Over the next year, IT organizations are going to be faced with several major end-of-life events for widely deployed products and services. As a result, a significant amount of time and money will be spent preparing for these events that could have otherwise been spent driving ongoing innovation and delivering new services that could further enable the business. In particular, Microsoft will no longer be supporting SQL Server 2008 or 2008 R2 starting in July 2019 and then all support will end for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2 by January 2020.
The support life cycles for many products and services are shrinking. Consider Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. Unless you have purchased the Enterprise E3 or E5 version or you run in an academic environment, each release of Windows 10 is only supported for 18 months. Enterprise and Education customers have 30 months of support. But, in both environments, Microsoft releases two new versions of Windows 10 every year - one in March and then a second in September.
If you have not migrated to Office 365 and are still using the perpetual license for the Office desktop suite, Microsoft no longer offers a 10-year support life cycle anymore. Instead you will have five years of mainstream support and then only two years of extended support. Those running in Office 365 will be closer to the Windows 10 experience with two new versions of Office every year and numerous updates to the cloud-based services every month.
Cloud apps like Office 365 can see upwards of 50 new features per month across the full service while major cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure might see up to 100 new features or capabilities in a single month.
While many organizations may have opted for options to use software for longer periods of time and enjoyed 10-year product life cycles, the growth of the cloud and the shift in how technologies are developed require a change in our approach to how we manage, deploy, and upgrade to new services and capabilities.
One thing I strongly encourage is rethinking how applications are built and operated on-premises and in the cloud. Part of this shift is a shift towards a DevOps approach to all applications and systems. In a DevOps model, one of the key aspects is continuous deployment. The idea is rather than have one large "big bang" release, the application is updated frequently. Having a successful deployment model requires a greater use of infrastructure-as-code allowing the application to be quickly rebuilt and redeployed. When this type of model is implemented for an application, it also opens the potential to end another painful IT process - monthly server patching. Rather than patching a server every month, the application is redeployed to a new, clean server that is already patched and the old server is eliminated.
For end-user facing technologies like their Windows operating system or their Office desktop suite, this requires a change in culture and approach. With nearly everyone owning an iPhone or Android phone today, the idea of frequent application updates and operating system updates has become far more commonplace. In the enterprise, the most important change we need to address is the culture to drive similar experiences. Consider your current mobile phone. Chances are that phone is less than three years old and likely runs the latest operating system (at least if you are using an iPhone) and all of the apps are likely up-to-date. Yet, many corporate desktops continue to run Windows 7 which came out after the first iPhone and Android phone. Would you consider using the original iPhone or Android phone today as your primary device? I suspect very few people would be willing to do this today. But, this is effectively what we are doing in our companies.
Changing the culture of an organization is not easy. Susan Anderson wrote about the challenges in making this kind of change happen here. This is what we need to be doing to be successful with the modern technologies and approaches today. This becomes even more important as we increasingly move towards cloud services where updates come frequently.
Making these kind of changes takes time. I am not suggesting this will happen overnight or even in a single year. But, this is the time to start embracing change and rethinking how IT services are delivered. Try using infrastructure-as-code on new application deployments and consider ways to deploy the app to a new, clean server as you test the waters of eliminating server patching. Embrace change as you look at building a modern desktop with frequent updates and new service capabilities. And, consider how you think about and manage people experiences. Embracing these updates and approach allows you to drive real transformation in your organization. I wrote about this very topic a few weeks ago and continue to believe that things like People Insights is critical to driving the next successful wave of business change.
As most organizations will have to make changes over the next year to maintain supported products, take the time to embrace change and drive new types of innovation in your organization.