If it's 'live' it's on Linux

If it's 'live' it's on Linux

Summary: Microsoft's licensing policies are driving on-demand ISVs to open-source alternatives. Even its latest acquisition, bought to fold into its own 'live' services, runs on Linux.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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A fundamental flaw in Microsoft's new-found commitment to on-demand services (it calls it 'live' software) is that its licensing policies are driving on-demand ISVs to open-source alternatives — what's known as the LAMP platform (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python). Don't take it from me, this is what Sam Ramji of the Microsoft Emerging Business Team just wrote in his blog (my emphasis added):

"I've been working hard to develop a strong Microsoft-based offering for startups building SaaS companies, because the economics are with LAMP right now."

The licensing problem is described at length by Shannon Clark (who in turn was responding to Robert Scoble's heart-on-sleeve list of 12 reasons why Web 2.0 entrepreneurs aren’t using Microsoft software):

"I have yet to see an easy to obtain quote (and explanation) for how to build an unlimited number of users web 2.0 application based on MSFT servers in a legal and fully licensed manner," Clark wrote. "... we either have to invest a lot of time (and thus money) into understanding the nuances of MSFT's licensing/versioning schemes or we can avoid all that by going with much cleaner and more scalable licenses from open source applications."

Microsoft's licensing is still far too rooted in the enterprise software mold of per-seat client licenses and single-instance servers to adapt to an on-demand, multi-tenant environment where the number of registered users could fluctuate from moment to moment (and that's assuming users are registered; in an ad-funded service you wouldn't even be able to reliably count the precise number of unique users).

OK, that's not going to hold back Microsoft from delivering services of its own, but if no one else in the on-demand space is using its platforms, it drastically restricts the pool of innovation Microsoft can draw on. In fact, the first of the many acquisitions Microsoft will be making to pad out its on-demand offerings perfectly illustrates this point: the FolderShare site is a LAMP site. If Microsoft can't even find a .NET-based file-sharing service that's good enough to buy, then its own acquisition preferences fatally undermine any pretension that it offers a superior platform for on-demand services.

Kudos to Scoble and Ramji for owning up so publicly to Microsoft's shortcomings in this area, but it's a sorry indictment of the company's leadership that these problems are only now being acknowledged, let alone addressed. Microsoft may boast that it's been thinking about on-demand services since 1998, but in all that time it's consistently swept the on-demand licensing problem under the carpet, leaving it facing huge headaches that top Microsoft executive Eric Rudder earlier this year admitted are "making my head hurt. It is a very complex issue, I don't have the answers."

Topic: Microsoft

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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13 comments
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  • Marketing Glitz

    MS is staging another marketing ploy for non-existent software/services and is trying to quietly repackage MSN into Live.

    The best they can hope for is that SOA On Demand decision makers won't move to the LAMP stack 'en-masse' by virtue of it's pure scalability and economy, the latter being a major driving force.

    It's Saturday Night *Live* for MS.
    D T Schmitz
  • Where's No_Ax when you need him?

    [b] In fact, the first of the many acquisitions Microsoft will be making to pad out its on-demand offerings perfectly illustrates this point: the FolderShare site is a LAMP site.[/b]

    ROFL! Only game players and home users haven't figured out MSFT is yesterday's news rolled up with yesterday's garbage. All the really neat development is happening in OSS. If you need more capacity with a LAMP application, you just install it. That simple.

    Freedom is better than Windows.
    Chad_z
  • Unwinding MS lockin takes time and miney . . .

    My clients have been working towards this for one to three years. Only, maybe, 25% on LAMP at this point.

    Slow progress is better than none, but the writing is clearly on the wall.

    No one appears to be going the other way.
    Plain Logic
  • Unwinding MS lockin takes time and money . . .

    My clients have been working towards this for one to three years. Only, maybe, 25% on LAMP at this point.

    Slow progress is better than none, but the writing is clearly on the wall.

    No one appears to be going the other way.
    Plain Logic
    • What? Hey would you repeat that?

      Hey you're repeating yourself! ;)
      D T Schmitz
  • In a recent "round table" at Redmond

    Ok, so not so recent, maybe two or three months back during a round table discussion there was a comment/question directed to Steve Ballmer.

    The comment was, "If EVERYONE at Redmond were forced to live by the same licensing rules others are with MS software, and if they were forced to track compliance, it would take Microsoft about a week to conclude it was far too complicated". The question was, "when will this change".

    I wish I could tell you that the answers held promice but unfortunately that was not the case. sigh...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Interesting post...

      ... if true.

      The Banjo
      BanjoPaterson
    • Not So True...

      Microsoft uses this threat to sell more products! Duh...

      They know that if they find a company in violation of their licensing policies, and they claim it is too difficult to monitor, they'll try to see sell them SMS and push the Software Inventory and Metering approach...

      Did you notice that MS never pushed this issue until they bought SMS? Even then it wasn't until SMS 2 (when it was actually an MS product with some integration) that they really started pushing this...
      just^me
  • Wondering what the heck...

    ...could be MS interest in a LAMP company. Hard to imagine it's the platform. Maybe MS wants to capture an existing clientele with minimum effort, and doesn't care much in the short term what the platform is. I wonder if we'll hear whether MS attempts to migrate the platform to their own stuff underneath the clientele and services.
    Snippy Clippit
  • This is quite sad!

    I can't believe that anyone will agree to pay a monthly installment fee for any office suite!

    Crud, if MS takes this approach and sticks with it then we'll start to see a mass migration towards Open Office!

    I'm telling you right now, I'm not going to rent my software! I want to buy a license without limitations to the amount of time that I can use it and that isn't the goal of Software as a Service!
    just^me
  • This is quite sad!

    I can't believe that anyone will agree to pay a monthly installment fee for any office suite!

    Crud, if MS takes this approach and sticks with it then we'll start to see a mass migration towards Open Office!

    I'm telling you right now, I'm not going to rent my software! I want to buy a license without limitations to the amount of time that I can use it and that isn't the goal of Software as a Service!
    just^me
  • Honest Self Assessment

    Honest self assessment is always a good indications of a good business practices. One can 'think' all they want of their own company, its product standings, etc. But without a true gut check and read (self assessment) that points to one's strength and one's own weakness, then the buisness is as good as dead already.

    I just wished that many in the OSS is willing to do the same here and learn of their own short comings (along with their strength). Learned how to strengthen it's weakness and extend its strength.

    There is nothing wrong with MS's in buying a Linux based company. It's all about business. Tech does not and should not ever drives the business decisions. It should be the other way around. What's more important ? To gain a quick entry into a market where they wanted to be in using someone else's technology and then slowly 'changed it' or wait until your own technology is available ? If anything, MS's competitors should be afraid of what MS's willing to do to succeed then them not 'eating their own lunch'. I for one would rather gain the market share (and eyeballs) and have cake in the face for a short time then have no market share or let my competitor gain the market share instead.
    JJ_z
  • IBM is just as bad

    I believe IBM's Lotus Domino is the easiest development platform for any business application. I also use Apache, Tomcat, WebSphere, and occasionally IIS.

    IBM's licensing and pricing is almost as bad as Microsoft's. It is slightly better because it is clearly defined. The problem is the pricing. The "all the web browser access possible" licenses are for servers without mail, and are priced:
    $19,995 per CPU (Domino Utility Server)
    or
    $2,500 per CPU (Domino Utility Express. Max 4 CPUs per company. Company must have less than 1000 employees.)

    I built a website for a global company, and will be adding applications over the next year. I could have completed it in one or two days if I used Domino. The cost of software was deducted from our profits. The project's revenues would not cover one CPU's Utility license. We might have used the Utility Express server, but we expect to have three 2-CPU servers within 2 years.

    We did not consider using Microsoft software. We wanted either Linux or a BSD to reduce the worm headaches. And (as the article suggests) there is no method for discovering how Microsoft would price their software.

    Instead we used various Apache software. Development took several weeks, and there were many headaches from software not meeting its own specifications, but the project was completed, and our company kept all of the revenues. (And yes, we passed many of our fixes back to the Apache community.)
    solprovider