Visual FoxPro end of life and what it means for you

What does ‘end of life’ mean?

When any software is developed it has an expected lifetime. For commercial organisations like Microsoft, they are continually releasing new software to take advantage of the improvements in new hardware to make our lives easier. They cannot support every version of their software indefinitely. Microsoft commit to supporting a particular version for a certain period of time. During this window they will provide bug fixes, provide upgrades and otherwise generally support their product. Microsoft chose to stop developing Visual FoxPro to concentrate their resources on other products in their line. Visual FoxPro 9 (VFP9) was the last release and the extended support period ended in 2015. This means that Microsoft are under no obligation to provide bug fixes to the language. Nor do they need to ensure that Visual FoxPro applications continue running.

This doesn’t mean that your application is going to stop running overnight. It does mean that you need to start planning for your business and the future of your FoxPro application.

Visual FoxPro is built on 32-bit architecture. New hardware and software bought today are all using 64-bit architecture. At the time of writing the latest release of Windows is Windows 10. Whilst it is a 64-bit operating system it has a 32 bit compatibility layer which old applications use to run. Visual FoxPro applications compiled using version 9 are known to generally work. This means you can extend the useful, working life of your software by compiling and updating your application to use VFP9.

 In theory, this means you could continue to run your application until 2020 to 2025. Microsoft ends mainstream support for Windows 10 in 2020 and its extended programme in 2025.

What are the risks?

All is not roses. It is possible that a security update for Windows could cause your FoxPro application to break. In this scenario, to continue running your program you may have to open yourself up to other issues.
 
Whilst your FoxPro application may continue to run there are other factors to consider. If you need to change your application to meet the changing needs of your business it will become more expensive to maintain and support. The availability of skilled FoxPro developers is declining.
 
To maintain industry certification compliance you may have to migrate your application. If not, you might be able to risk running on unsupported hardware and operating systems. This is likely to hamstring your business in other ways though.

What does this mean for me?

Everyone’s situation is different so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are a variety of options available to you. Depending on your needs, timeline and budget constraints there are pros and cons to each.
 
There are three primary pathways to consider. Within each there are several possibilities open to you according to your situation.
  • Do nothing and stay with your existing FoxPro program.
  • Migrate to an off-the-shelf solution which meets some percentage of your needs.
  • Convert or otherwise update your custom program to a new language or platform. There are many pros and cons which will vary according to your business needs and growth plans.
Need help considering your options and coming up with a plan to meet your needs? We have been helping our clients with these issues for the last few years and have developed a service called FoxTrails to help. Fill in the form below and we’ll send you some more sensible advice on the subject.