Microsoft to kick-start April with new licensing

Although 1 April is synonymous with pranks and jokes, Microsoft is not playing the fool with its plans to revamp its server software licensing structure.

Designed to reduce the cost of running large, multiprocessor servers for its customers, the new licensing plan will change how the company counts server processors.

In its existing per processor model licensing structure, the company charges for all processors available in a system, even if a customer only uses a few. With the 1 April change, Microsoft will only charge for the number of processors actually used by the software.

The new plan will apply to Microsoft eBusiness server products such as Microsoft’s Application Center 2000, BizTalk Server 2002, Commerce Server 2002, Content Management Server 2002, Host Integration Server 2000, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, and SQL Server 2000.

"Anyone can access these servers without further licensing," said Rob Vogler, enterprise licensing program manager at Microsoft.

While Microsoft said it plans to offer amended "use rights" for enterprises that already have volume licenses for the eight products affected, the company said it will not issue any refunds or credits.

The Windows 2003 Server operating system -- along with Microsoft Exchange Server, Project Server, Sharepoint Portal Server, SQL Server and Systems Management Server – will also undergo changes in April. Unlike the eBusiness server range, they fall under the Client Access Licence (CAL) model.

Under the existing CAL model, users require a licence for the actual server software itself and for every device that accesses that server. For example, if a copy of Windows 2000 had 10 PCs accessing that server, the customer would require 10 CALs for each of those devices (PCs) connected to the server.

Today, with increased mobility of the workforce, together with devices such as notebooks, PDAs and smart phones, customers would end up paying a sizeable amount in licensing fees on a device-based CAL. "That is cost prohibitive for a lot of customers… so we have decided that is not a fair model," Vogler said.

Now, customers can license server software via a new per user access model rather than the existing device access model. This new licensing change comes into effect when Windows 2003 server is released. When newer versions of Exchange and Sharepoint servers, for example, come along, customers will also have the option of a device or user CAL extended to them, Vogler said.

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