Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Microsoft Changes Server Licensing in VMs

Microsoft plans to license windows on a per-running VM basis, rather than an absolute per-VM basis. On writing this, I'm not even sure what the latter means. When Callinicos contrasts the new licensing policy with the old, he says, "Instead of licensing every inactive or stored virtual instance of a Windows Server System product, customers can now create and store an unlimited number of instances, including those for back-up and recovery, and only pay for the maximum number of running instances at any given time." So, the old policy appears to be total madness: copy a virtual machine's disk file to a tape drive for backup, even if it happens automatically? Whoah, that's a brand new Windows installation! Better have a license for it!

While this change is probably for the better, not all Windows-in-a-VM customers will be dancing for joy. In the same way virtualization was inflating Windows licensing costs for some folks, for others it was depressing those costs. E.g., if you have a single read-only disk file, shared via a network mount and simultaneously running on N physical machines, my (completely ignorant, so don't take this to the bank or anything) understanding is that under the old licensing rules, you would have needed only a single license. Now, you'll be ponying up for N licenses. I'm not saying this to make Microsoft seem like bad guys; it's perfectly fair for them to expect N licenses, since the customer in this case is essentially getting N installations of Windows. But, most press coverage of this announcement seems to be assuming it's a godsend for customers running Windows in VMs; like so many other things in life, the answer to the question, "Is this a good thing?", is, "It depends."


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