Microsoft on Wednesday took the wraps off a desktop virtualization licensing plan for Windows Vista Enterprise and other licensing changes to accelerate the uptake of its Software Assurance update and maintenance program.
Customers that acquire Vista Enterprise through Software Assurance can run four copies of Windows on one device for a single user at no additional charge, Microsoft said at its Velocity 2006 partner conference in Boston. To get Vista Enterprise, customers must sign up for a multiyear Software Assurance deal, which would enable them to run multiple Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000 or other Windows workloads on one desktop.
On the server side, Microsoft is making its Windows Server 2003 R2 Datacenter Edition available through volume licensing. Previously, the high-end version of Windows Server was available only through large OEMs. The move stands to spur customer adoption of server virtualization technology. Microsoft had previously announced that customers could run an unlimited number of virtualized Windows Server operating systems on the Datacenter Edition beginning Oct. 1.
Customers now will be able to run and consolidate various Windows Server Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter workloads or a mix of the three Windows Server OSes without having to pay for virtual machines or additional server licenses, according to Microsoft.
Those are just two steps Microsoft has made to entice more customers to buy into Software Assurance, which hasn't been embraced as widely as Microsoft had hoped. In March, Microsoft rolled out 18 new benefits for Software Assurance customers, and on Wednesday the Redmond, Wash., company said it will make Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs available at no cost to Software Assurance customers. That version is designed to allow customers to run Windows XP Service Pack 2 on legacy PCs. Microsoft said that will ease the customer transition to Vista Enterprise.
Industry observers said the move encourages customers running older versions of Windows to migrate directly to Vista Enterprise, since both are available directly through Software Assurance. Vista Enterprise, one of several different versions of Vista for consumers and businesses, will support older Windows workloads in light of Wednesday's virtualization licensing announcement.
In addition, Microsoft announced that it has made its latest desktop virtualization product, Virtual PC 2004 SP1, available at no charge for download and will also make Virtual PC 2007 for Windows Vista available free for download to any customer. Yet only Software Assurance customers who deploy Windows Vista Enterprise can install up to four copies of the operating system in a virtual machine for a single user on a single device.