Microsoft Pitching New Volume Licensing Program As Customers' On-Ramp To The Cloud

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Along with the MPSA, Microsoft debuted a new licensing portal that consolidates 16 pre-existing licensing tools into one location, Smith said. The portal, called the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center, replaces the old Volume Licensing Service Center, which has had its share of glitches and downtime over the years and has long been a source of irritation in the channel.

With the new portal, Smith said Microsoft customers and partners are getting 65 percent faster agreement submission times, and a 40 percent reduction in manual steps needed for activating software.

"What we're really trying to achieve is to make volume licensing friction-free, so no one's blood pressure rises," Smith said of Microsoft's new licensing portal.

Insight's Hinton said the portal is making the licensing process smoother for partners. "The tools let us see all purchasing activities for the client. It's a simpler set of tools to manage the experience and the license for the client. We spend less time doing reconciliation," she told CRN.

While the MPSA sounds great on paper, it's not a slam-dunk that Microsoft customers will flock to it right away. Customers that have discounts from previous volume license agreements might be hesitant to change, for example.

"Whenever any vendor moves to simplify their licensing, something is sacrificed in terms of flexibility," IDC's Konary said. Some customers may prefer to use multiple Microsoft licensing agreements for specific regions or departments, for example. Others may prefer to use Select Plus, which is one of the agreements the MPSA replaces, said Konary.

Paul DeGroot, principal analyst at Pica Communications, a Camano Island, Wash.-based Microsoft licensing consultancy, said it's still not clear how customers will benefit from having on-premise and cloud software in a single licensing agreement.

"Microsoft keeps telling everyone that all the good stuff will be in the cloud, but very few enterprise customers see any significant benefit to the cloud right now," DeGroot told CRN.

While it remains to be seen whether the MPSA delivers on its promises, it's clearly one of Microsoft's most aggressive attempts so far to simplify its licensing. And if it's successful, the MPSA will help Microsoft achieve its goal of getting its huge base of on-premise customers transacting comfortably in the cloud.

"Removing friction from selling and provisioning Microsoft products and services is good for partners," Konary told CRN. "MPSA is about turning the battleship to the cloud, and also allowing customers to migrate at their own pace."


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