NSW Education Dept in Vista licensing jam

NSW Education Dept in Vista licensing jam

Summary: Microsoft and DET tangle over Vista licensing


Unresolved licensing issues have put on hold mass adoption of Microsoft Windows Vista at the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET).

Last November, ZDNet Australia reported that DET would make the final decision about its Vista deployment in March or April.

In an exclusive interview, DET Information Services Director, Tim Anderson, has told ZDNet Australia that decision is "on hold in a sense" while it works out a few kinks with the software giant.

The sticking point, according to Anderson, is the management of licence keys for the version of Vista which the department expects to deploy across its desktop fleet.

DET has one of the largest IT infrastructures in the country with 1.3 million users spread across 2,500 locations. Its desktop fleet consists of 250,000 devices of which 160,000 are PCs. Microsoft is the dominant platform with DET standardising on Windows XP, however, because of the size of the organisation there are some Windows 98 and Windows 2000 legacy systems.

The version of the operating system DET uses is Vista Ultimate. According to Anderson, individual licence keys are required each time this version is installed on a client, which is not a requirement of Vista Enterprise, for example.

He believes keeping track of individual keys for a fleet of DET's size is a logistical nightmare. "It's a pain when you're looking at around 160,000 places. It's not a technical problem, we just have to work out the best way of dealing with it."

"I can see why Microsoft wants [such a scheme], particularly in the retail market, but in the context of a large corporation it makes less sense. There are other means of compliance than tracking large numbers of keys," he said.

Before committing to a large scale deployment Anderson wants a more workable licence management method. His ideal is simple: Microsoft to remove the requirement for individual licence keys and let DET operate (manage) its fleet with a single licence key.

Microsoft Australia was asked if it would relent, and accept DET's demands, however, the software giant has refused to comment. "The Microsoft Windows Vista licensing agreement is a confidential agreement between Microsoft and the NSW Department of Education and Training, and as such we are not able to discuss it in detail," said Nigel Cadywould, Microsoft Australia director of Public Sector.

Despite its battle with Microsoft to secure a better agreement, DET will go ahead with its controlled deployment of Vista for training purposes. Anderson said DET will honour its 1,000 seat deployment it committed to as part of the early adopter program for Vista. The implementation is expected some time in the first half of the year.

DET spent eight months last year vigorously testing Windows Vista -- within the department's Information Technology Directorate as well as a pilot program at Ashcroft High School in Sydney's south west -- to determine its usefulness now and in the future.

"There is some pent-up demand from TAFEs that want direct access to Vista for training purposes," Anderson said. Beyond the initial deployment which it has committed to, DET's roadmap for a mass Vista deployment is over the next 12-24 months.

Old is gold
Anderson, like many other CIOs in Australia and New Zealand, doesn't see any compelling reason to fully deploy the new operating system now. While Vista won't be incorporated into the department's standard operating environment (SOE) until the OS can be exploited to its best advantage, he said.

DET staff also need to evaluate how Vista and Office 2007 can be integrated with as little disruption as possible, so there are few problems when the jump is made. As a result, it will continue to standardise on Windows XP for the remainder of 2007.

Anderson believes Windows XP is a good platform and is happy with the performance and security aspects, as well as the way it fits with DET's educational objectives.

A number of CIOs surveyed by ZDNet Australia since the launch of Vista to businesses in November last year, have said their organisations would implement the new operating system when it was time for a hardware refresh.

DET will buck the trend, however, and stick with its current SOE when it refreshes 20,000 desktops across the state in July. Anderson is not alone in his stance, however; Vista didn't figure in the plans of Queensland's Department of Natural Resources and Water bid to replace 250 desktops, laptops and servers.

Anderson said the new desktops will run on Windows XP, and carry Office 2003 -- even though DET is licensed for both Windows Vista and an upgrade to Office 2007 under its enterprise agreement with Microsoft. DET will, however, conduct a limited deployment of Office 2007 for research purposes.

Tim Anderson's views on DET's Vista deployment last November:

Part 1: DET begins slow crawl to a new Vista
Part 2: DET mulls Vista savings, training
Part 3: Licence costs may delay DET Vista plans

Topics: Government, Government AU, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • I get the impression ...

    Microsoft has got them by the **** and they're going to comply with MS. I love it when a monopoly takes a government department by the s****** and gives them a nice friendly squeeze. VisDuh is still beta software at best and you'll be lucky if drivers become available for older equipment (2-4 years old) over the next 2 years. And don't forget that VisDuh means serious PC upgrades as well.
  • Vista Ultimate

    If the key and media were leaked then it would be hard for them to control it as then is a fairly large base which has a legitimate use for the key.

    I'd hate to have to change the key for that many DOE machines even if it was automated.

    Microsoft probably don't want a volume licence key available for their top of the line desktop OS. If a business key was leaked less people would be using as people would want the full Vista Ultimate
  • Linux is the latest technology

    Perhaps NSW DET just needs to keep up to date. Nobody, absolutely nobody 'needs' to install Vista. It might be the latest M$ marketing lie, but it is just a lie.
  • Why go Vista at all..

    The writer makes the statement that the DET "need(s) to keep up-to-date with the latest technology being used in the industry".

    Given the 'mad rush' hasn't eventuated then surely the DET can afford to wait - who knows by the time Vista has been adopted by industry then well all be waiting on 'OpSystem2020'-

    Can anyone else remember Windows ME - it was going to going to be the 'next big thing' - People and industry stayed away in droves.

    Surely the delay can allow the DET to look at other emerging operating systems. Yes, Linux is one, but they should also look at other alternatives.

    Linux would be my first recommendation (perhaps RED HAT due to the agreement with MS) but just 'cause your supplier says jump isn't a compelling reason.
  • Piracy of Vista

    I don't see how having a volume license key would be an issue for Microsoft. The DET has been operating under the generic key licensing model for a number of years, and it appears to be the most efficient way of dealing with such a large number of deployments. In addition, I believe the Vista authentication system would still require connectivity to a key management server that would be implemented within the DET's intranet, somthing that would not be accesible to external users. This server alone should negate any concerns related to the publishing of the DET's key outside of the department, at best an illicit user would only gain approx 30 days of use before the install went into a locked down mode requiring re-authentication against the KMS.

    I guess the best indication of what appears to be a sense of complacency within MS toward piracy would be the following comment from Microsoft's business group president Jeff Raikes who recently stated "If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else". Never a truer word spoken in jest as they say.
  • Community

    Would be nice if a Govt department invested in the community that funds them, the public. There is many an alternative to Vista that provides the new technology without the price tag or the bloat. In fact, upgrading to Linux happens to in many cases simplify many things. DFAT do your research before you 'have' to do anything.
  • Herd Mentality

    This is a serious waste of tax payer money. No one in a school needs Vista. Most of the fleet can't run it any way. Sit a bunch of kids in front of a pc with Vista & Office2007, then put the same bunch of kids in front of something like Edubuntu or an Apple Mac. Remind me again why we are spending so many tax dollars on the M$ bandwagon.
  • why

    why are they considering vista now with win 7 is just about to be released. By the time vista gets into schools and office 2007, win 7 and office 2010 will be out.
    The DET should be doing testing of win7 now with plenty of time to deploy for next year.