news The Victorian Government has paid Microsoft a whopping $4.4 million for extended support for the now-defunct Windows Server 2003 operating system, in a move which sharply demonstrates the extreme cost of running operating systems which are no longer formally supported by their vendors.
Server 2003 was first released in 2003, and is regarded as a landmark release for Microsoft that allowed the company to continue to push back against the dominance of the Unix and Mainframe operating systems in datacentres. It was based on Microsoft’s highly successful Windows XP desktop platform and introduced a large number of improvements to web, print and file serving applications. An updated version, Server 2003 R2, was released in late 2005.
Microsoft has been providing what it calls ‘extended support’ to the platform since mid-2010 (consisting of security updates), but last week even that support expired and Microsoft will essentially abandon the platform in favour of updated versions.
This week (as first reported by iTnews), the Victorian Government published a contract notice through its tendering website which disclosed its CenITex, Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Police agencies had paid Microsoft $4.4 million for custom support for Windows Server 2003.
This payment means the state is still running the operating system in a number of critical instances and requires ongoing security support, and perhaps other services, to help keep those platforms functional for the time being. The cost represents one year of support.
Microsoft has not publicly stated the cost per server instance for custom support for Windows 2003, but in February The Register reported figures published by a Microsoft licensing expert, Paul DeGroot of Pica Communications. DeGroot alleged the cost would be at least $600 per server for custom support after June 14 this year.
The Register reported the cost would double for each year that organisations required the custom support — meaning, if true, that the Victorian Government could be facing a bill of as much as $8.8 million at this time next year if it does not upgrade its systems over the next 12 months.
There is also ample indication that the Victorian Government will not be alone in paying Microsoft extensive fees for custom support for Windows 2003.
Research published by local analyst firm Telsyte and Dell last week suggests that one in five Australian businesses are still running Windows Server 2003. One in four were not aware of the cut-off of support from Microsoft, while one in ten did not believe there were security risks from running outdated and unsupported server technology.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however — 70 percent of those affected intended to upgrade the software within 12 months, with 77 percent intending to upgrade to Microsoft’s latest server software, Windows Server 2012. Most also saw this as a chance to upgrade their server hardware at the same time.
Great news for Microsoft — but terrible news for the public purse and the taxpayer. One can only hope that the Victorian Government is looking to get its skates on with this one. Otherwise, it may find those Windows Server 2003 security patches eventually get very expensive indeed.