When (If Ever) Is SA Right?

Call for Comments: Redmond wants to know what value you place on Software Assurance.

In 2001, Microsoft announced Licensing 5.0, which included Software Assurance, a three-year upgrade program that the ongoing customer howls indicates is controversial to this day.

Many felt pressured to move to SA, despite Redmond remonstrations to the contrary. In fact, a substantial number of customers report that Microsoft threatened overtly or implied that failure to sign up for SA could result in an audit, one of IT’s deepest fears.

Here’s how SA works: Every year customers pay 25 percent of the full retail cost of the software for servers, and 29 percent for desktops. So you buy the software, then pay a hefty sum every year for the right to upgrade. Research firm Forrester says the average maintenance fee is 21 percent, quite a bit less than Microsoft.

But what if there is no compelling upgrade—or, even more likely—no compelling reason to upgrade? Then you’ve paid all that money just for the extras, not for the upgrade.

But whether you like it or not, Software Assurance is here to say and you need to decide whether to sign up. A lot has been written about SA—Redmond Magazine is here to cut through the fluff and help you decide when or if SA is right.

What do you think? Please contact Redmond Editor in Chief Doug Barney at with thoughts on when SA does, and does not make sense; your comments may appear in an upcoming issue of Redmond.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jan 6, 2005 Scott Tacoma, Wa

Guess I missed the big point. (not enough coffee yet or ice?) :-) From what I have read and heard etc the SA isnt "simply or only" an upgrade program as you reference. Its a "maintenance program" 'cause not only is there upgrade segments within SA it is also inclusive of support, training, and I believe MS tools. Additionally it can be a two year program "if" purchased with Open Licensing, a one year program if you are an educational customer with a Campus Agreement or as you stated a three year program (key here is it isnt a blanket 3 year program) As far as the "version" of the program, it's not Licensing 5.0, it started with the Licensing 6.0 I have anough challenges keeping versions and revs straight in my mind as it is! (Yeah I know, last point was a minor one, but I need more coffee! (got some?))

I am with you on the discussion of the program, thats good for the community at large, but I think it might be best if we can first discuss the program from a factual common point first.
Scott in Tacoma

Thu, Jan 6, 2005 Scott Braden USA

5 Things to consider:
1 - How does your tech roadmap look vs. Microsoft's release "schedule"? Is Microsoft planning to upgrade an app that you will in turn want to upgrade during your SA coverage?
2 - Your relationship with Microsoft - there are "unwritten benefits" to having a lot of SA coverage; things like better responsiveness from Microsoft's local office on tech issues, briefings etc. Do you need to have a really good relationship with Microsoft?
3 - Your ability to track and manage license compliance. If you don't have a solid asset system, upgrades and versions are a headache. SA makes it slightly simpler.
4 - The written SA benefits such as cold server support, training. What price would you pay if buying separately? Are they available from other sources as a better deal?

Scott Braden

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