Tuesday marks the end of extended support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, a version of Microsoft's popular database, which competes for industry market share with MySQL and Oracle.
SQL Server 2008 is the "database of record" for many businesses, said Tony Harvey, sr. director analyst at Gartner, in an interview with CIO Dive.
The principle issue for end of support is compliance, according to Harvey. If there are security issues with the database, the system will remain unpatched, creating problems in regulated industries like financial services.
End of support is commonplace. Microsoft customers have gone through end of support lifecycles with Windows 2000, Windows 2003 and SQL Server 2005. And new products readily come to market.
This week, Microsoft announced the impending availability of Azure SQL, allowing companies to manage Azure SQL and SQL Server on Azure virtual machines.
Later this month, the company will release a preview of SQL Server 2019 big data clusters, which allows for analysis and AI across relational and non-relational data. The platform uses SQL Server with Apache Spark and Hadoop Distributed File System, according to the announcement.
End of support has remained part of the software lifecycle since "time immemorial," said Blair Hanley Frank, principal analyst at ISG, in an interview with CIO Dive. What Microsoft wants is for its customers to "consume as much Azure as possible."
End of support for SQL Server is as good an instance as any.
It's the "carrot and stick that exists in this dynamic," he said. But Microsoft also doesn't want to support its software for all time.
Microsoft SQL Server has remained popular with developers. It is the third-most commonly used database, behind MySQL and PostgreSQL, according to Stack Overflow's 2019 developer survey.
Microsoft has widely publicized end of support for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2, which debuted in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Mainstream support ended in 2014.
Other versions of SQL Server are available and "it's the CIO's fault" if they have not migrated to another option by end of support, said Harvey. Companies should have technology sunset plans in place when they implement a system.
At some point, you have to spend money to limit technical debt, Harvey said.
Compounding the issue
Many companies are still in the throes of migrating off SQL Server 2008, but they will face bigger challenges in January when support ends for Windows Server 2008/2008 R2.
Windows Server 2008 had a "big install base" because it is an "extremely robust" operating system, said Harvey. Companies delayed regular upgrades in 2009 and onward because of a dip in the economy.
Fast forward to today and companies still run Windows Server 2008. Unsupported, it has a "lot more potential security issues," said Harvey. The deadline may cause companies to migrate to Azure or Amazon Web Services, adopting a software or platform as a service option instead.
Small businesses tend to put off versions of upgrades, often because they rely on older computers, Carl Olofson, research vice president at IDC, told CIO Dive in an email. They also often let support contracts slip.
There will always be a push and pull between software vendors who operate technology and the organizations that want a consistent experience, which is accomplished by running a particular environment for a long time, Hanley Frank said. It's up to enterprises to moderate that interface.
The future of SQL Server
Businesses can continue to run SQL Server, but the support becomes an issue. There are, however, options.
Migration is inevitable, but Microsoft customers are split across industries on how they want to move, John "JG" Chirapurath, general manager of Azure Data, Analytics, Blockchain & AI at Microsoft, told CIO Dive. Some customers take a measured approach and want to keep data on premise.
Microsoft customers have migration options, Chirapurath said:
Remain on SQL Server 2008;
Move to a newer version of SQL Server on premise;
Or lift and shift onto Azure, where customers will receive extended security services in the cloud for three years.
The lift and shift is for those customers unsure about what to do with 10-year-old apps and need a little bit more time to rewrite or reconstruct, said Chirapurath.
Another option is to lift and shift onto Azure SQL Database managed instance, which allows customers to take on premises apps and database and instantly modernize by dropping it into the cloud.