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New Microsoft support scheme scraps decade pledge

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 7, 2016
Support for enterprise software and services covered by 'Modern Lifecycle' can be terminated with 12 months' notice

More than a month ago, Microsoft quietly added a new support policy that dropped the company's decade of technical support for an open-ended product lifetime that could be terminated at Microsoft's discretion.

Wes Miller, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, viewed the new policy -- dubbed "Modern Lifecycle" -- as a glimpse into the future of support from the Redmond, Wash. company.

"For more than a year, since Microsoft talked about LTSB [Long-term Servicing Branch], we've all been wondering what the plan was," said Miller, referring to the Windows 10 release track available only to enterprise customers. "There was the usual 5+5 support with LTSB-style releases, and then there was everything else. Now, we know how support works for everything else."

With LTSB, Microsoft gave enterprises the option of running a stable, static version of Windows 10 that would avoid the frequent updates other editions would receive. Microsoft pledged to support Windows 10 LTSB for the traditional 10 years, the first five in "Mainstream" support, the second in "Extended" support.

Microsoft introduced the Modern policy with zero fanfare on its support lifecycle website by posting a terse announcement and a short FAQ.

Unlike the standard 5+5 support scheme, under which Microsoft pledges to support a product for a decade, Modern is both open-ended and ephemeral.

"There is no end of support date assigned," Microsoft said of products under the Modern umbrella. But in the next sentence, Microsoft noted that, while support may be indefinite -- or in other words, unlimited -- it reserved the right to dump the product, and any support, at any time. "Microsoft will provide a minimum of 12 months' prior notification before ending support for products governed by the Modern Policy without providing a successor product or service," the company said.

The prerequisite for Modern's theoretically unlimited support? Customers must keep the product up to date, which Microsoft dubbed "stay current." As long as the software was current, Microsoft pledged to support it. "To stay current, a customer must accept all servicing updates and apply them within a specific timeframe, per the licensing and service requirements for the product or service," the Modern FAQ read.

The "stay current" concept is not brand new to Microsoft customers: That's how most Windows 10 users are treated. Consumers, for instance, really don't have a choice, but must accept all updates as they arrive. Businesses not on the LTSB track have some flexibility in that they can postpone updates and even upgrades, but the delays are only temporary. Eventually, everyone must take an update or upgrade.

Only a few Microsoft products are currently covered by Modern support. According to Redmond Magazine, which wrote about the Modern policy on Tuesday, they include System Center Configuration Manager (current branch), .Net Core, ASP.Net Core and Entity Framework Core.


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