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Microsoft kills System Center single-module licence

Microsoft has altered licensing for System Center 2012 to simplify the available options, but at the cost of customers being able to pick and choose individual modules
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Licensing changes to Microsoft's System Center 2012 could force customers to buy modules they do not need.

Microsoft System Center 2012 released

Microsoft has slimmed down the number of licensing options for System Center 2012 from over one hundred to just two. Image credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has radically reduced the number of licensing options for its new management technology, System Center 2012, from over a hundred distinct options to two, the company announced on Tuesday. However, the new model forces customers to buy a licence for all eight modules of the management suite, taking away their ability to pick and choose.

"Over the last 10 years our licensing has become very rich [with over] 113 different price points," Gareth Fort, general manager of Microsoft's server and cloud division, said.

The two licence options that replace the previous choices are Standard and Datacenter. Standard costs $1,300 (£846) and is for all System Center 2012 components and the ability to run two virtual machines. Datacenter costs $3,600, and supports an unlimited number of virtual machines.

The new model means a requirement for just one of System Center's eight separate modules such as Virtual Machine Manager will cost $1,300. In the past, people have reported paying around $500 for a licence for Virtual Machine Manager Workgroup Edition and $900 for VMM Enterprise Edition.

You'd be hard pressed to see what difference it will make when you're signing on the dotted line and handing over a lot of money to Microsoft.
– Rene Millman

Existing customers will have around a year to move to the new licensing module, Fort said. System Center 2012 is expected to become commercially available in the second half of 2012, though a release candidate was made available on Tuesday.

Microsoft's prices are tailored around specific customers, Rene Millman, an IDC systems management analyst, told ZDNet UK, so the licensing revamp may not register on many customers' bottom lines.

"Microsoft's business model is very much to have an enterprise-wide licence agreement and everything's part and parcel [of that]," he said. "You'd be hard pressed to see what difference it will make when you're signing on the dotted line and handing over a lot of money to Microsoft.

"It is a moveable feast what you can get out of Microsoft on any given day and with any given salesmen."

More than 'window dressing'

ZDNet UK asked Microsoft how substantive it thought the licensing changes were.

"This is definitely more than 'window dressing'," a Microsoft representative said. "We think this change is great for both new and existing customers.

"The licensing reflects the design point around integration across all the capabilities required to run cloud-based architectures, and gives customers all of these capabilities they need in a simplified product line up."

The simplicity of the revamp was welcomed by some Microsoft watchers.

"Overall it's a positive move that will benefit customers, simplify purchase scenarios and make businesses more dynamic," Richard Gibbons, software manager at Bechtle Direct, told ZDNet UK. "Definitely, there will be a few cases where it causes problems, but that's always the case with shifts like this I feel."

Taking the fight to VMware

VMware recently changed licensing in its virtualisation and management vSphere 5 suite to be levied on a per-processor and per-server RAM basis, rather than purely by sockets. This annoyed some VMware customers, which led to the company revising the pricing to increase the RAM allocation per licence.

Microsoft's approach is different, as it levies no charge on RAM.

Both Microsoft and VMware will now compete with each other to control hypervisors in the lucrative but underserved mid-market, Millman said.

"VMware is very strong in the enterprise and they're starting to make a play down into the mid-market... at the same time Microsoft has introduced a lot of stuff into the mid-market via Windows Server and the [System Center 2012] licensing agreements," he said.

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