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Microsoft Partners: Software Assurance Is Stalling Virtualization

Microsoft partners say the software giant is shooting itself in the foot by requiring customers to buy volume licensing agreements in order to get key virtualization technologies.

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So far, Microsoft has invested more than $400 million in its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which includes desktop and application virtualization, inventory services, System Center desktop error monitoring, and group policy management. Microsoft says its efforts to improve MDOP have paid off with more than 6.5 million MDOP licenses sold thus far.

However, MDOP can only be obtained through Software Assurance, a volume licensing program that lets companies upgrade to new software that's released during the term of the contract with Microsoft, and to spread payments over a three-year period.

While Software Assurance can help larger companies save money, Microsoft's decision to require SA for MDOP effectively negates it as an option for small and medium size businesses, according to solution providers.

"The majority of my customers are not at all happy with Microsoft regarding the Software Assurance requirement on MDOP and Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop licensing (VECD)," said Chris Ward, senior solutions architect at GreenPages Technology Solutions, Kittery, Me.

VECD is an annual subscription license that Microsoft requires companies to buy in order to run virtual desktops on a virtual server, and like MDOP, it's only available with Software Assurance.

Ward, who says he's had two large customers give up on deploying Microsoft virtual desktop infrastructure specifically because of the Software Assurance requirement, believes that Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot by tying Software Assurance to its MDOP virtualization technologies.

"I've had several customers tell me they feel like Microsoft is practicing extortionist-like behavior by forcing Software Assurance," Ward said. "If Microsoft continues this practice, I think its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure will have a difficult time getting off the ground."

Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider who's in the process of building a virtualization practice, says it's difficult to sell Software Assurance to SMBs.

"I understand that Microsoft is trying to add value to Software Assurance. But it's a shame that really useful products are going that way, because SA isn't right for all customers, particularly SMBs," Sobel said.

"Microsoft is trailing VMware [in virtualization], so for them to take their useful innovations and make them not completely available to the whole potential marketplace to me is an unfortunate choice," Sobel added.

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