Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Microsoft has officially ended mainstream support for SQL Server 2016. With this version of SQL Server support ending, many are wondering what the next step will be. Some have made a switch to SQL Server 2019. However, next down the line is the same situation and the inevitable question, “When will support for SQL 2016 and 2019 end?” To find this solution, we must first understand Mainstream Support and the optional Extended Support that follows. After that, we can learn about potential solutions to help continue the lifespan of both SQL 2016 and 2019. In a nutshell, the end of mainstream support is when there are no more free fixes and updates. This means that it's time to prepare an upgrade path or plan your migration to a supported SQL version. Microsoft will only provide security and critical bug fixes until the summer of 2021, when extended support begins. However, there is another option that can provide continued support for both versions.
What is Mainstream Support?
Mainstream Support is the first phase of the product lifecycle. This phase provides customers with free fixes and security updates for a set period of time. During Mainstream Support, Microsoft also provides hot-fixes for non-security issues, but these hot-fixes are not supported by Microsoft. After this phase ends, Extended Support begins. What this means is that you will no longer receive free fixes or security updates from Microsoft unless you have an active Software Assurance contract in place that includes coverage under an Enterprise Agreement or Team Subscription Agreement with Software Assurance coverage.
Updates and Hot-fixes
Microsoft provides mainstream support for each SQL Server product for a period of five years from the date of general availability (GA). This means that during this time, Microsoft provides free patches and fixes for any issues that are discovered in the product. When this initial period ends, SQL Server enters its extended support phase, where it continues to receive security updates and non-security hotfixes for an additional five years.
The end of mainstream support date was July 13th, 2021 (5 years after GA) and the end of extended support will be July 14th, 2026 (10 years after GA). As you can see below, there is a substantial difference between these two phases because they have different purposes:
Mainstream Support - Provides high-quality software updates to all customers who have purchased SQL Server
Extended Support - Provides critical patching and fixes only to those customers who have opted into this level of service
Moving to Extended Support
You can purchase Extended Support now and continue to receive patches until July 24th, 2026. After that date, you'll need to find another option to continue using SQL Server 2016. Microsoft will publish a list of security issues fixed in each update on their website as soon as they are available.
The Cost of Extended Security
Updates In general, SQL Server 2016 Security Updates were available as a free physical software upgrade to users of SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition, Web Edition, and Express. The cost of Extended Security Updates is approximately 75% of the on-premises license cost annually.
One way to avoid paying for security updates is by upgrading to a newer version of SQL Server. Upgrading from an older version will not incur any additional fees if you qualify for an upgrade path that does not require purchasing new licenses or purchasing any additional product keys.
SQL Server 2019 Support
It is highly recommended to always stay up to date with the most recent version of SQL Server. For example, if you have a SQL Server 2016, many will choose to upgrade it to SQL Server 2019 as soon as possible. SQL Server 2019 will remain in mainstream support until January 14th, 2025. After that, users of this version will only have 5 years before it is no longer available.
If you want to take full advantage of security updates and bug fixes offered by Microsoft during those phases, consider upgrading your SQL Server instances to an updated version as soon as possible.
Bennyhoff Products and Services
There is another option that could help continue the supported life of your 2016 SQL Server or 2019 version when the time comes around. That option is to utilize a third party who can support not only SQL Server 2016, but all SQL Servers from the year 2000 and up. That third party is Mike Bennyhoff with Bennyhoff Products and Solutions. Mike can help you find the right path to continue using SQL Server 2016 and/or other versions of SQL Server. He has been working with SQL Servers for over 20 years. Bennyhoff Products and Services focuses on creating business solutions and blending IT to find what will work best for you. Contact Bennyhoff Products and Services for SQL Server assessments and audits, SQL Server upgrades, or moving to Azure or cloud-based operations.