Microsoft is warning customers that it will retire Windows Server 2000 from support and at the same time shift the newer Windows Server 2003 to limited support from July 2010.
The 10-month warning is a little unusual for the company, which often reminds users much closer to the support shift dates. Last February, for example, Microsoft alerted Windows XP users of the impending April move from what the company calls "mainstream" support into its "extended" support phase.
By Microsoft policy, mainstream support delivers free fixes -- for security patches and other bug fixes -- to everyone. During extended support, all users receive all security updates, but nonsecurity hot fixes are provided only to companies that have signed support contracts with Microsoft.
Crissy House, the Windows Server operations manager, used a company blog to put out the word on Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003.
As of July 13, 2010, Windows Server 2000 users' sole form of support will be online self-help, such as Knowledge Base documents and user-to-user forums.
On that same date, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 will exit mainstream support and drop into extended. To continue to receive non-security fixes, customers must enroll in Extended Hotfix Support (EHS); only customers who already have Premier Support or Software Assurance contracts are eligible. Customers on a Premier Support plan must buy into EHS within 90 days of July 13, 2010.
Microsoft also put to rest rumors that it would issue another service pack for Windows Server 2003 before that software leaves mainstream support. "Microsoft will not have a SP3 release for Windows Server 2003," said House.
The current edition of the server software is Windows Server 2003 R2, which shipped in February 2008.
Microsoft wrapped up work on the next-generation Windows Server 2008 R2 this summer, and will launch it at the same time that Windows 7 ships Oct. 22. The upgrade has already been released to enterprise licensing customers.
The company's support deadline warning for Windows 2000 Server was oddly timed, as just last week Microsoft told users running the nine-year-old operating system that it would not be providing patches for a pair of vulnerabilities, even though by policy the OS should receive all vulnerability updates.
Microsoft cited the software's architecture as the barrier to a fix, saying that it was "infeasible" to craft a patch without potentially breaking applications designed for it.
Two days later, Microsoft added Windows XP to the "no-patch" list , and again said it wasn't feasible to build a fix for the bugs in that software.
Recently, Microsoft has been beating the upgrade drum for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, citing a company-sponsored study that claims firms can save money in the long run by migrating to the new software now.