Microsoft relaxes virtual-machine rules

Software maker lifts a licensing restriction that had allowed software running inside virtual machines to shift hardware only once every 90 days.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a change in its licensing policy to make it easier for businesses that want the ability to shift server software that is running in a virtual machine from one physical machine to another.

The licensing shift, which had been expected , lifts a cap that had limited the ability to switch software from one physical machine to another within a server farm. Under the prior rules, such shifts could me made only once every 90 days. That's a problem because software from VMware and others aims to allow such transfers to be made dynamically in response to changing demand.

"Businesses are taking steps to make their IT operations more dynamic and are delving into virtualization as a cornerstone strategy," Microsoft Senior Director Zane Adam said in a statement. "Microsoft recognizes this and is innovating its licensing policies, product support, and a wide range of IT solutions to help customers get virtual now."

The change applies to 41 server titles, Microsoft said, including the enterprise version of SQL Server 2008, the standard and enterprise versions of Exchange Server 2007, as well as the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft System Center products.

Microsoft also plans to offer better support for businesses that are running its software inside other companies' virtualization engines. Under the changes, Microsoft will support its software running inside virtual machines from VMware, Cisco Systems, Citrix, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and Virtual Iron as if it were being run in nonvirtual environments.

In the past, many customers with problems running Microsoft software in VMware, for example, had to reproduce the problem outside of VMware in order to get technical support from Microsoft.

For some time now, Microsoft has been trying to shift its pricing policies to reflect a new world in which server software often runs inside virtual machines.

Microsoft is going to have more to say on the virtualization front at a September 8 event in the Seattle area.

 

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