Although the oft-delayed end of support for Windows NT 4.0 will arrive December 31, this week Microsoft detailed the steps its corporate customers can take to continue receiving support for the OS. The steps include changes to Microsoft's Custom Support Agreement, which now adds an additional year of NT 4.0 custom support, extending it from the original deadline to December 31, 2006.
"We are trying to provide our customers maximum flexibility as they plan and complete their migration \[from NT 4.0 to a newer Windows Server version\]," Peter Houston, senior director of Windows Serviceability, said. "By running the offering until the end of 2006, we are providing enterprise customers a full 10 years of service on Windows NT 4.0 Servers. This mirrors the standard for the '5+5' lifecycle support policy that we announced in May." Microsoft first released NT 4.0 in July 1996; Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server on the server side and Windows XP on the desktop have since superseded the OS.
Microsoft also changed its Custom Support Agreement to give NT 4.0 users custom support that covers fixes to vulnerabilities that are rated as important and critical. Previously, Microsoft planned to fix only critical vulnerabilities. Customers who want to receive support for these fixes can now subscribe to the custom support offering for 3-month periods; previously, they had to subscribe for 6 months.
None of these changes extend support for NT 4.0 beyond Microsoft's 5+5 product lifecycle policy, but they do make NT 4.0 better conform to that policy and give customers easier migration options. Microsoft also said that Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5, which will begin its last year of extended support in 2005, will follow a custom support lifecycle that mirrors that of NT 4.0.