The Dog Ate My License
Imagine that! Microsoft doesn't eat its own dogfood.
- By Paul DeGroot
- May 01, 2006
Which large American corporation, a large user of Microsoft software,
has never purchased an Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance, never
bothers to buy Client Access Licenses (CALs), and spends nothing on license
Maybe Red Hat? Not large enough. Wal-Mart? Big Microsoft customer. Sun?
Hey, Scott McNealy and Steve Ballmer are old buddies these days, and Sun's
servers are now some of the hottest Windows machines around.
The answer: Microsoft.
Yes, Microsoft. The company may know less about the practical issues
associated with Microsoft licensing than any other large corporation does,
for the simple reason that it doesn't license its own software. That disconnect
emerges in a couple of important ways:
Product Development. Microsoft will
increasingly ship a single set of bits for multiple versions of its products.
You want to buy the low-end version of Windows Vista? Fine, here are the
bits for the high-end edition. Just don't use all the features that we
shipped you. Feature segregation and product editioning will be achieved
by setup routines and license activation applied to a single store of
bits. Managing editions won't be a problem for Microsoft. They just download
an internal-use version of Vista Ultimate from a server on the network
and install it on as many machines as they like. Business customers may
find the choices trickier, particularly if the're low on the IT org chart
and not familiar with the version that their company actually licensed.
Marketing & Feature Segmentation.
The next version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server will not
only have Enterprise and Standard editions of the server, but Enterprise
and Standard CALs that license different feature sets on either edition.
This is too complicated to explain in this column. But here's the critical
point: Microsoft put no work into enforcing these permissions in its technology.
If you use the wrong CAL and end up accessing features you're not licensed
for, nothing pops up saying "Permission denied." The onus is
on customers to just know they're violating the licensing terms.
may know less about the practical issues associated with Microsoft
licensing than any other large corporation does, for the simple
reason that it doesn't license its own software.
So the hapless sys admin who isn't intimately familiar with a) SharePoint
licensing rules, b) which SharePoint features fall into the standard set
and which into the enterprise set, c) which licenses his company actually
purchased for which users and for which servers, could put his company
out of licensing compliance. Is this going to happen? You betcha. And
you, dear partner, will have to be an expert on this because your customers
will need your advice on the matter.
Microsoft so loves the idea of simply making customers keep track of
the features they use, instead of delivering different SKUs with different
features, that you'll probably see it in all of their server products
in the future. Just think how simple this makes product development: no
testing of multiple editions with different feature sets. Just test everything
against the maximum version, ship the bits for everything at once to reduce
fulfillment and inventory costs, and let the customer sort it out (and
send in the check).
Not that Microsoft has ever tried it. But if it did, the company would
offer this solution: Just buy a license for everything.
I have that from no less an authority than Steve Ballmer. When I once
had the temerity to suggest during a Q&A that it would be useful if
Microsoft ate its own dog food on licensing as well as products, Ballmer
said, "We'd just write ourselves one big check and that's what customers
can do. You don't have to use all the software. Just write one big check
Works for Microsoft. Does it work for you?
Paul DeGroot is principle consultant with Pica Communications, which provides consulting services for customers with complex Microsoft licensing issues.