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Microsoft Unveils 'Ultimate' Support Service

Microsoft rolled out the highest level of its enterprise support programs to date, adding a new offering called "Microsoft Services Premier Ultimate."

Microsoft today rolled out the highest level of its enterprise support programs to date, adding a new offering called "Microsoft Services Premier Ultimate." The offering builds upon the company's existing Premier services program.

Ultimate has much the same support elements as the Premier program, which is described here (PDF). One difference is that Ultimate provides "pre-agreed proactive services -- with unlimited problem resolution support" for a fixed price, according to a press release issued by Microsoft.

However, the so-called unlimited problem support is not without a hitch. Microsoft's announcement states that it "may be subject to restrictions," without elaborating.

The Ultimate support package contains basic features in Premier, including "proactive IT health assessments" plus account management -- all on a 24-hours, seven-days-a-week basis.

In general, Microsoft's support programs have four components to them, according to Paul DeGroot, senior analyst at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft. One of them pertains to break-fix issues. Another is proactive advisory support, where nothing is necessarily broken but you want it to work better. A third is called account management in which a person is on the case and can escalate the problem. The last component is do-it-yourself assistance, including Web support through TechNet and Microsoft Developer Network.

Premier programs mix these components, depending on customer need, he added.

"In the case of Ultimate, it is trying to shift the customer -- from a situation where they are calling for a lot of break-fix support to the advisory support where they are improving the quality of their IT systems so that they don't break as frequently," DeGroot said.

"There's kind of a deal here," he added. "Microsoft is saying you'll get unlimited break-fix support -- in other words, in Standard Premier there's some form of limit, there's a certain amount of hours or certain number of incidents -- we'll let you buy unlimited amount of support incidents so you don't have to worry about that, but we're going to give you lots of advice on how to stop your stuff from breaking in the first place."

The idea of Ultimate is that it will eventually reduce Microsoft's service calls, especially as things get executed better, he explained. DeGroot said that Ultimate is a program typically aimed at larger companies involved in e-commerce or finance operations, where "they count hours of downtime in millions of dollars per month."

Microsoft essentially conceives of its Ultimate program as a kind of risk assurance program.

"Customers told us they wanted risk reduction, support planning simplification and easy administration in an increasingly complex IT environment,” explained Luca Barone, general manager of support and health offerings for Microsoft Services, in a prepared statement.

Microsoft provided no details on cost or availability of the Ultimate offering. Ultimate contracts and pricing are all "custom designed," according to an article by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley.

Microsoft's vast partner community does not offer Premier or Ultimate services, which are delivered by Microsoft's own engineers.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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