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Azure Arc ESUs for Windows Server 2012 Now Generally Available

Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, as managed using Azure Arc, have reached the commercial-release stage, Microsoft announced this week.

Organizations still using those servers may be scrambling, as both will lose support on Oct. 10, 2023. End of support means that Microsoft no longer delivers updates to those products, including security patches.

A preview of the Azure Arc option for ESUs was described back in July during the Microsoft Inspire event for partners. Azure Arc is Microsoft's multicloud management service. With this announcement, Azure Arc-managed ESUs are deemed ready for use in production environments.

In general, ESUs are a costly option for organizations having difficulty in migrating Windows Server 2012 workloads before the end of support. There is a so-called "free" option, though. If organizations can accept using an Azure virtual machine to run those server workloads, then they'll only get charged for the Azure operations costs, and the ESUs get offered at no extra cost for up to three years.

ESUs only consist of "Critical" updates. Microsoft licenses ESUs on an annual basis, for a maximum of three years total. One big change in the ESU program, explained back in July, is that Microsoft no longer increases the price of ESUs each year. It's now priced the same each year.

Azure Arc for ESU Perks
The main perk for organizations opting for ESUs managed using Azure Arc is that it permits a monthly pay-as-you go option, vs. paying for a full year of ESUs. It offers greater flexibility for organizations, although the ESU program isn't very flexible. For instance, organizations can't start buying ESUs at Year 3 without also paying for Years 1 and 2. If they use Azure Arc to manage ESUs, though, organizations can at least stop paying monthly fees when they are ready to migrate their server workloads.

Azure Arc for ESUs also dispenses with Microsoft's somewhat complex annual Multiple Activation Key (MAK) deployment approach, requiring reenrollment for those organizations that just license ESUs each year. Azure Arc for ESUs instead offers "point and click enrollment." Also, organizations can "mix and match Standard and Datacenter licensing, and virtual core and physical core models," if they use Azure Arc for ESUs.

Microsoft also indicated that Azure Arc for ESUs users get "free access to Azure Update Manager, Azure Machine Configuration, and Azure Change Tracking and Inventory (AMA based)." They can also use "whatever first or third-party patching solution they prefer to receive the actual Windows Server 2012 ESU OS patches," the announcement explained.

Microsoft also touts Azure Arc for ESUs as being "an Azure billed service," which possibly lets organizations apply for "Azure Consumption Discounting."

ESU Licensing Requirements
There are licensing requirements to use ESUs.

In general, organizations will need to have licensed the servers under an Enterprise Agreement (EA) with Software Assurance (an annuity cost) to be eligible to use ESUs. However, here's Microsoft's nuanced (and perhaps confusing) description regarding those ESU licensing requirements, per an FAQ document:

Extended Security Updates can only be purchased under EA, EAS or SCE. Extended Security Updates can't be purchased under Open, Select or MPSA, however it can be applied to servers licensed with active SA or subscription under these programs. Product licenses and Software Assurance do not need to reside on the same enrollment. However, customers cannot purchase Extended Security Updates outside of the EA, EAS, SCE, EES, or Subscription licensing programs.

Azure Arc ESU Costs
Organizations will have to pay the full license price of Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 each year to use Azure Arc-managed ESUs. SQL Server 2012 ESU users get charged 75 percent of the license cost in Year 1, though, per Microsoft's FAQ.

Microsoft shows the pricing, based on cores, ranging from $437 per month (Datacenter edition, 16 cores) to $9.47 per month (Standard, two cores) at this pricing page.

The pay-as-you-go model that applies when using Azure Arc to deploy ESUs apparently will let organizations stop paying such monthly costs when they've accomplished their server migrations. It's just an Azure Arc perk, it seems.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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