Today we're announcing two new policies to clarify CloudReady's support for certified models as they age. You can read about the details of each individual policy via the links below, and read further in this post to get a better understanding of how and why we developed these new policies.
32bit CloudReady images will no longer be offered or supported starting in August of 2019.
As of today, certified models now show a date when their official CloudReady support will end, with the nearest date being August of 2020. Going forward, certified models will generally have a support lifetime of 13 years from their OEM release date.
Reasons for These Changes
As a company, we believe in keeping good hardware running for longer, and for that reason retiring features or ending support for devices is always difficult. However, we have learned from our customers that reliability and predictability are just as crucial to a strong IT strategy as longevity and savings. So as we work with our customers, we are hearing more and more about how CloudReady can be a stabilizing factor in the their 2, 3, or even 5-year technology plans. In addition to shipping a reliable operating system, it's become clear to us that we also owe it to customers to provide the tools and information to anticipate the inevitable retirement of hardware, making it part of their plan, instead of a potentially disruptive surprise.
There is inherent conflict in CloudReady's mix of modern user experience, elite security, and deep legacy hardware support. Regardless of how deftly these tensions are navigated, technology's inexorable progress will eventually generate problems if you combine the newest features on the oldest hardware. We intend CloudReady's new hardware support policies, more than anything else, as a reflection of that technical reality and a blueprint for how we intend to continue handling it alongside you, our customers and users.
Hardware-specific bugs are unpredictable. Until the day they first appear, devices may perform perfectly, creating a dangerous balancing act between keeping your oldest devices usefully-deployed and avoiding the nasty surprises that can derail your IT plans. These new policies put Neverware's expertise to work on that problem for you, offering retirement timelines for your aging CloudReady devices that minimize risk without wasting good years.
Background for Policy 1: 32bit Builds
In the case of 32bit CloudReady, we see a short-term concern and want to act quickly to minimize the risk for CloudReady devices. Google doesn’t offer any 32bit Chromebooks, and has ceased support for the Chrome browser on 32bit Linux as well. With Google, and many other key Linux contributors, dropping the architecture, many tools and open-source components are falling into disrepair, making 32bit-only support increasingly challenging and bug-prone. As we incorporate support for better security and more Chrome OS features, we are setting an ambitious timeline of August 2019 for migrating all customers off of 32bit builds so they can benefit from all of CloudReady’s ongoing improvements.
Background for Policy 2: Models Older than 13 Years
For other aging hardware on CloudReady's certified list, we've identified a timeline that applies to every certified device. Under this policy, you can confidently keep devices deployed for 13 years from their original OEM release date. When that time is up, these devices will become just like other non-certified models, receiving the same regular updates, but with no guarantee of support.
When we first started selling CloudReady, no one we spoke to had active devices that were this old. At the time, we found that devices from the 2004-2005 era or earlier were impossible to use with CloudReady due to changes in support for a CPU feature called PAE. Since PAE was deeply ingrained in Chromium OS’s security model, we learned that this would represent a fundamental limit for supported devices.
While no two issues are exactly alike, we think this background on PAE is a good demonstration of the types of generational changes that, over time, will inevitably crop up and force older hardware to be retired. With all the info and experience available to us today, 13 years feels like a timeline that will comfortably avoid unexpected problems, but still keep devices deployed for many years beyond what was possible before CloudReady.