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Microsoft Planning to End Windows Server AppFabric Support Next Year

Microsoft gave notice this month that it plans to end product support for its Windows Server AppFabric 1.1 solution, which is typically used by organizations to scale operations for Web apps.

Product support for AppFabric 1.1 will end on April 2, 2016, Microsoft indicated in a blog post this month. AppFabric works with Windows Server's Internet Information Services (IIS) component, facilitating the hosting of Web apps, particularly ASP.NET-based Web apps. It's designed for apps that use the Windows Communication Foundation framework for service-oriented applications and the Windows Workflow Foundation framework. It includes a "distributed in-memory application cache" to help improve application performance. AppFabric also integrates with IIS Manager, as well as Windows PowerShell, for app management and monitoring.

A product that loses support (typically called product "deprecation" by Microsoft) doesn't get further development. Patches don't get issued. Unsupported products are dead products, essentially. So, organizations using AppFabric have about a year to find alternatives.

No explanation for the product deprecation was described in Microsoft's announcement. The announcement did suggest some alternative approaches, though. AppFabric is used to facilitate app hosting on IIS, but organizations can instead "choose to manually host these services on Internet Information Services (IIS)," Microsoft's announcement explained, without elaboration.

For cache support, organizations can subscribe to use the Azure Redis Cache service, Microsoft suggested. For those organizations requiring caching on premises, there's Redis on Windows. It's also possible for organizations to host Redis themselves using open source technology, such as NCache.

For management of Web apps, organizations will just have to build their own custom solutions, Microsoft indicated.

Responses to Microsoft's announcement elicited mostly questions from readers about the proposed alternatives, as well as a general "lack of guidance" from Microsoft. Many expected Microsoft's decision would affect SharePoint 2013 farms. However, Microsoft MVP Todd Klindt, who uncovered Microsoft's obscure announcement this week, was assured by Microsoft that the deprecation of AppFabric 1.1 "doesn't change anything from supportability standpoint with SharePoint 2013," according to Klindt's podcast.

Microsoft originally released AppFabric as a free extension to Windows Server in mid-2010 to compete with open source solutions, according to Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, an independent consultancy focused on Microsoft products. Sanfilippo noted that organizations relying on AppFabric have some Microsoft alternatives to use, but they still likely will either have to use third-party solutions or build custom solutions to address the lost functionality.

Here's how he described the options:

Alternatives for AppFabric Hosting Services include technologies that overlap with its functionality such as BizTalk Server, Azure BizTalk Services, and the Azure App Service offering that just went into preview recently. None of these is likely to eliminate the need for redesigning and redeveloping applications that rely on AppFabric when support is dropped. Because of this, the more straightforward option may be to develop custom solutions or adopt third-party solutions that replace AppFabric functionality.

Microsoft announced its Azure App Service, which combines services such as Azure Websites, Azure Mobile Services and Azure BizTalk Services, late last month, although some features were still described as being at the "preview" stage.

Sanfilippo indicated that some SharePoint 2013 users aren't affected by the AppFabric deprecation because Microsoft included a "SharePoint 2010 workflow engine, which doesn't use [AppFabric's] Workflow Manager" in its SharePoint 2013 product. SharePoint 2013 users are covered under Microsoft's 10-year product support lifecycle consisting of Mainstream support and Extended support phases.

"Customers depending on AppFabric for its use with SharePoint 2013 should continue to receive support under SharePoint 2013's lifecycle (Mainstream through April 2018, Extended through April 2023)," Sanfilippo explained. "Other migration paths will probably be clarified with SharePoint 2016 announcements expected at Ignite next month."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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