Microsoft in November continued its crusade against software pirates by filing lawsuits against 20 solution providers in 13 states. But Microsoft also wants partners and customers to know that there's an easy way to avoid falling into the same legal quagmire.
In a Monday entry on Microsoft's Small Business Community Weblog, Eric Ligman, senior manager for small business community engagement at Microsoft, said partners can help their customers ensure that they're running legitimate software by implementing software asset management technology.
Software asset management (SAM) helps organizations, especially larger ones, to discover untapped software assets they may have paid for but aren't using. But for many companies, SAM's core benefit is the ability to flag illegal software on their networks, which is becoming more of an issue as counterfeiters hawk their wares online through sites like eBay.
"There are way too many people in the gray market channel who don't care about licensing at all, and that's not just a Microsoft problem, but an industry problem," said Chris Rue, CEO of Black Warrior Technology, a Northport, Ala.-based Small Business Specialist.
However, it's difficult for some organizations to see the value of deploying SAM, because the cost and complexity of implementing the technology remain significant barriers, Rue said.
"SAM is one of those things that every organization should do, but just ends up not doing, for one reason or another," said Rue. "In a lot of ways, SAM as an idea is where patching was 4 or 5 years ago. It was difficult to do, and hard to deploy patches over everything in the network environment."
Microsoft entered the SAM market in April 2006 with the acquisition of Ottawa-based Assetmetrix, and has integrated SAM into its System Management Server 2003 and Configuration Manager 2007 offerings.
Assetmetrix's SAM technology is also available through Microsoft's Desktop Optimization Pack (DOP), a subscription offering for Software Assurance maintenance contract customers that also includes application virtualization, group policy management, and recovery software.
Microsoft in recent months has been trying to add value to Software Assurance, a volume licensing program that gives companies the right to upgrade to new software versions released during the term of the contract with Microsoft, and to spread payments over a three-year period. Other SA benefits include technical support, training vouchers, home-use rights and hot-fix support.
One solution provider and Microsoft partner who requested anonymity suggested that by bundling SAM with the Desktop Optimization Pack -- which is only available to Software Assurance customers -- Microsoft is attempting to push more customers into its volume licensing programs.
"That's a mistake, because volume licensing isn't a fit for everyone. And if they try to use the blunt instrument of legal action to bend people to their will, I doubt that tactic will help them get more volume licensing customers," said the source.