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4-Processor Licensing Offered for Datacenter

Microsoft recently changed the licensing terms for its Windows 2000 Datacenter Server to create a situation where customers could buy the high-end operating system on servers with only four processors at a lower price.

Previously, the smallest licensing package available to the computer manufacturers who then sell Datacenter to customers, was an eight-processor pack. Microsoft also offered 16-processor and 32-processor license packs for Datacenter Server.

Datacenter is only sold as part of complete server systems that include hardware and the operating system so that the computer manufacturer can maintain tight control over drivers and other components that might cause a system to fail. The method also ensures that customers have one support number at the computer manufacturer to call in case of a problem, whether it involves the hardware or the operating system. The eight-processor packs are used by Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and others for Datacenter systems. Unisys uses the 16-processor and 32-processor license packs for its ES7000 server.

Partly to ensure the scalability of Datacenter systems, Microsoft required that computer makers only offer eight-processor-capable or larger machines under the Windows Datacenter Program.

It was always possible for an OEM to sell an eight-processor capable system with fewer than eight processors, but the operating system license from Microsoft was a fixed cost at least at an eight-processor level.

"In response to customer demand and to more readily map to hardware offerings, we modified the Datacenter Server license," Microsoft said in a statement. "The smallest instance requires an eight-way capable box running the four-processor license. The OEMs do not currently offer this four-processor configuration."

Should computer manufacturers begin to offer systems using the new four-processor packs, it could reduce somewhat the sticker shock of Datacenter systems for customers that don't have large scalability requirements but are looking to take advantage of the high-availability and reliability features of Datacenter.

Microsoft technical product manager for Datacenter William Lyon says the option also may appeal to customers who have an application that they expect will grow over time, but that they might have otherwise put on a Windows 2000 Advanced Server system.

"It's easier to start on Datacenter and expand that because you have the headroom," Lyon says.

The new approach could expand the volume of sales of Datacenter for Microsoft, as well, again if OEMs choose to offer four-processor Datacenter systems and pass the licensing cost savings on to customers.

According to Microsoft, no OEMs yet offer the four-processor configuration.

About the Author

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

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