What Happens When .NET 3.1 Retires?
Microsoft, as a tech leader and provider of core development infrastructure like the .NET Framework and .NET Core, has announced that it will stop supporting .NET 3.1 starting in December 2022. With this announcement of .NET 3.1’s end of life (EOL), there are many questions about what it’s going to mean for organizations that have relied on Microsoft’s .NET 3.1 environment for the development of their websites and applications.
While technical staff and developers are likely already familiar with what .NET 3.1’s EOL announcement means, there are many more business leaders who may not realize the impact this could have on their organization. For that reason, here’s a quick primer on what to expect in December 2022:
Will .NET 3.1 Stop Working?
When a .NET framework reaches its EOL date, there may be an assumption that your organization will suddenly be left without a functioning technology stack. However, a framework reaching EOL doesn’t mean that Microsoft is pulling the plug on all software running on .NET 3.1, but that support is ceasing for that version of the .NET framework.
What that means is that you’ll still be able to use your software, but you’ll now be responsible for the upkeep of its security and stability. As frameworks like .NET 3.1 become more widely adopted, Microsoft spends significant resources evaluating the stability and security of the environment. However, once that support ends, your framework remains in stasis, no longer adapting to meet the challenge of staying ahead of cyberattacks unless you mobilize additional resources and effort to adapt them yourself.
What Can I Do Once .NET 3.1 Reaches EOL?
Once .NET 3.1 reaches its EOL date, you’ll essentially be left with two options: upgrade your framework to a supported version or find a partner outside of Microsoft to assist with maintaining it.
Which option you should choose depends entirely on your specific situation, though. Depending on how your environment is developed, it may be difficult to migrate your software and applications onto a new .NET framework, in which case it makes sense to partner with another organization that will allow you to develop workarounds to ensure your environment remains stable and secure.
However, one thing to consider when making this decision is that when a framework reaches its EOL, it usually means that developers begin to sunset those skillsets as they train on newer versions of the software. This could create difficulties for you as time goes on because there will be fewer developers who are trained on the framework you’re operating on.
If I Wanted to Migrate, What Will Be Different?
Many people will be migrating from .NET 3.1 to .NET 6 or 7. Depending on your circumstances, one may be preferable over the other, but the biggest changes will be increased security and performance.
As noted previously, when Microsoft support for .NET 3.1 ends, you’ll be left with a framework that doesn’t have regular patches to vulnerable parts of your system. As a consequence, hackers that have identified those vulnerabilities will be able to exploit them and gain access to your system. Additionally, different core functions of the .NET 3.1 framework will likely cease to operate as expected because they won’t be maintained like they were prior to reaching their EOL. Migrating onto a newer, supported framework will eliminate these issues.
With migrating to a newer .NET framework, you’ll also see some of your capabilities expand over time. When a framework reaches EOL, Microsoft stops adding new functionality to the system which can result in limitations on applications still running on .NET 3.1 that businesses who did choose to migrate won’t experience.
In addition to the differences in support, you may also need to update packages within your system. Software built on the .NET 3.1 framework will likely differ from the components needed for newer .NET environments, so there may need to be some fine tuning if you choose to migrate to ensure everything works smoothly following the transition. This difference could lead to some functionality being disrupted, if the migration isn’t as complete as it needs to be.
With .NET 3.1 losing its support, it’s critical that businesses take stock of how they want to manage it. It may be tempting to ignore it, but the reality is that it will create problems eventually, if not immediately, and coming up with a plan for dealing with those issues will make a huge difference in how smoothly those problems can be resolved.
Everyone’s situation is different, so there’s no clear answer for what course you should take without getting an evaluation by an expert. Hammer Dev has helped many clients transition legacy systems onto newer, supported frameworks, and we recognize it can be a difficult decision, but not an impossible one to make.