Microsoft ports license-management system to Windows Server 2003

As Microsoft promised late last year, the company has ported some of its volume-activation technology to Windows Server 2003. One Microsoft corporate customer is none too happy about a virtualization change introduced as part of the new KMS port.

As Microsoft promised late last year, the company has ported some of its volume-activation technology to Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft has made available for download 32- and 64-bit versions of its Key Management Service for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack (SP) 1 systems, as noted on the Windows Connected blog.

Windows Connected's Josh Phillips is none too happy about one change introduced as part of the new KMS port.

"Microsoft has made a significant change that will affect many enterprise customers," blogged Phillips. "This update will not activate machines if running inside a virtual machine. This bucks the growing industry trend of virtualization for all classes of servers. In an effort to reduce piracy they are again punishing the very customers it is designed to protect."

I asked Microsoft to comment on its reasons for the change. Here's the response, provided via e-mail, which I received late in the day on February 13:

"By design, Microsoft's Key Management Service (KMS) for Windows Server2003 is not supported to run within a virtual machine. We recognize that our customers want to take advantage of virtualization; which iswhy Windows Vista client installations running within a virtual machine are able to activate using KMS for Windows Server 2003," said Cori Hartje,Director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative.

KMS is one of the elements of Microsoft's Volume Activation 2.0 technologies. Volume Activation is the business component of Microsoft's anti-piracy initiative; its consumer-side complement is Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). Under Volume Activation 2.0, enterprises running Windows Vista Business, Vista Enterprise and the Longhorn Server SKUs will be required to track product-license keys via two schemes: Multiple Activation Keys (MAK), which are aimed at smaller organizations and/or isolated machines; and on-premise volume license key-management service (KMS) for networked environments with 25 or more machines.

(For more on how license keys work with Vista, check out the "What You Need to Know About Product Keys" post from my ZDNet blogging colleague Ed Bott.)

Late last year, Microsoft said it planned to deliver KMS for Windows Server 2003 by spring 2007. By back-porting the server-driven KMS to Windows Server 2003, Microsoft would provide a platform via which businesses could manage their license keys even if they had no Windows Vista or Longhor Servers in the house.

As Hartje noted last year, “All Microsoft products will eventually use the Software Protection Platform," of which WGA and Volume Activation 2.0 are parts. Expect future versions of SQL Server and Exchange Server to be among the next products to require Volume Activation 2.0, Hartje said.


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