Microsoft Backs Off Controversial Exchange 2007 Licensing Policy


Microsoft has backed off a controversial licensing provision introduced with Exchange 2007 that forced customers to spend more money to get basic mailbox management features.

Last month, Microsoft issued a licensing advisory to channel partners and customers informing them that access to the Managed Default Folders feature in Exchange 2007 -- the functional equivalent of the Mailbox Manager introduced with Exchange 2003 -- would be reinstated as part of the Exchange 2007 Standard client access license (CAL), or Core CAL.

When the e-mail system was launched in December, Microsoft said the renamed mailbox manager feature would be available only under the newly introduced, and more expensive, Exchange 2007 Enterprise CAL. Previously, Microsoft offered only one CAL for Exchange, and mailbox management was included.

The decision late last year initially confused and then infuriated partners and customers, who argued that they were paying more for a feature that has been part of the core product for four years and is already used by millions of customer worldwide.

Microsoft decided to bend.

"At the time of the Exchange Server 2007 release to manufacturing, access to Messaging Records Management (MRM) was licensed as part of the Exchange Enterprise CAL. To provide the closest possible functional equivalence to what was available in Exchange Server 2003, access to Managed Default Folders in Exchange Server 2007 is now licensed as part of the Exchange Standard CAL," Microsoft said in the licensing advisory issued in May.

Microsoft, however, has not backed off its controversial Outlook 2007 e-mail client licensing provisions.

Nevertheless, partners said they are happy about the mailbox management policy reversal.

"I'm happy to see Microsoft continue to add features to the CALs to allow us to more easily provide products to customers,' said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Microsoft solution provider in Fairfax, Va.

"By eliminating the restriction of [the Exchange] Enterprise [CAL], this opens a new set of customers we can offer these features to," Sobel said. "We can provide these formerly enterprise features to midmarket and SMB customers who are looking to the next version of Exchange."

Microsoft said in its advisory that the May 2007 product list "clarifies" the change so that access to Managed Default Folders is now licensed as part of the Exchange 2007 Standard CAL or equivalent CALs, including the Core CAL Suite.

In addition, the Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 due out later this year will reflect this change by updating user interface elements in Exchange Server 2007 that will dentify Managed Default Folders as Exchange Standard CAL functionality.

There are some restrictions to the new policy.

The renamed Managed Default Folders feature, and another feature called Managed Custom Folders, are part of the new Messaging Records Management (MRM) component in Exchange 2007. Based on the policy change, customers will have access only to the default folder feature -- not custom folders management.

And current Mailbox Manager policies can be configured in the Exchange 2007 Standard CAL to delete based on size and/or age, but journaling and messaging type configuration features are not supported, Microsoft said.