get off NT other than not having to do it with a gun up to our heads," Gonzales says, adding that running unsupported software probably would require a full-time staff to fix it and patch it.

"That's why we stay closer to the new edge than the old edge," he says.

The next major slice off that old edge will come next Jan. 9. There then will probably be hype around the impending release of Vista, but 5-year-old versions of connectors for BizTalk, Content Management Server, line-of-business applications, gateways for mainframe integration and Office programs for the Macintosh all will see the end of what Microsoft calls mainstream support, which runs for five years after a product is released or two years after the successor product is released, whichever is longer.

Delays in Vista and Longhorn Server have forced Microsoft to extend mainstream support on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 past five years.

After mainstream support ends, Microsoft offers extended paid support for five years on business and developer products, but not for Microsoft Dynamics products.

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