Microsoft reworks virtualisation license policies

Microsoft has changed its server licensing policy, which could have a major impact on the growth of virtualisation in businesses.

Beginning on 1 September, Microsoft customers will be able to move any of its 41 server applications between systems as required, without needing to pay extra.

Previously, it was not possible to move the licences around servers more than once every 90 days.

Microsoft says is making the change because of the direction virtualisation is heading, with data centres becoming more dynamic and applications needing to be moved around much more rapidly.

Neil Sanderson, product manager for virtualisation and management at Microsoft, explained the new policy by using a simple example of two servers with a copy of Microsoft Exchange. He said that under the old policy you could licence one server for Exchange and once every 90 days you could move the virtual environment and the licence to other server, but you could not do that continually unless both servers were licensed.

"That won't be the case anymore. There will be one license shared between two servers in a server farm. You can move the license as much as you like," he said.

The main beneficiaries of the new licensing policy will mostly be enterprise customers, and Sanderson, simplifying virtualisation and providing more flexible and dynamic solutions.

Sanderson said: "It will be easier for them to track, easier for them to move around and it'll be easier for them to plan ahead and build the solutions. It is our contribution to help virtualisation really take off and motor."

Microsoft has also updated its technical support policy on 31 separate server applications, with support being available for both virtualised and non-virtualised environments.

In June, Microsoft launched a Server Virtualisation Validation Program for any software vendor to test and validate Windows Server 2008 running on its virtualisation software. Cisco, Citrix, Novell, Sun and Virtual Iron have already been participating.