Windows Server 2012 Loses Patch Support, but Orgs Could Pay for ESUs

Extended product support has ended, but Microsoft's Extended Security Update program could be a remedy for some.

Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 are no longer supported products as of Oct. 10, 2023, meaning no more patches will be arriving.

However, organizations possibly can keep patches coming by using Microsoft's Extended Security Update (ESU) program. Microsoft has published an undated FAQ document on the ESU program, which covers its older Windows client and server products that are out of support, plus SQL Server products, and even some Dynamics AX products.

Open Your Wallet
The ESU program is expensive. It costs the full server price each year. Microsoft used to increase the ESU price each year, but recently changed that policy to make it the same price each year.

Organizations can just get a maximum of three years of support under the ESU program, paying the full server cost each year. Only "Critical" and "Important" security patches get delivered for Windows Server products under the ESU program (there are no custom fixes).

The ESU program requires annual renewals when organizations buy through volume licensing, but organizations buying into the program at a later year, such as Year 3, must also pay for Years 1 and 2.

ESU costs are "free" if organizations are willing to host their Windows Server workloads in an Azure virtual machine, paying for Azure operations costs.

The Azure Arc Exception
Microsoft's exception to making annual ESU payments is to get ESUs via Azure Arc for Windows Server, which puts organizations on a monthly billing schedule.

With this Azure Arc scheme, the ESU monthly billing ends when organizations have migrated their server workloads to a new server product or an Azure virtual machine. However, even Azure Arc users could get backbilled, depending on when they have entered the ESU program, per the FAQ:

For customers who enroll in ESUs enabled by Azure Arc after the end of support dates (July 11, 2023 for SQL Server 2012 Year 2 and October 10, 2023 for Windows Server 2012/R2), they will be billed a one-time upfront charge for the months they missed after the end of support date, with billing coming in at the end of the month. For example, if a customer enrolls in January 2024, they will receive a one-time back-bill for October, November, and December 2023 during their first month.

ESU Program Qualifications
Organizations wanting to use ESUs will need to qualify for the ESU program. They must meet one of the following eligibility criteria, per the FAQ:

  1. Be covered by an active Software Assurance (SA) plan acquired through any program, such as Enterprise Agreement (EA), Enterprise Agreement Subscription (EAS), Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE), or Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES).
  2. Have active subscription licenses acquired through any program, including Cloud Solution Provider (CSP).
  3. Have been acquired as 'License-Included' services through a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) partner.

Eligible organizations can buy ESUs from Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement Reseller partners or Cloud Solution Provider partners

Physical Cores vs. Virtual Cores
Microsoft's FAQ on ESUs was noted by Direction on Microsoft's Editorial Director Mary Jo Foley in this Directions on Microsoft post, who questioned whether it had been recently updated. The undated FAQ does appear to include new information about physical core vs. virtual core ESU licensing options.

Even though organizations have options on licensing ESUs via physical cores or virtual cores, Microsoft has lots of stipulations about how that's done, and how licenses are counted. Azure Arc users can mix how the cores get licensed, and even mix product editions when using the physical core option. However, there is no mixing with ESUs bought through volume licensing.

Here the FAQ's summary, explaining that notion:

In summary, when licensing with non-Azure Arc licenses (SKUs), the number of ESU core licenses must align with how you've licensed the underlying Windows Server or SQL Server. Also, with the non-Azure Arc licensing ESUs, you must ensure that the ESU edition matches the edition of your underlying software. For instance, if you have Windows Server Datacenter on your VM, you should acquire ESU Datacenter edition if you want to license at the vCore level.

Answers from Directions
Foley's Directions on Microsoft post offers tips for IT departments trying to figure out how to meet Microsoft's complex ESU stipulations. In particular, the physical core vs. virtual core mixing option can save on ESU licensing costs in some cases, the Directions on Microsoft post asserted.

For the puzzled and perplexed, Directions on Microsoft is offering an "Answer This" response section in its blog, which will provide Directions on Microsoft analyst answers about the ESU topic. People can submit questions using a form that's linked at the top of Foley's post and possibly get an answer.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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