Microsoft leaves Windows Server support as-is, doesn't prune pledged timeline as with Windows 7

Older versions of Windows Server will be able to run on newest Skylake silicon

Microsoft last week said that the support rules for the Windows Server software would not change, even though the Redmond, Wash. company has said it will curtail support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 after mid-2017.

"There is no change to our current policy," Microsoft said in a post to a company blog Feb. 19 that focused on Windows Server.

A month before, Microsoft shortened support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on the newest PCs -- those equipped with Intel's Skylake processors -- by 30 months, and laid down a new law that said next-generation processors would require the "latest Windows platform at that time for support." Older operating systems will be supported only until July 17, 2017 on the new silicon, and then only on specific PCs.

At the time, Microsoft declined to comment on whether the same rule would apply to Windows Server, in other words, whether the newest version of Windows Server -- slated to be dubbed Windows Server 2016 when it debuts this year -- would, like Windows 10, be the company's only OS to be supported on Skylake and later silicon.

Last week's notice answered those questions.

Rather than limit customers' choices, Microsoft will continue to support Windows Server SKUs (stock-keeping units) on hardware powered by pre-Skylake and Skylake-and-later, as long as those servers are certified as such.

Microsoft maintains a list of Windows Server-certified systems on its website.

It's up to the server manufacturer to obtain certification. The caveat: Certification must be awarded before the Windows Server SKU shifts from "mainstream" to "extended" support, or within approximately five years of the SKU debuts.

Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, for example, transition to extended support on Jan. 10, 2018. Thus a server maker must get hardware certified for those SKUs by that date. Servers relying on newer processors -- the server-aimed derivations of Skylake, specifically the Xeon E3 -- can be certified for the older Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 OSes.

"Per our policy we would allow new system submissions for Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 to continue up to this date [of Jan 10, 2018], including the forthcoming Intel Xeon E3 (Skylake) family of processors," Microsoft said.

Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, applauded Microsoft's announcement. "I'm glad to see that if an OEM wants to work with Microsoft to insure the quality of the OS, [Microsoft will] work with them through the lifecycle," said Miller in an interview last week. "It's good that they've clarified this."

Not everyone agreed with Miller.

"You guys have lost your @#$% minds," wrote Bran Nunya, the only reader of Microsoft's no-change-here blog post to append a comment. "Running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1? Come July 2017 you are SOL because 'magic issues that could suddenly arise because of silicon changes that have previously existed in a supported fashion prior to Q3 2017.' Running a Server? 'Oh, yeah we know we can't get away with anything there and force people to a new scheme so we'll still support those.'

"Everyone is already used to this type of treatment from Apple. If I'm not getting long-term support I might as well go there," Nunya added.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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