Govt blows $14.4m on Windows XP, Server 2003 support


news The Federal Government has paid Microsoft more than $14.4 million for custom support of the outdated Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems, in a costly move which further 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.

Windows XP was first released in late 2001 and last received a major update with Service Pack 3 in April 2008. It is widely regarded as one of Microsoft’s most successful operating system releases of all time, and is still widely used throughout the public sector. However, extended support for Windows XP ended in April 2014.

Organisations are able to receive ‘custom support’ from Microsoft for the platforms, but such support is costly — for example, the Register has reported the cost per server of keeping Windows Server 2003 support at being $600 for the first year — doubling every 12 months.

As first reported by iTnews today, the Federal Government has just paid a hunk of cash to Microsoft to keep its XP and Server 2003 fleet running over the next year. The XP support will cost the Government some $3.4 million over that period, while the Server 2003 support will cost the Government some $11 million.

Separately, last month the Victorian Government paid Microsoft $4.4 million for Windows Server 2003 custom support.

There is ample indication that a number of other major organisations will also be paying Microsoft extensive fees for custom support for Windows 2003.

Research published by local analyst firm Telsyte and Dell last month 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.

The Queensland Government may particularly suffer problems. ZDNet reported in July 2012 that the state would need $100 million to upgrade its Windows XP suite — money that it did not have for that purpose at that time.

Wow. Quite the pretty penny Microsoft is making out of the Federal Government for supporting this outdated software. One can only hope Canberra gets a wriggle on in updating all these legacy machines to software that was at least released sometime in the last decade. Otherwise, you can imagine how much the Microsoft bill will be this time next year — approximately double? Nice work if you can get it.

Image credit: Le Web, Creative Commons


  1. I guess it’s just not that cheap to ditch all those critical infrastructure apps that run on IE6 and classic asp?

  2. They’ve probably been told they aren’t vulnerable because they’re air-gapped. Which is a BS excuse. As is the one about legacy app compatibility – there is very very little that can’t be made to run on 2012r2 (maybe with substantial customisation, but that’s still a lot faster and cheaper than upgrading the software (although it is usually incompetence and ineptitude that has put off replacement platforms years past their use by date, too)). The reality is you could virtualise every one of these servers, replace them with 2012r2 and migrate all roles across, then decommission the 2003 instances safely. This should have been kicked off two years ago. This is nothing less than gross incompetence, very expensive (perhaps even fraudulent) ineptitude. Everyone involved should be sacked and investigated (as should all the IE6 developers who flew in the face of industry practice to focus on ie to the exclusion of all else, a problem which has always seemed particularly bad in this country) – even if they don’t have the skills in-house they could have got professionals in to clean up their mess. $11 million would have gone a long way towards such work… How many servers are they talking about?

  3. That is 14 million tax free, as we all know the ATO is not going after the big boys and prefers to terrorise the small busineses and the battlers

  4. The managers would likely have been warned about this regularly over the last few years. But no matter, they now have an issue they can fix and get a promotion for doing so. Of course, those who did the warning will be blamed for the mess.

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