Microsoft and OEMs Offer System Management Promos

Microsoft launched a new licensing promotion on Tuesday aimed at midsize companies vying to better manage their servers and IT resources.

The licensing offer, called "Microsoft System Center Management Suite," includes the use of Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 (SCE) and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM) software. The offer is currently available either through Microsoft or its participating original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners.

Participating OEM partners are offering a technology upgrade to those buying Microsoft System Center Management Suite licensing. Customers will be able to upgrade to System Center Essentials 2010 when it's released, which is expected to happen in the first half of next year. The upgrade to the 2010 version will not require the repurchasing of licenses or hardware upgrades.

Microsoft expects Systems Center Essentials 2010 to be a bit more inclusive than its 2007 version. The 2010 version "will include functionality of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2," according to Microsoft's announcement.

In a separate promotion, Microsoft plans to offer its volume licensing customers upgrade rights to System Center Essentials 2010 on Oct. 1. Customers will need to have purchased Microsoft's two-year Software Assurance licensing option to take advantage of the promo.

OEM partners Fujitsu and Lenovo were the only vendors named as offering the new licensing. A Microsoft spokesperson stated in an e-mail that "Microsoft is working with additional partners on this offer but are only announcing Lenovo and Fujitsu at this time."

There are a few nuances to consider when buying the licensing either through OEMs or Microsoft.

"Pricing is different for OEM and volume license channels. Customers who acquire the license via OEMs will get a full version of SCVMM 2008 as part of the SC Essentials Management Suite," stated the spokesperson in an e-mail. "Microsoft volume licensing customers get SCVMM Workgroup edition and SCE 2007, with Software Assurance."

The OEM suite licensing is available as of Sept. 1, and the volume licensing channel promotion will be available on Oct. 1.

Both OEM and volume licensing customers purchase the offerings at less than the retail cost, which is listed as $2,868 and $3,500 respectively, according to the spokesperson. The Microsoft volume licensing price includes the Software Assurance option, and would be reduced to $2,006 at its discounted price, the spokesperson added.

Some industry experts were wondering this week what the motivation for the new promotion from Microsoft was all about.

"I suspect that it's all about the pricing, since VMM was one of the more expensive System Center modules," said Galen Schreck, principal analyst at Forrester Research, in an e-mail. "As for the other vendors, these guys all have low-cost or free system management tools that they want customers to use alongside Microsoft's for element management. It gives them an upgrade path to other Fujitsu etc. tools, and helps with retaining customers."

The combination of SCE and SCVMM allows increased server utilization and enables "live migration" of virtual machines, according to Microsoft's announcement. The suite will make it easier for IT pros to distribute software, manage inventory and centralize an organization's management functions for both physical and virtual machines.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.