Microsoft has modified its Web server licensing terms for Windows Server 2008 in what looks like an attempt to compete more effectively with open source alternatives, CRN has learned.
According to an internal Microsoft document viewed by CRN, Microsoft will not require a client access license (CAL) for the Windows Web Server 2008 SKU, and will allow users to run any type of database software with no limit on the number of users, provided they deploy it as an Internet-facing front-end server.
While Windows Server 2003 Web Edition, the predecessor to Windows Web Server 2008, didn't require a CAL, it did impose a limit of 50 users, as well as some database restrictions, according to channel partners.
Solution providers expect these changes to go a long way toward making Windows Web Server 2008 more competitive with the LAMP stack. "I think Microsoft is clearly determined to gain ground in that space," said George Brown, CEO of Database Solutions, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Microsoft partner.
Microsoft has been making steady gains in Web server market share in recent months. An August Netcraft survey found that Microsoft held 34.2 percent of the Web server market, compared to 48.4 percent for Apache, leading to industry speculation that Microsoft could eventually threaten Apache's market dominance.
But Microsoft's progress has been stunted as a result of the complexity and Byzantine nature of its licensing structure, according to some channel partners. "Licensing models have always been one of the most difficult aspects of doing business with Microsoft," said one source, who requested anonymity.
Still, Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York, a New York-based IT consultancy, thinks the move to free up Web Server 2008 represents an important step in the right direction.
"This will absolutely help Microsoft compete against the LAMP stack," Brust said, adding that the licensing changes will help most in terms of shaping the market's perception of Windows as a low cost Web server OS solution.
But Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif., says the impact of the move will extend beyond just the near-term cost benefits.
"Not only does this move put Microsoft solutions on par with open source alternatives and the LAMP stack, it also adds the value of Microsoft's systematic support and interoperability with the entire suite of Microsoft back office solutions," Duffy said.
However, some partners feel the move is just a smokescreen on Microsoft's part to draw attention away from other looming Windows Server 2008 licensing issues, especially those that pertain to virtualization.
To partners, the licenses that matter most for Windows Server 2008 are server OS and server application licenses on the Windows Server platform, according to one solution provider. "Some of Microsoft's licensing policies don't work in a virtualized world. This needs to be addressed across all products," said the source, who asked not to be named.