Microsoft unveils Application Server License Mobility change to ease some virtualization headaches

Microsoft has quietly unveiled its much anticipated licensing change to ease virtualization: Application Server License Mobility.The licensing plan, quietly launched in a licensing brief on the company web site tonight, now allows customers to freely move VMs, virtual workloads -- and their respective licenses -- across multiple servers in a server farm.

Microsoft has quietly unveiled its much anticipated licensing change to ease virtualization: Application Server License Mobility.

The licensing plan, quietly launched in a licensing brief on the company web site tonight, now allows customers to freely move VMs, virtual workloads -- and their respective licenses -- across multiple servers in a server farm. With that, server licenses are no longer tied to a specific piece of hardware. Still, it only applies to specific servers. (The full list is shown in the brief).

The Application Server License Mobility plan goes into effect on September 1, the licensing brief states.  Another important brief, "Licensing Microsoft Server Products in Virtual Environments," also published this month, is posted on the company's licensing site. 

"To help you take advantage of virtualization technologies, Microsoft is updating its software licensing policies for server applications ... With the changes, both licenses and software can move more freely across servers in a server farm, potentially reducing the number of licenses needed to support your workloads," according to a licensing brief posted on Microsoft.com early Tuesday EST. "Effectively, the changes mean instead of counting instances or processors and licensing by server, you are able to count instances or processors and license by server farm. This is accomplished by allowing customers to reassign licenses freely across servers within a server farm."

A server farm, by the way, is defined as two data centers.  The new provision applies to servers running across some time zones. It works for two different data centers -- one on the West Coast and on the East Coast, for example -- but not for a two server farm with one server in the U.S. and the other in Europe.

Currently, Microsoft customers cannot move licenses across servers. This prohibition has made it difficult and costly for customers to manage virtual infrastructures and move virtual workloads around freely in the data center.

Further down in the brief, Microsoft notes that:

"With the new Microsoft terms, for certain products, Microsoft waives the 90-day reassignment rule, allowing you to reassign licenses from one server to another within a server farm as frequently as you need to. This allows you to freely move both licenses and running instances within a server farm from one server to another."

Another blog on the Microsoft.com web site celebrated the news. 

"If you have not heard, the Microsoft Licensing team has announced new ways for you to take advantage of virtualization technologies by reassigning licenses across servers within a server farm," said one posting on Microsoft's Assessment and Planning Toolkit team blog.

The Microsoft licensing brief also notes that the "changes apply to software licenses for certain server applications and all external connector (EC) licenses. In these cases, the limitation on short-term (90 days or less) license reassignment is waived. "

Microsoft also states that the change does not apply to software licenses for the Windows Server operating system, Client Access Licenses (CALs), or Management Licenses (MLs) and the offer is good for licenses acquired under a Volume Licensing program. "It does not apply to licenses acquired through other retail sources," the brief also states.

It is not clear how these last caveats-- particularly the exemption of Windows Server and CALs from the licensing change -- impact the true value of the change for customers. More will be revealed in hours. 

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