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Doug's Mailbag: Assured by Software Assurance?

A reader gives us his long take on Microsoft's Software Assurance (SA):

Microsoft's Software Assurance program and accompanying licensing model has completely driven me mad. Software Assurance is so difficult to understand and the benefits are so difficult to track that it becomes a nightmare even before we make a purchase. The costs are so great that it becomes cost prohibitive to implement almost anything with SA attached to it. I mean, SQL Server is already expensive enough -- but then you add their 'new and improved' core licensing model on a dual 6-core server and it becomes impossible to afford! Then I have to almost triple that cost to add support for three years?!?! You have got to be kidding me! No thanks Microsoft.

The fact that it can't seem to pin down an effective licensing model is pushing me away from implementing the 'Microsoft solution' anymore. Why? Simple. Look at Microsoft's change in their Hyper-V licensing. When Server 2008 released you could run up to four Windows Server 2008 VMs inside one host for the cost of one Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition license --  but only if you were using Hyper-V. However, Microsoft seems to have changed that condition so many times that my hardware/software vendors couldn't keep up with it. Some of them said that you could run 4 VMs on any virtualization platform, others said you could only run the 4 VMs on Hyper-V and a third group said I could run them on whatever I wanted so long as the Enterprise Edition license had SA with it. Regardless of what the case was/is, that shouldn't happen. My hardware/software vendors, who are Microsoft Gold Partners, should know what the licensing model is. Seeing as how they employ a staff of people with job titles like "Microsoft Software Assurance Licensing Specialist" seems to indicate that the problem isn't with them -- it's with Microsoft.

I have spent the better part of my life learning the 'Microsoft solution' and implementing it everywhere I go, but now I find myself questioning whether or not it really is the best option. I mean, why would I sell a client on a product that is bound by a licensing model that I can't stand behind? What happens when I sell a client on purchasing one server that runs Windows Server VMs on VMware's vSphere hypervisor -- then Microsoft pulls the ability to run the multiple VMs on a competing hypervisor? I guess it's Microsoft's product and it  can do what it wants -- but it's  turning simple things like software upgrades into something that more closely resembles a hardware rip-and-replace. And with Software Assurance, you get to rip-and-replace your software every year!

It's all just very frustrating, but I'll change gears now for a minute...

To be honest, Microsoft seems to be playing so much catch-up with the rest of the technology players that it's completely turned me off towards it. Looking at Windows 8 -- if Microsoft doesn't make some major changes to the functionality of the Metro interface and the classic desktop, I may drop my involvement with Microsoft considerably. It would be so much cheaper with far less headaches to run my line of business applications on a few Windows Servers and use Citrix or VMware to expose them to a virtualized Linux desktop. It would be like having a standard VDI deployment but without all the licensing overheads and overly excessive price tags. I mean, lets be honest,  if I have an office full of desktop computers and want to employ a VDI solution why the hell would I pay for Windows 7 plus Software Assurance on each desktop at the client machine?? But Microsoft's licensing model can't deal with that situation yet (and it probably won't). I guess the flip-side to that coin is interoperability. What ever happened to that? By 'interoperability' I think Microsoft really meant 'select Microsoft products will only be compatible with enterprise Novell systems.' And that doesn't do me any good.

Microsoft seems to be tailoring its licensing model to massive corporations, while tailoring its product to its own company! They prove this by their unfruitful listening of the users of their products. For example, for the last eight years or so it has been documented time and time again that Exchange should not be installed on the same server running Active Directory. And yet users of Windows Small Business Server continue to struggle because they were sold a product that shipped broken. And the worst part is that everyone knows it. Now, this situation doesn't directly affect me -- I run about 30 or so Windows Sever 2008 Enterprise Edition servers on VMware's Virtual Infrastructure v3.5 (pretty old), but it's such a slap in my face because it shows that Microsoft truly doesn't care about its customers. The simple test for a situation like this is easy: does Microsoft run SBS in house for production purposes? That's probably an easy 'no.' Now it makes sense that this situation has existed for so long.

The other thing that really gets under my skin is that Microsoft, for whatever reason, thinks that any other company is an enemy to it. If Microsoft has its eyes on any other company, it will do one of three things: sue it, acquire it or compete with it. This is really too bad. Microsoft either doesn't allow for competition or it develops a product specifically to compete with someone else's product (ie: Zune, Bing, Hyper-V, etc...). I would say it's like watching the bully on the neighborhood playground -- but that isn't quite accurate. It's more like watching the majority of the kids play nicely with one another and one kid trying to be the bully, but ends up getting knocked down each time he stands up. It's kind of sad actually.

I've recently become very attracted to the newer GNU GPLv3 license models. I made the switch to Linux at home and am trying to work it into the workplace more (I'm beginning to use my TechNet account less and the Ubuntu Software Centre more). The GNU GPL model is very clean cut and its limits are very known and easy to understand. It's also nice to only have to pay for support, not for the product. With Microsoft, you have to purchase the product twice to get any kind of support (which, in my experience, still sucks).

I guess this was kind of a long-winded e-mail (I tend to do that sometimes, sorry). I suppose I could sum up everything I said in four words: I miss Bill Gates.


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Posted by Doug Barney on 01/18/2012 at 1:19 PM


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