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

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Last December, Microsoft unveiled a plan to make its software licensing simpler for customers to work with and understand. The first step in this plan -- known officially as "Next General Volume Licensing" -- was something called the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement, or the MPSA.

Microsoft, perhaps more than other vendors, has acronyms for everything, which tends to dilute their significance in the eyes of the channel. But the MPSA has caught the attention of many customers and partners because it promises to make it easier than ever to buy Microsoft software by putting all the licensing language into a single agreement.

The MPSA saves time by eliminating time-consuming steps from the licensing process, and this is helping Microsoft partners generate quotes faster for their customers, Richard Smith, general manager of Microsoft's World Wide Licensing & Pricing (WWLP), told CRN in a recent interview.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the MPSA is that it lets customers buy on-premise and cloud software under a single agreement. Customers can get cloud and on-premise software today through Enterprise Agreements, which are three-year volume licensing contracts for organizations with 250 or more PCs.

But the MPSA is for customers that want to do transactional business and don't want to sign an EA contract.

Microsoft's EA -- and other licensing plans such as Select Plus and Open -- were built to meet needs of different customers and distribution models, Smith said. But these agreements weren't built in a "holistic, connected way," which resulted in a lot of duplication.

"With the MPSA, we had a chance to eliminate that and simplify the language we used," Smith said.

The WWLP group reports in to Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, and Smith said he's a "major sponsor" of the MPSA. Other members of Microsoft's senior leadership team also are on board.

"This is a project that has visibility at the highest levels. It's a major investment for us," Smith said.

Turner has been on a mission to simplify Microsoft's licensing since he joined the company in 2005. At Microsoft's 2007 partner conference in Denver, he said Microsoft had cut its number of licensing programs from 107 to 26 in the space of the previous year.

However, Turner also made it clear that Microsoft would have to keep chipping away at licensing complexity. "We have to make it simpler, and we have to work on it every day, every week, every month, every year," he said at the partner conference.

NEXT: Chipping Away At Licensing Complexity

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