Microsoft Corp. is simplifying the licensing for Windows Server System products that are used in virtual machine environments as it continues to try to drive customers toward self-managing dynamic systems.
The Redmond, Wash., software giant will announce on Monday that it has decided to shift away from charging Windows Server System users licensing fees at installation and is instead moving to a model where users pay at the time of consumption. This change will be reflected in its volume licensing program effective Dec. 1.
Microsoft sees this licensing simplification and the addition of new user rights as critical to driving forward its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), its vision and technology road map for reducing the cost of managing and securing enterprise systems.
“This is an end-to-end strategy and not a point strategy. Microsoft believes that customers are looking for ways to adopt virtualization on the route to dynamic systems, and so our strategy is the Dynamic Systems Initiative, with dynamic systems the end game. And the way customers get there is very important,” Bob Kelly, general manager of infrastructure server marketing at Microsoft, told eWEEK.
“Today, if a customer has seven physical servers and a thousand images on a SAN, they would pay for 1,007 Windows licenses at install,” he said. “With the new rights and model, the customer would just pay for seven licenses, and the thousand images sitting on the SAN would only require a license when they started running.”
This means that customers will no longer have to license every inactive or stored instance of a Windows Server System product and can now create and store unlimited numbers of instances, including those for backup and recovery, and pay only for the maximum number of running instances at any given time, Kelly said.
Users will also now be able to move active instances from one licensed server box to another without limitation, as long as the physical server is licensed for the Windows Server System product.
Microsoft has its own Virtual Server product in the market and recently decided to christen Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 as Virtual Server 2005 R2. The renamed product is still due to ship in the fourth quarter of this year. But the follow-on release isnt due out until the latter half of 2006.
Licenses for the upcoming Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, expected to ship later this year, will allow customers to run as many as four virtual instances on one physical server at no additional cost, extending the savings customers can realize through server consolidation on the Windows Server platform.
The licensing changes will be offered through Microsofts volume licensing plans, starting Dec. 1, while updated retail and OEM licensing will be available with new product versions, also effective Dec. 1.
In addition, when Microsoft ships the Datacenter Edition of Windows “Longhorn” server, expected in 2007, the license will give users the right to run an unlimited number of virtual instances on one physical server. Customers currently have to pay for these virtual machines as they are charged per install.
One of the challenges around virtualization has been how to adopt it in a way that is easily consumable for customers, Kelly said, adding that licensing alone is not enough. Microsoft firmly believes that an end-to-end management strategy is critical as customers adopt virtualization techniques.
“You need management techniques that think through the physical and the virtual, and that is where we are investing,” he said.
“What this means is that Windows becomes the platform for virtualization. Customers will consolidate existing systems to Windows using virtual technology. This is very compelling to our customer base,” Kelly said.
These changes have a “profound impact” on not only the platform aspects of Windows but also how that extends up the rest of the stack for the Windows Server System family. “This is a significant give; this is innovation in licensing and allows customers to accelerate their adoption of technical innovation,” he said.
Data over the past five years has indicated that customers tend to spend some 70 percent of their IT budget maintaining existing systems and just 30 percent on developing new capabilities for their business. “Our job is to shift that model and get it to better than 50-50 so customers can innovate more of their own value proposition to their market by driving out costs from the way they manage and maintain their systems,” Kelly said.
Another critical component of the Dynamic Systems Initiative is ISV support for the Virtual Hard Disk Format (VHD), which Microsoft has licensed to the broad community, royalty-free.
The software giant is also announcing this week that a number of ISVs—including Acronis Inc., Akimbi Systems, BMC Software Inc., Consonica, Emulex Corp., Leostream Corp., QLogic Corp., Quest Software Inc., Surgient and XenSource Inc.—have all announced plans to build solutions that integrate with Virtual Server 2005 R2 or support the VHD format.
Microprocessor and hardware manufacturers including Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Dell Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd., IBM, Intel Corp., NEC Corp. and Unisys have also committed to developing joint solutions that will help customers successfully implement virtualization solutions and achieve dynamic systems.
“It is extremely important to have one consistent way to do these things, and, at the end of the day, having an open, standardized format for how you do a virtual machine will allow us and customers to have a consistent way to manage both physical and virtual machines, and that is fundamental to how you drive out costs and a key piece of our strategy,” Kelly said.
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