Microsoft relaxes restrictions on virtualisation

The company will allow organisations to move servers as they wish without penalty as it eases up the rules on server licensing

Microsoft has eased up its server licensing rules so that organisations can make more efficient use of servers in virtualised environments.

Beginning on 1 September, customers will be able to move any of 41 Microsoft server applications between machines within a server farm as often as necessary without paying additional licensing fees, the company said on Tuesday.

Previously, if businesses wanted to move an application running on a virtual machine from one server to another, they had to get a licence for the second server, if they switched more than once in any 90-day period.

Zane Adam, senior director of integrated virtualisation in the server and tools business at Microsoft, said the company now recognised that organisations want more flexibility in their use of servers. "Microsoft… is innovating its licensing policies, product support and a wide range of IT solutions to help customers get virtual now," he said.

Applications now open for more flexible use in server farms include SQL Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Dynamics CRM 4.0, Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft System Center products. Although Windows Server 2005 has been available with virtualisation for some time, Windows Server 2008 for Microsoft's Hyper-V was announced in July this year.

This easing of licensing restrictions is an important phase in the development of virtualisation, "which will lead to a much, much broader adoption of virtualisation", said Microsoft's virtual product manager in the UK, Neil Sanderson. But for it to take off, "support must be really clear and strong," he told "Good solutions will need the proper support."

Sanderson said that Microsoft had now put a support structure in place for applications that would make it easier for companies to sort out their licensing, especially their virtualised licensing structures.

Andy Buss of analyst firm Canalys agreed that Microsoft was taking the right approach with virtualisation by trying to make it simpler and more flexible for customers, but suggested Microsoft could go further. "Look at IBM and what they offer," he said. "Customers can have services on-demand or through capacity planning. It is flexible."