Microsoft Licensing in the Cloud 'As Complicated as Ever'

26 February 2013
7 minute read

Microsoft Licensing in the Cloud 'As Complicated as Ever'

26 February 2013
7 minute read
Jeff Parker, Directions on Microsoft (DOM)

Jeff Parker, Directions on Microsoft (DOM)

I admire Directions on Microsoft (DOM) for their high quality content and professionalism, so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Jeff Parker, President.

In this interview we explore DOM’s unique take on ‘miles deep’ industry analysis, Microsoft Licensing and Licensing in the Cloud.

ITAM Review: For those ITAM Review readers new to DOM – who are you and what do you do?

DOM is an independent IT planning information service that’s focused exclusively on Microsoft for the past twenty years.

We specialize in providing all the hard-to-find facts IT planners and asset managers need to make smart decisions about their Microsoft projects and purchases.

Within the ITAM community, we’re best known for our detailed Microsoft licensing guides and intensive, two-day Microsoft Licensing Boot Camps. Within the IT architect community, we’re best known for our quarterly Microsoft Product Roadmaps and New Technology Evaluation Guides.

Wouldn’t I go to someone like Gartner or Forrester for stuff like that?

Gartner and Forrester each cover hundreds of software, hardware, and IT service vendors and the information they provide tends to be high level and big picture. CIOs and IT strategies use Gartner and Forrestor to answer questions such as “What are the major IT trends?” and “What vendors provide the best-of-class solutions?”

DOM only covers one vendor, Microsoft, and our information tends to be very deep and actionable.

ITAMs use DOM to answer specific questions such as:

  • “Which licenses do I really need to buy?” and
  • “What is the best way to purchase the licenses I need?”

IT planners use DOM to answer questions such as:

  • “What are new features will be delivered in the next version of Windows Server?” and
  • “When does support end on Exchange 2007?”

One DOM member put it this way:

“The information we get from Gartner is miles wide but only inches deep. The information we get from DOM is inches wide but miles deep.”

Why would I want to go on a licensing boot camp? Can’t I speak to my Microsoft LAR about queries on licensing?

Let me answer the second part of your question first. Every LAR has a team of licensing specialists that try to present themselves as your “trusted advisor.” Some of these specialists are extremely knowledgeable, but at the end of the day every LAR gets paid by Microsoft. By comparison, DOM doesn’t have a financial interest in your Microsoft purchase decisions. We’re completely independent and don’t have any hidden agenda. Our only goal is to give you the knowledge you need to level the playing field whenever you talk to Microsoft or a LAR. We equip our ITAMs and IT Planners with knowledge that enables them to make informed decisions based on a concrete understanding of the rules and their options. It’s knowledge that changes the dynamic between a company and Microsoft or a LAR dramatically – from confusion and suspicion to a conversation of equals. It’s also knowledge that can help you figure out whether or not a LAR or licensing consultant is giving you good advice.

Now let me answer the first question: Why should someone attend our Licensing Boot Camp?

We all know that Microsoft licensing is complicated. Microsoft licensing presents an overwhelming array of programs, rules and choices, all of which are in a constant state of change. If you understand the rules, you will make choices that can save significant sums of money and keep your company compliant. If you don’t understand how Microsoft licensing works, you run the risk of making expensive mistakes. It’s common for companies to waste tens-of-thousands or even millions of dollars in unnecessary license purchases just because they don’t understand they have less expensive options.

Do you foresee Microsoft’s ‘All-in’ approach to the Cloud meaning the end to complicated licensing programs?

Yes and no. If you’re talking about license compliance, Cloud computing will definitely make the ITAM’s job vastly simpler. By definition, when you’re using a Cloud application you’re using the exact version you’re entitled to use. But if you’re talking about figuring out what you need to license and for whom, I think software licensing is going to be as complicated as ever.

Just as with on-premise applications, Cloud applications will have plethora of complicated features, each of which has to be licensed properly for each type of user. It will be every bit as much of a licensing headache for the Cloud as it already is for on-premise software. And just as with on-premise software, Cloud applications will need to interoperate with other applications, both on-premise and Cloud-based. We’ve found that trying to license Office 365 to interoperate with on-premise versions of Microsoft software can create mind-bending levels of complexity.

You are perhaps best known for roadmaps – how do organizations make use of these?

Microsoft currently ships over one hundred different product versions of its enterprise software with new versions shipping and old version being retired every month. During 2012 alone Microsoft shipped new versions of Windows, Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and Office – not to mention dozens of minor products.

Our members use our Roadmap service to keep track of all this change in a very focused way while simultaneously building their own IT roadmaps. The service is a resource IT planners can use to answer fundamental questions such as:

  • What Microsoft product interdependencies do I need to understand before I make a purchase or deployment decision?
  • What upgrades am I likely to receive if I sign up for Software Assurance?
  • Should I target the current product release for my solution or deployment? Or, should I wait until the next planned version?
  • At what point will diminished support for old product versions I currently rely on force me to migrate to a newer version?

We have seven full-time analysts that keep our Microsoft Enterprise Roadmap up-to-date. It’s a herculean task because the information is scattered all over and what’s there is often out-of-date or inaccurate. I can’t imagine an IT planner or ITAM trying to gather and vet this information on their own. In fact, Microsoft employees constantly tell me it’s usually easier to get current information about the Microsoft Roadmap from DOM than anywhere internally.

What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s attempts at Tablets? Do you think they will claw some enterprise market share back here?

They are certainly playing catch up and it’s not going to be easy, but Microsoft isn’t known for giving up. They have the resources to keep failing until they finally succeed. I think Microsoft’s best opportunity for tablets is inside the enterprise rather than with consumers. A Microsoft tablet that leverages all of Microsoft’s other software assets, such as Systems Center, can solve the thorny security issues companies are facing with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

Congratulations on your 20 year anniversary – what next for DOM?

Thank you. For the past 20 years, we’ve succeeded by being a service that’s boring but valuable. There have literally been dozens of Microsoft-focused analyst firms and publications that have come-and-gone over the years and I can honestly say that each was way more fun to read or listen to than DOM. But instead of feeding into the hype that always seems to surround Microsoft, we’ve chosen to be that kind of serious “eat-your-vegetables” service that all serious professionals rely on to do their job. It’s a formula that seems to work and one that I expect will carry us forward into the future – or at least until Microsoft licensing suddenly becomes simple.

Learn more about DOM here >>

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