Microsoft Virtualization Policy Intrigues Users

Attendees at the SoftSummit 2005 conference think Microsoft's virtual machine licensing policy is a good initiative, but they looked closely to see where the strings might be attached.

SANTA CLARA, CALIF.—Microsoft Corp. customers reacted with surprise and even some disbelief Monday at the software giants announcement that it was simplifying its software licensing terms for virtual machine environments.

Under these terms that go into effect on Dec. 1, customers will only pay license fees for the time they actually start running a new installation of its Windows Server System rather than when it is installed.

Bob Kelly, Microsofts general manager of infrastructure server marketing, introduced the new licensing terms at the SoftSummit conference on software pricing, licensing and management here Monday.

Microsoft customers who attended the briefing Monday questioned Kelly on why the company would implement a licensing policy that would have the potential of sharply cutting its server licensing revenue.

The goal, Kelly said, is to address concerns that customers have about the amount of money they are spending on IT system maintenance fees, which sharply limits cash available to spend on new systems.

Another goal, he said, is to jumpstart the discussion in the software industry about how to license software as more corporate IT departments start implementing virtualization technology in their data centers.

/zimages/4/28571.gifMicrosoft simplifies Windows server licensing. Click here to read more.

In such an environment IT managers can run multiple virtual server processes on a single physical machine to allow them to respond faster and more economically to demands for data processing capacity.

Microsoft is taking the position that if it reduces the cost of the server license fees, customers will be able to spend more on Microsoft application software and more new server systems, Kelly said.

The licensing system for virtualized system comes nearly a year after Microsoft announced its policy that it will continue to license software per process rather than per core for the dual-core servers that were starting to arrive on the market in late 2004.

That prompted other software companies to re-evaluate there licensing policies, Kelly said, and Microsofts policy for virtualized systems "is going to have a similar effect. It is going to accelerate" the review of licensing models in other software companies, he said.

"Were confident this is the right thing for the industry and the right thing" for Microsofts business model, he said, since it comes after a lot of study and discussions with customers. "The CFO is happy with our forecasts," Kelly added.

Under the new policy, customers will be able to run up to four virtual instances of Windows 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition and Windows Server "Longhorn" Datacenter Edition on one physical server at no additional charge.

Customers will no longer have to license every inactive instance of the server software that is installed on the physical server, under the policy.

"Microsoft is taking a real leadership position in the software licensing arena" with this policy, said Margaret Lewis, enterprise software strategist with Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Next Page: Kickstarting the discussion.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...