I wrote about Energizer looking to outsource more of their infrastructure to Microsoft and this potentially being a source of revenue for Microsoft, and it might not be a bad idea. As I was writing that editorial, however, I had another thought about the implications of using Microsoft, or really anyone else, to host your infrastructure.
Most of us work in mixed environments, and have learned to support a variety of versions and platforms that have been installed for one reason or another over the years. Often we find outselves upgrading servers here and there as we can, usually when we change hardware.
We don't typically upgrade all servers in a weekend, though, spacing them out over time. As a result we often have multiple versions of SQL Server installed on our networks. At JD Edwards, we specifically undertook a project to move to SQL Server 2000 across hundreds of instances. It took months and even at the end we still had a few SQL Server 7 instances that couldn't move for one reason or another. I suspect that today those companies that have adopted SQL Server 2008 early still have 2005 instances and possibly even 2000 instances being used.
Microsoft has a support lifecycle that typically includes the current version of SQL Server and one previous version, so right now in 2008 they support SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2005. SQL Server 2000 still has some extended support options, as does SQL Server 7, but most of us wouldn't expect to get service on those versions.
In a hosted environment, I wouldn't expect Microsoft to be any different. Likely if they had a hosted service, they would be "end-of-lifing" SQL Server 2000 over the next year, forcing customers that used that platform to migrate to a newer one. That only makes sense as it ensures they make good use of their resources, mainly people, and limit the scope of what they have to support. It's not just Microsoft that does this as I'd expect any hosting company to limit how many versions of Oracle, DB2, Linux, or any software they offer.
As a result, I would expect anyone that operates in a hosted environment to be a regular upgrade treadmill to ensure their applications work on the latest version of Windows, SQL Server, and other software. That makes sense for some applications, perhaps Exchange, Office, and other software that's used as-is, but makes less sense for something like SQL Server that is a true platform on which other applications are built.
And not easily upgraded.
Upgrades are a fact of life, but usually at a time and place of your choosing, not when your outsourcer chooses. It makes me think that outsourcing might be a niche technology that we use in places where it makes sense, not necessarily as something we do for our entire infrastructure.
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