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New Software Assurance Plan Is Filled with Partner Goodies

Partners to get new opportunities in delivering deployment services and training.

Partners will have plenty to cheer about this month when Microsoft unveils new benefits for the Software Assurance (SA) component of its volume licensing program.

According to a source familiar with Microsoft's plans, partners can expect a boost in service calls for deployment planning, and Microsoft Certified Trainers can look forward to a flood of customers cashing in training vouchers. Those benefits plus a raft of support enhancements and exclusive software will give partners who sell software licenses more to talk about in their SA sales pitches.

The update for the program comes as part of Microsoft's continuing effort to deliver additional benefits to SA customers. Many customers complain that they don't get real value from their three-year SA contracts if no new software versions are delivered during the contract period. When Windows Vista arrives in the second half of 2006, for example, it will come five years after Windows XP first shipped.

Microsoft declined to comment on the list of benefits prior to their unveiling in a series of four webcasts starting at midnight Sept. 15.

According to the source, who asked not to be identified, specific additions to SA will include:

  • Desktop Deployment Planning Services: Designed to assist in planning deployment of desktop software such as Windows and Microsoft Office, the planning services will be delivered by Microsoft Certified Partners and measured in engagement days. The number of days will depend on how much a customers spends on desktop SA over three years. Customers spending $60,000 will get one day, $300,000 will buy three days, $600,000 is good for five days, and $1.25 million will buy 10 days. Customers will be able to trade training vouchers for additional deployment planning service days. The benefit is scheduled for 2006. A smaller-scale version for Microsoft Open Value customers, called Information Worker Desktop Services, is also planned.
  • Extended Training: Starting in February, customers with 30,000 or more licensed desktops will receive larger numbers of training vouchers redeemable for sessions with Microsoft Certified Training Partners. Those can be used for certain courses or traded in for additional desktop deployment planning assistance.
  • Enhanced Support: Customers will now get one free base support incident per SA agreement, as well as incremental incidents for every $20,000 spent on servers and Client Access Licenses (CALs) and $200,000 spent on Information Worker and Client software. The 24x7 Web-based incident support currently available to SA customers for standard editions of servers will be extended to enterprise editions and desktop products. Customers with Premier Support contracts will also be able to convert incidents earned through SA into Premier Support incidents. The benefits, planned to be available in February, are apparently intended to cover 40 percent to 100 percent of a customer's regular Microsoft support costs.
  • Virtual PC Express for SA: A previously unannounced version of Microsoft Virtual PC will become part of the SA package next year. Intended to reduce compatibility issues with legacy applications when users migrate to the next platform, customers will get one instance of Virtual PC Express with each Windows client SA license. The product will allow users to run two Windows client operating systems at the same time.

While Sunny Jensen Charlebois, product manager for Worldwide Licensing and Pricing at Microsoft, declined to confirm the details, she said, "Microsoft is continuing to enhance the value of Software Assurance to ensure it meets the needs of our customers throughout each phase of the software lifecycle." Charlebois encouraged customers and partners to sign up for Microsoft's "Next Generation of Software Assurance" webcasts for the official story (www.microsoft.com/licensing).

Impressed by the new program is Keith Ackerman, director of marketing and CIO at Software ONE, a New Berlin, Wis.-based large account reseller. While Ackerman's firm has been briefed on some details of the program by Microsoft, he declined to comment on the list of benefits assembled for this article or to provide any other specifics about them.

"We're very, very positive about what we're seeing from Microsoft in terms of [SA]. We thought it was a good idea two years back when they enhanced SA.

We think [it's] taking more of the right steps," Ackerman said. "In general, Microsoft partners have had a hard time understanding licensing, how it impacts what they do as a partner and how it impacts their bottom line. I think this is going to open their eyes."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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