Microsoft outlines licensing changes for .NET Server 2003

Microsoft has outlined new licensing changes that will take effect next April with the shipment of its Windows .NET Server 2003 operating system.

At that time, customers will gain a new option of purchasing client-access licenses (CAL) on a per-user basis, according to Bob O'Brien, a group product manager in Microsoft's Windows server division. Under current licensing terms, customers need to buy a CAL for each device that accesses the server.

O'Brien said Microsoft is making changes to give customers the flexibility to choose the option that makes the most sense for them, or to take a mix-and-match approach of both per-user and per-device CALs, if that proves more beneficial.

Pricing has not been announced, but the per-user and per-device options will be priced the same, O'Brien said.

"You can pick a combination of both," warned Alvin Park, an analyst at Gartner Inc., "but you have to keep track of them."

The new per-user option is expected to benefit companies that have employees accessing Windows servers from a number of different devices, such as workstations, laptops and personal digital assistants.

The per-device option, however, would clearly work better for a factory that has numerous workers visiting the same kiosk or a call center that has more than one employee using the same workstation, depending on the shift.

Another licensing change that Microsoft will make in connection with the release of Windows .Net Server 2003 applies to companies that expose a Windows server to the outside world. A new "External Connector" option will replace the existing "Internet Connector" license that customers bought when they ran a Windows-based Web server.

O'Brien said the clarification is being made to account for business-to-business scenarios in which a company might want to give its business partners access to a Windows server via an extranet. The External Connector cannot be used for people who are employees or who "look like" employees, such as contractors or consultants, O'Brien said.

Pricing has yet to be announced. For servers exposed to the outside world, customers will have the option of buying CALs or the External Connector, O'Brien said.

A third licensing change being made with the release of Windows .NET Server 2003 will affect users of Terminal Server functionality.

Microsoft will now require companies to have a Terminal Server CAL for all clients, no matter which Windows client version is being used.

In the past, customers using the most current version of the client operating system were granted access to Windows terminal services on the server operating system, O'Brien said. But if they upgraded to a new server operating system and didn't upgrade their client operatingsystems, they were required to buy terminal services CALs, he said.

"Customers could easily find themselves moving in and out of compliance with the licenses, which has created a great deal of frustration and confusion for those customers," said O'Brien. "This [change] moves us to a more consistent model."

To help with the transition to the new system, Microsoft will give free Terminal Server CALs to companies that have already bought Windows XP Professional; currently have their Windows desktop operating systems under an Enterprise Agreement or the Software Assurance maintenance plan; or complete the purchase of Windows XP Pro before the new Windows .NET Server operating system becomes available in April.

According to Microsoft Australia Windows server product manager Michael Leworthy, the new licensing options will also be available in Australia. Leworthy said he expects local prices will be released closer to RTM (release to manufacture) of Windows .NET Server 2003 in early 2003.

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