SQL Server lifecycle support

Last updated: March 12, 2024
Audience: IT Staff / TechnicalDecision Makers

Windows Managed Server is dependent on Microsoft’s lifecycle support. This document will review Microsoft’s policy and then cover Windows Managed Server’s policy.

Microsoft lifecycle support

SQL Server releases fall into one of two servicing models based on version and the relative lifecycle position of that specific SQL Server version. Microsoft’s modern lifecycle policy has a mainstream support lifecycle of 5 years, 5 additional years of extended support, then eligibility to purchase 3 additional years of Extended Security Updates (ESU). Where a product is in this overall support lifecycle impacts what types of releases are available and the type of support Microsoft provides.

Type of support Mainstream Support Extended Support Extended Security Updates (ESU)
Length of support Initial 5 year period +5 years after mainstream +3 years after extended
Request to change product design and features Available Not available Not available
Security updates Available Available Available via Extended Security Update Program
Non-security updates Available monthly or every 2 months depending on timeline and product Not available Not available
Self-help support Available Available Available
Paid-support Available Available Available

After the mainstream support period has ended, Microsoft will provide support and security updates, but no quality or enhancement updates or other features can be expected. When a server falls beyond Extended Support without Extended Security Updates or beyond ESU it can no longer be kept up to date for security vulnerabilities–at this time it is in violation of UW policies.

More from Microsoft: detailed information on SQL Server end of support options. Supplements to that specifically related to SQL server are the fixed lifecycle policy, What are Extended Security Updates for SQL Server?, SQL2012 lifecycle, SQL 2014, SQL2016, SQL 2017, SQL2019, SQL2022.

Windows Managed Server lifecycle support for SQL Server

UW Administrative Policy Statements (APS) expect system owners & operators to keep all IT systems updated with vendor supplied security patches. So to be in alignment with UW expectations, software which is no longer eligible to receive security updates is considered in violation of UW expectations.

Windows Managed Server provisions servers with the latest SQL Server version to maximize the time the server will be supported. In-place SQL version upgrades are not supported; SQL version upgrades require requesting a new server. UW-IT must purchase an ESU support plan for any servers not retired at the end of extended support in order to continue operating them. UW-IT may also need to purchase additional support packages to maintain other security applications, for example for antivirus support. Any additional costs incurred due to running a server in extended support are passed along to customers.

Microsoft SQL Server licensing is available to employees and students on computers owned by the UW, via a Microsoft campus agreement through May 30, 2026. Beyond that date, the UW expects the costs to increase significantly beyond the ability for this product to be centrally funded. Customers using Microsoft SQL Server will likely have to pay for their use at that point. Customers are strongly encouraged to explore migrations to Azure SQL managed instance before that time. Windows Managed Server may have to recharge customers for SQL Server licensing in the future, but that doesn’t affect our lifecycle support.

The Windows Managed Server service uses five categories[1] to define our support for a given version of SQL Server:

  • Emerging: Newest release which we are preparing to support; we aren’t ready to support this version yet and services/support may be subject to consulting rates.
  • Baseline: Fully supported and preferred for new server builds.
  • Containment: Fully supported for existing servers. Customers should begin making plans to retire and replace with a server in Baseline.
  • Retirement: Scheduled for end-of-life. Customers are actively executing a plan to retire and replace with a server in Baseline. Windows Managed Server will purchase ESUs for any server which requires it, but the cost will be passed along to the customer.
  • Unsupported: Not supported by Windows Managed Server. Servers in this category are shut down.

When a new SQL Server version is released, it will be initially supported as Emerging.  Once the Windows Managed Server team has completed its evaluation and is ready to support the new SQL Server version, we will move the new version to Baseline.  This process generally takes between 3 and 6 months.

Versions in Baseline are moved into Containment when the version reaches the end of Microsoft mainstream support or when there are no servers with that version.

Versions in Containment are moved into Retirement 1 year prior to the end of Microsoft extended support. Windows Managed Server will contact relevant customers when a SQL Server version is shifting from Containment to Retirement and begin the process of identifying and supporting the customer’s plan.

Versions in Retirement are moved into Unsupported when the ESU support period has ended. Windows Managed Server has open requests for each customer with servers in Retirement to facilitate the process of migration, replacement, or shut down.

As of February 2023, SQL Server versions generally have a total WMS support lifetime of 13 years after release, from Emerging until Unsupported.  As Microsoft updates or adjust this lifetime, we will adjust our lifecycle policy as necessary.

Servers running a SQL Server version in Unsupported will be turned off. The customer should have already been in active discussions with Windows Managed Server about its options for 4 years by that point in time.


  Emerging Baseline Containment Retirement Unsupported
Period in category < 6 months 4 1/2 years 4 years 4 years Indefinitely

As of March 2024

Emerging Baseline Containment Retirement Unsupported
  SQL Server 2022 (Containment: 1/11/2028, Retirement: 1/11/2032, Unsupported: 1/11/2036) SQL Server 2016 (Retirement: 7/14/2025, Unsupported: 7/14/2028) SQL Server 2012 (Unsupported: 7/12/2025) SQL Server 2017 (This version has never been  supported)
  SQL Server 2019 (Containment: 2/28/2025, Retirement: 1/8/2029, Unsupported: 1/8/2033) SQL Server 2014 (Unsupported: 7/9/2027) SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 R2
      SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 7, SQL Server 6.5, SQL Server 6
        Any SQL Server version installed on any Windows device running a Windows client OS (Windows 10/11)


  • The cost of the first year of ESU for SQL Server 2012 has been absorbed by UW-IT and customers won’t be billed for it. This exception reflects the flexibility required to implement this policy without unduly impacting customers with insufficient time to address the consequences. The second and third year of ESU support will be recharged to any customer choosing to continue utilizing this product beyond the published end of life.

A SQL Server version’s place in the lifecycle support matrix determines what support is available from the Windows Managed Server Service, as detailed in the table below.

  Emerging Baseline Containment Retirement
SQL installation 1 +    
SQL troubleshooting 1 + + 3
SQL patching 2 + + +
Patch troubleshooting support 1 + + 3
High risk SQL security vulnerability mitigation 1 + + 2
Backups 2 + + 2
Access management 2 + + +
SQL job monitoring 2 + + 2
Anti-Virus software management 2 + + 2
Firewall management 2 + + 2
Incident support level can be 24×7 2 + +  

+ – Fully supported

1 – May be purchased at hourly consulting rates.

2 – Available “as-is” provided it works with our standard toolset.  Troubleshooting or other support may be available at consulting rates.

3 – We will build a new server with a Baseline SQL version. If a rebuild can’t be done for some reason, support is available at consulting rates.

[1] The UW Enterprise Architecture (EA) program promotes using specific terms to communicate technology lifecycle states, and we use their terminology in describing our support practices and lifecycle process.