Microsoft offering free OS for 'cold' servers

In what could be a sign of things to come, Microsoft Corp. is offering a small sweetener to its Software Assurance licensing program.

From this week the company will allow servers used for disaster recovery to carry copies of its Windows server software at no extra cost.

A key condition is that the server must be used only for disaster recovery. Microsoft defines such servers as "cold servers", i.e. ones turned off until a disaster arises.

The "cold server" provision will be applicable for the remaining term of any two- or three-year Software Assurance contract and is not perpetual.

AUT IT manager Calum MacLeod says the new terms offer little in the way of benefits to AUT, because "we don't have the resources to have a bunch of servers sitting around, waiting for a disaster".

AUT doesn't subscribe to Software Assurance for its desktops, as it's on a special education licensing contract, but its servers are licensed under Software Assurance.

MacLeod says the university "has to be more inventive" in its disaster recovery plans, which don't currently include cold servers as defined by Microsoft.

In any event, "bringing up a Windows server isn't a challenge -- it's the database and the data in it that takes the time".

Microsoft NZ partner group manager Steve Haddock says the offering is "about adding value". When asked if the timing of the offer is related to the fact many Software Assurance customer subscriptions are due to expire soon, he said, "I don't think so. There's no right time to do things."

He says the key to successful uptake of the offer will be education of users by Microsoft's channel partners.

Asked about uptake expectations, he said, "I'd expect it to be 30 percent in the first year".

He believes the offer will aid small to medium sized customers the most, "because often its (they) who don't have the money for a back-up solution".

Disaster recovery will become more important for SMEs in the next few years, he says.

Last year Microsoft offered several sweeteners to Software Assurance in the fields of training, support and home use rights.

When it was introduced in 2001, Software Assurance met with mixed reactions from Microsoft users, with some complaining the 25 percent to 29 percent annual cost was higher than for other subscription-upgrade schemes offered by other vendors.

Software Assurance works on the basis that customers pay an annual fee, approximately 29 percent of their annual licensing fee for desktop software and 25 percent for server apps, in exchange for free upgrades to the latest version of Microsoft software.

While that has some advantages for users who would have upgraded often, some Microsoft products aren't due to be upgraded for years, such as SQL Server 2000, which is scheduled for re-release in 2005 and Longhorn, Windows XP's successor, isn't due out until 2006.

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