SQL Server 2005's end-of-life clock is ticking down

A year from now, Microsoft will stop supporting SQL Server 2005 entirely, so the push is on to migrate customers to newer editions or to Azure

antique clock face
Chris Willis (CC BY 2.0)

Earlier this week, Microsoft reminded SQL Server 2005 users that all support for that product would end in one year, on April 12, 2016.

It's not an unexpected development, as SQL Server 2005 has been in the "extended support" phase of its lifecycle since April 2011. But as with its other server products approaching end of life, Microsoft is pushing existing SQL Server users to migrate to newer products in the SQL Server family, or to Microsoft Azure's database platform.

End of support for SQL Server 2005 means no more security patches for the product. But that doesn't include companies that have special arrangements via a Microsoft Premier Support agreement like the ones Microsoft has offered for Windows XP -- although it's unclear if Microsoft will offer 90 percent discounts for SQL Server 2005 support contracts, as it was reported to have done for XP.

As with the looming end of life for Windows Server 2003 (July 14, 2015), Microsoft is making the most of the remaining year to push hard for organizations to upgrade. Rather than bang on security alone as a motive, Microsoft devoted more space in the article to touting the performance improvements and high-availability features found in more recent versions of SQL Server.

For those planning to upgrade SQL Server on-premises, Microsoft claims SQL Server 2005 can be upgraded in-place to SQL Server 2014 -- provided the former isn't a 32-bit edition of the product. (In such cases, a side-by-side upgrade would have to do.) For those eying a move to Microsoft's cloud, Azure SQL Database v12 offers "nearly complete compatibility" with the stand-alone Microsoft SQL Server product, and Microsoft offers its own open source tool to aid migration.

There's little question SQL Server 2005 still has a sizable base of active enterprise deployments. While exact numbers are hard to come by, one public hint of how SQL Server 2005 continues to be used comes from Stack Overflow, where a steady, slow stream of questions tagged "sql-server-2005" continues to show up.

Where and how those databases are deployed -- at the enterprise, department, or individual application level -- also matters; deployments further up in the hierarchy and more widespread throughout an organization are tougher to deal with. Applications built with specific regulatory compliance restrictions, for instance, will be harder -- and more costly -- to cycle out.

Forrester-authored, Microsoft-commissioned study has sketched out the costs of migrating to the most recent versions of SQL Server. The migration scenario, a composite created by studying several existing organizations, could could cost as much as $4 million overall, but Forrester claimed those expenses could be recouped within a year. The report concentrates mainly on the overall economic impact of a SQL Server deployment, not on the specific costs associated with upgrading an earlier version of SQL Server in an organization -- especially one as old as SQL Server 2005.

The most pressing upgrade emergency remains Windows Server 2003 -- still widely deployed in enterprises and chugging away, with only around three months left before Microsoft pulls the plug on all support for the product.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.