Technology moves so fast that many products, computer products especially, become outdated fairly quickly. This happens in the software business for a number of reasons, including rapidly evolving market demands, cutting edge product enhancements, and the introduction of all new technology that is simply better than the mature applications it’s designed to replace. Vendors in the industry refer to this phase as the end of life cycle.
Problems with Outdated Software
The best example I can give on this whole end of life deal is Windows XP. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially stop supporting the operating system so many consumers and professionals still use on a regular basis. Those who continue to use the system after it is no longer supported are exposing themselves to a broad range of risks.
At the end of an application’s life cycle, the user can no longer rely on updates, patches or even the technical support agents that help them address issues with the product. The biggest vulnerability introduced at this stage comes from the increased security risk. When the vendor isn’t rolling out updates and fixes to known vulnerabilities, hackers will eventually come up with solutions that are effective against the very same defenses that twarted their efforts in the past.
The lack of support could also cause problems in the compatibility department. For instance, now that support for XP will be pulled in less than a year, most software vendors are not even wasting their time developing new applications that run on the platform, despite the fact that several people still use it. It’s pretty much the same with hardware as well. In due time, those people who refuse to let go will find it very difficult to find any new applications or devices that run on their out of date system.
Fortunately, if a vendor is going to be ending support for a product, they typically let customers know well in advance, which gives users enough time to plan their next move. For most, those plans involve migrating to an upgraded version of the product. Many vendors provide tools, tips, and various other resources aimed to make migration as seamless as possible. However, some users are determined to get the most from their applications well after the so-called end of life phase.
Prestige in Legacy Platforms
Several organizations still have good use for legacy programs. A database server, for example, can prove valuable long past its expiration date, especially if it’s tweaked at the source code to support new programming languages and development tools. Some vendors even design products to accommodate legacy platforms, making it possible for newer applications to accommodate old software with relative ease.
Virtualization is one of the most common ways to support legacy applications and happens to come with a host of benefits. By making it possible to install one operating system within another, this technology allows you to run that legacy platform, say Windows XP, right alongside Vista, Windows 8 or other modern systems all on the same hardware. In this instance, you have the opportunity to get the maximum utilization out of your hardware and save big on maintenance costs.
Out of date software can cause severe headaches for vendors and users alike. Vendors have to deal with issues such as knowing when it’s time to pull the plug on a successful product and how they should support customers who continue to use it. Users have to deal with potentially high upgrade costs as well as whether they should migrate if the current implementation is working. Those who live by the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” have to figure out a way to contiually support the product without comprimising security, performance and overall efficiency.
Both vendors and users need to plan for software as it nears its end of life phase. Without proper execution from both sides, the management process will result in some serious pains for all parties involved.