End of Life for SQL Server 2012: The countdown has begun!
David Heath
Senior Technical Consultant

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 will go end of life in July 2022, meaning there is now less than a year to migrate or update existing legacy SQL Server services to supported platforms.

Many organisations are still running SQL Server 2012, but what are the risks of continuing to use software that is no longer in extended support? 

Critically, using end of life software means Microsoft will no longer release security updates.  Although there have been instances where Microsoft has felt compelled to release security patches outside of extended support dates, this is very rare, and it should be assumed that there will be no new patches for SQL Server from July next year.  End of life applications can pose a specific threat to businesses as they can be targeted easily by hackers and nefarious parties to take advantage of unpatched exploits and vulnerabilities.

Third party application support can also be at risk, with vendors using end of life as a reason to no longer provide support or patches for applications running on legacy instances.  For database systems this can be a particular risk, with organisations getting stuck on old applications they can no longer update and losing out on new features and improved security.

Finally, multiple new features and services have been released in the latest versions of SQL Server which are not available on the 2012 version.  After the release of SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 2, nearly all features found in the Enterprise version of SQL Server are available in the Standard 2016 and later versions, meaning the cost to implement and utilise cutting edge functionality is greatly reduced compared to previous iterations of the application.  Availability groups, Big Data analytics, row level encryption, data virtualisation, Azure integration, intelligent query processing, plus a whole host of other security and performance improvements, make the later versions of SQL Server the central data platform for mission critical, scalable workloads.

Migration Options

With less than a year until SQL Server 2012 goes end of life, now is a good time to start planning what you need to do with your existing 2012 data estate.  As with previous versions of SQL Server, Microsoft will provide three different migration options for your on-premises SQL 2012 server workloads.

Option One: Pay for Extended Support

If you have a critical application that you know cannot be migrated to a supported version of SQL Server, and require more time to plan a replacement system, then Microsoft offers the ability to purchase Extended Support for up to 3 years.  This then provides additional security updates for the duration of the support period allowing you to keep the existing server and application “as is” whilst its replacement or migration is developed. 

This service is only available to customers with Software Assurance or subscription licenses and can be very costly.  Extended Support is roughly 75 % of the cost of the on-premises license per year, but it does provide additional critical security updates for up to three years after the end of Extended Support.  

Option Two: Migrate to a Supported SQL Version

Upgrading existing SQL Servers or migrating database workloads to a supported version of SQL Server is probably the easiest and most cost-efficient way to mitigate the end of life of SQL Server.  The benefits of this process mean you have full control of the target version, you can utilise the latest technology, the process is low risk, and you can also use the opportunity to improve the security, availability, and performance of the existing estate for future workloads. 

It is recommended to migrate databases to a new platform rather than upgrade existing systems so that downtime and migration risk are minimised.  Compatibility modes can be used with individual databases to allow legacy systems to run on newer versions of SQL Server without losing existing functionality.

Option Three: Migrate to Azure

If you’re looking to fully modernise your SQL Server estate and take advantage of reduced administration, improved scalability and availability, as well as utilise the latest data platform features, then this can be achieved by migrating legacy database workloads to Microsoft Azure.

Azure provides multiple migration options, including the ability to “lift and shift” existing SQL Server 2012 servers to Azure Virtual Machines and take advantage of free Extended Security updates for three years.  Alternatively, existing databases and SQL services can be migrated to Azure Virtual Machines running supported versions of SQL Server, or to PaaS services such as Managed Instances or Azure SQL Databases.  These latter services provide highly available and scalable platforms that receive the latest feature updates and services with minimal administration.  Running services in Azure also provides a host of other benefits including improved security, monitoring, higher levels of business continuity and rapid scalability to support future growth.

How Ultima can Help

Ultima is a Microsoft Partner for SQL Server and has attained the Microsoft Advanced Specialisation for Windows Server and SQL Server Migration services from Microsoft.  This prestigious achievement demonstrates the high level of capabilities we offer for SQL Server migration and Cloud migration services.   Ultima can support your organisation with SQL Server migrations, both on premises and to the Azure and can help you to plan and implement your data platform migration project.  

SQL Server migration services Ultima offers include:

•    SQL Server and Database Migration assessments to understand the migration paths and opportunities available for your data estate.
•    Migration services to Microsoft Azure, including IaaS and PaaS services.
•    Database migrations with minimal downtime for critical applications and services.
•    Legacy SQL Server Integration Services redeployments to supported versions of SQL Server or to Azure Data Factory.
•    Database Consolidation assessments and implementation services to understand server workloads and reduce license costs, improve estate management, and increase system availability.

To learn more about our SQL Server Migration Services, download our datasheet here.

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