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Microsoft Changes CAL Options

As Microsoft puts the finishing touches on Release Candidate 2 of Windows .NET Server 2003 for posting later this week, the software giant also previewed new options for Client Access Licenses that should give customers a little more power to match CALs to their needs.

Customers using Terminal Services, however, need to quickly evaluate a licensing change involving Terminal Services to find out if a quick upgrade to Windows XP before Windows .NET Server 2003 becomes available might save them some money.

The three licensing changes Microsoft unveiled this week are:

  • A new per-user CAL option for connecting to a Windows .NET Server in addition to the existing per-device CAL.
  • An External Connector option that will replace the Internet Connector option.
  • The requirement of a Terminal Services CAL for all desktop operating systems making client connections to a Windows .NET Server 2003 running Terminal Services.

    Windows servers have traditionally had the per-device option, also known as per-seat licensing. Gartner analyst Alvin Park stated in a research note that Microsoft has been getting pressure from customers to expand its CAL options.

    "Many Microsoft customers have complained that per-device client-access licensing for most of Microsoft's server products does not meet their needs since they now have more devices than users," Park said.

    The new per-user option allows companies with employees who connect to the server from multiple personal devices to require just one CAL. Conversely, companies with common terminals accessed by several users can still opt for the per-device option. "By having two types of CALs, customers are able to choose one or a mix of CALs that make the most sense for their business scenario," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

    The External Connector option replaces the Internet Connector (IC) for Windows .NET Server 2003 and Windows .NET Server 2003 running Terminal Services. Under the old IC system, administrators could allow up to 200 connections to a server on an Internet Connector. But the IC could only be used for anonymous connections from non-employees, meaning companies that wanted to allow business partners to access their servers had to buy individual CALs for those non-employees. The new External Connector will work for both anonymous and authenticated non-employees.

    A change in Terminal Services licensing, however, could cost organizations more money if they don't pay attention to the terms. Microsoft is doing away with the operating system equivalency that allowed Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional clients, for example, to connect to a terminal server without a Terminal Server CAL. When Windows .NET Server 2003 ships in April, all clients, regardless of operating system, must use a TS CAL to make a Terminal Services connection to a Windows .NET Server.

    Microsoft will grandfather in customers who already have Windows XP Professional, buy Windows XP Professional before April or who have their Windows desktop operating systems under an Enterprise Agreement or Select Agreement.

    "Non-Windows XP Professional licensees should evaluate the cost of upgrading to Windows XP Professional before the launch of Windows .NET Server 2003 against buying new TS CALs later or face being out of license compliance," Gartner's Park recommended.

    Full details of the new licensing options are supposed to be posted on Microsoft's Web site later this week when RC2 becomes available.

  • About the Author

    Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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