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Gartner fellow, Brian Gammage, said, “Microsoft’s licensing terms for Windows Vista running in VMs are unjustified; in addition, these terms are widely perceived as being designed to delay market adoption of competitive virtualisation software.”
Gammage said Microsoft’s restrictions had spurred users' complaints, negative publicity and renewed interest in open-source and competitive alternatives.
Gartner expects Microsoft to release a hypervisor for Windows Vista by mid-2009, which would lead to a rapid increase in the number of virtualised installations. Gammage said, “To accommodate this change, Microsoft will need to make a number of adjustments to Windows licensing and product use rights.”
He suggested that Microsoft has a strong motivation to delay making these adjustments before its own hypervisor was ready because it could provide some market advantage to rivals like VMware. The end-user licence agreement for Windows Vista contains significant restrictions on the use of Vista in VMs, Gammage warned. “The restrictions on DRM and BitLocker directly affect enterprise users.”
The tethering of Windows licences to hardware also affects emerging enterprise Windows client deployment scenarios such as portable personalities, Gammage warned. Enterprises should not expect this licensing-related barrier to be lifted before Microsoft’s Windows hypervisor is released.
Gammage urged users dissatisfied with Microsoft’s virtualisation licensing restrictions and support policies for desktops and servers to investigate the longer-term feasibility of removing their dependency on Windows and Office. He also recommended users who were unhappy with their virtualisation support from Micrsooft to ensure browser-neutrality in all Web-enabled applications.
Responding to the criticisms about its virtualisation support, Microsoft told Computer Weekly, “Microsoft does not provide general product support for any third-party software.”
In an article on its website laying out its support policy, Microsoft said it did not test or support Microsoft software running in conjunction with non-Microsoft hardware virtualisation software. “For Microsoft customers who do not have a Premier-level support agreement, Microsoft will require the issue to be reproduced independently from the non-Microsoft hardware virtualisation software.”
For users of Microsoft software who have a Premier-level support agreement, Microsoft said it would, “use commercially reasonable efforts to investigate potential issues with Microsoft software running in conjunction with non-Microsoft hardware virtualisation software.”
When asked if Microsoft was working on changing its support policy, a spokesperson said, “As virtualisation software matures and the industry adoption goes mainstream, new and scalable technical support models are needed. Microsoft is investigating business models so that we could offer joint or co-operative technical support with third-parties for non-Windows virtualisation software.”
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