Microsoft Corp. will offer custom support options on a flat-fee basis to users of Windows NT 4.0 Server and Exchange Server 5.5 when the standard support phases for those products end.
The extended support period for Windows NT Server is due to expire at month’s end, and the new custom support program will run for two years, through Dec. 31, 2006.
Microsoft announced the NT Server support plan on Friday, the same day it unveiled plans to offer two years of fee-based custom support for Exchange Server 5.5 after that product’s extended support period ends on Dec. 31, 2005. The program is expected to operate similarly to the Windows NT 4.0 Server program.
Microsoft’s product support life-cycle policy last updated in May calls for a minimum of five years of mainstream support followed by five years of extended support. Mainstream support provides for no-charge incident, warranty and hot-fix support, plus various paid options. During the extended support phase, users continue to receive security updates for free, but they must pay for nonsecurity hot fixes and their product warranties no longer apply.
Since the updated life-cycle support policy applied only to software products released during the previous five years, it didn’t cover Windows NT 4.0 Server and Exchange 5.5.
Peter Houston, senior director of Windows serviceability, stressed during an interview that the “end-of-life dates” for Windows NT Server and Exchange haven’t moved, and Microsoft will no longer provide security fixes free of charge once the respective extended support phases for those products expire.
Instead, Windows NT users who opt for the custom support program will have to pay a flat fee to get security fixes for vulnerabilities classified either as critical or important. But the flat fee will cover all of their NT machines, Houston said. The minimum subscription period is three months.
Houston said the custom support fee is annual, but customers typically pay on a quarterly basis. If they complete their migrations to a newer Windows operating system before the year is up, they don’t have to pay for the remaining quarters, he said.