Users look for value boost as Microsoft rejigs licences

Software Assurance needs to offer better support, say IT directors

Software Assurance needs to offer better support, say IT directors

Business users of Microsoft products are calling on the software giant to improve the value of its flagship Software Assurance licensing programme.

Microsoft is preparing to announce major changes to its four-year-old business subscription licensing package in September, with the new scheme expected to come into effect early next year.

User groups and analyst organisations have highlighted a number of key issues for business users. They want Microsoft to stick to its announced schedule of product releases. Many IT directors have told Computer Weekly they have not received full value from Software Assurance because the introduction of new products and upgrades has slipped.

Users also want significant improvement in the support and training that is bundled in with Software Assurance. Microsoft has already tried to answer user concerns on this issue by bundling some training and tools into an earlier update to the license programme.

Analysts and users have also said simplification of licensing regimes and better asset tracking tools to handle software licences should be included by Microsoft.

Although Microsoft will not provide a preview to the planned changes to Software Assurance, the company has urged users to contact it and explain what they want from the revised scheme.

Mark Buckley, Microsoft licensing marketing manager, said, "We are looking to customers. I am happy to take direct feedback and pass [it] back to Redmond."

He said Microsoft was running a series of round-table discussions with users to gain an understanding of what they would like to see.

Many users are reluctant to publicly criticise Microsoft, but last month the blue chip user group the Corporate IT Forum (Tif), held a Q&A session with IT directors to discuss Microsoft licensing.

"Large, medium and smaller organisations [said they] were opting out of Software Assurance, citing cost and the Microsoft roadmap as issues," said David Roberts, chief executive of Tif.

Denise Plumpton, chairman of Tif and director of IT at the Highways Agency, said she wants Microsoft to offer longer support for products and more flexible licensing.

"Instead of buying software assurance all at once, it would be useful to choose which applications you wanted for your business," she said.

Commonly used applications could be hosted on a server and accessed via server licences while more specialist products would be installed on desktops, according to Plumpton.

Nick Leake, controller technology systems and services at ITV, is sceptical about Software Assurance and makes limited use of the scheme.

"We tend to avoid Software Assurance as it is expensive to have to pay for the product twice over three years - we think it is better value to upgrade less frequently," he said.

Mike Tonkiss, head of IT at ADM Milling UK, said, "The improvements between releases and the additional overhead of deploying versions means the benefits are marginal."

One user who did not want to be identified said, "I would like to see Microsoft recognise that customers use very little of the functionality of their products, and offer scaled back levels of product/functionality for lower cost," he said.


Analysts spell out user requirements

Microsoft must address the issue of server virtualisation if it is to convince users of the value of its new Software Assurance regime, according to Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president at analyst IDC.

Server virtualisation allows users to pool servers to run applications during peak periods, and scale back once the peak is over. "Users cannot pay the full software fee for every machine being run during a peak load period," he said.

Rob Hailstone, research director at IDC, said that Microsoft had to address users' need for tools to audit what software has been deployed, how many licences are being used and when they are up for renewal.

John Holden, senior research analyst at Butler Group, said in addition to better asset tracking and licensing tools Microsoft customers wanted Software Assurance to deliver more training and third-party software integration and bundling.


Assurance issues

  • Basic cost of licences
  • User's refresh cycle not in step with Microsoft product releases
  • Cost of upgrading software.

Source: Corporate IT Forum

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