Microsoft will next week introduce the latest changes to Software Assurance, which it says will increase the value of its controversial licence scheme to corporate users.
The changes add support, consultancy and training to the package, but Gartner research vice-president Alvin Park said enterprises should make purchase decisions on the primary benefit of enrolling in the Software Assurance (SA) programme - the right to install any new product version or release that occurs during the term of the agreement.
"Anticipating the new versions that Microsoft is likely to release requires a road map. Microsoft does not publish these road maps, because it does not want enterprises to rely on release dates that may slip, leading to customer dissatisfaction and suboptimal decisions being made on SA," he said.
Gartner is advising users who want to acquire rights to the Longhorn version of Windows Server to renew SA on their licences.
Park believes that SQL Server will be updated on a cycle of 1-2 years in line with the other database management systems' suppliers. "For this reason, the purchase of SA is recommended," he said.
On the desktop, Park said the situation was more complicated. For Office, Park said, "If the right to new versions or releases is the only SA benefit valued by an organisation, then they should not purchase SA and instead rely on a licence repurchase as the means to upgrade."
What's new in Software Assurance?
Software Assurance involves users paying an annual fee of 29% of purchase price for desktop software and 25% for server products.
They receive a free upgrade if the product ships during the term of the contract. Users who upgrade their desktop software more than once every three-and-a-half years, or change server software more frequently than once every four years, benefit from a free upgrade.
New benefits include free consulting to help with desktop migration, the ability to install Vista Enterprise, the next release of the Windows desktop operating system, and improvements to support.