Whitehall technology chiefs vetoed a new deal with Microsoft to maintain Windows XP support across the UK government in a final attempt to force laggards to move off the obsolete operating system (OS), Computer Weekly has learned.
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The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) had negotiated a contract with Microsoft to replace the one-year deal signed in April 2014 to provide extended support for Windows XP, the popular OS launched in 2001, which passed the end of its normal product support lifecycle in 2014.
The new CCS deal involved bundling together support for XP and Windows Server 2003, which reaches its end of life on 14 July 2015. However, according to our sources, the proposed deal was put together without involvement from the Technology Leaders Network, the forum for government CTOs that governs Whitehall technology policy.
When the previous XP support arrangement was signed last year, the intention was to give 12 months “breathing space” for government users to move off XP. When the CTOs learned of the new CCS negotiations, they vetoed the extended XP support deal in an attempt to force laggards to finally move – although departments are free to negotiate their own support arrangements if they choose.
The Cabinet Office told Computer Weekly that “good progress” has been made in finally moving off Windows XP, but was not able to estimate the number of PCs still running XP.
However, according to our sources, at least £2m or so of the proposed support deal for Windows XP and Server 2003 was apparently attributed to XP. The April 2014 support contract was worth £5.5m, suggesting that at much as one-third of the government Windows XP user base at that time has yet to move to a newer version.
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“We’re transforming government IT to ensure that civil servants have the technology they need to deliver world-class public services,” said a Cabinet Office spokesman. “There’s been good progress in moving public bodies away from Windows XP and for many this transition is complete. Guidance has been provided to help those organisations currently transitioning.”
Sarah Hurrell, commercial director for technology at CCS, told Computer Weekly when the April 2014 contract was signed that a condition for any public sector body wishing to take advantage of the extended support was to have a “robust plan” in place to move off Windows XP within a year.
“No one wants to be on an end-of-life infrastructure. We will make sure people have plans that stand up to scrutiny,” she said at the time.
When a Microsoft product reaches its end of support, the supplier no longer issues bug fixes or security updates, meaning users are not protected in the event of new flaws being discovered in the software. The 12-month extended support deal signed by the government in April 2014 was worth £5.548m, and covered provision of critical and important security updates for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003.