Microsoft has elected to jettison certain licensing restrictions that previously discouraged its customers from moving the software giant’s server applications within a server farm at will.
Beginning next month, Microsoft says its customers will be able to move any of 41 server applications as often as necessary without paying additional licensing fees. The goal is to enable data center managers to more effectively employ virtualization technology as the means for creating more dynamic enterprise IT systems, the company said.

“Businesses are taking steps to make their IT operations more dynamic and are delving into virtualization as a cornerstone strategy,” said Zane Adam, senior director of integrated virtualization at Microsoft. “Microsoft recognizes this and is innovating its licensing policies, product support and a wide range of IT solutions to help customers get virtual now.”

Virtualization Integration

Microsoft is also encouraging third-party providers to participate in a new program launched last June that the software giant is backing through its introduction of product-support policies governing 31 server applications. Analysts say the program is good news for the industry, given that the need for interoperability is becoming more important as server virtualization quickly moves past the early adopter stage and becomes a mainstream solution.

“As IT professionals update their standard server images for new installations, they are increasingly integrating virtualization to simplify deployments, to increase the system flexibility, boost usage rates and increase portability of the applications,” explained Al Gillen, a research vice president at IDC. “With this latest update to its licensing rules, Microsoft is knocking down barriers to virtualized deployments, which should help further accelerate the adoption rates.”

Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) is open to any software vendor to test and validate its software to run Windows Server 2008 and previous versions of Windows Server. Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Virtual Iron Software are already participating in this program.

Microsoft’s new program “provides customers with additional peace of mind when they run Windows as a guest in a validated environment such as SUSE Linux Enterprise,” said Roger Levy, senior vice president and general manager of open-platform solutions at Novell. “Novell and Microsoft continue to collaborate to optimize bidirectional virtualization between Windows Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise with Xen.”

VMware Onboard

The New York Times published an article Tuesday that claimed VMware had been invited to participate in the program, but is not yet onboard. The story also stated that the enhanced level of support that Microsoft is offering its third-party participants would not be extended to Microsoft products running on VMware servers.

However, VMware spokeswoman Mary Ann Gallo says the story is factually incorrect. “We’ve sent a note to the reporter to have it corrected,” she said.

Carl Eschenbach, executive vice president of global operations at VMware, observed that the latest announcements from Microsoft are good news for his company’s customers.

“VMware is proud to be a part of SVVP” and “has already been collaborating with Microsoft and other ISVs to ensure that our customers are supported at the highest possible level,” Eschenbach said. “VMware is looking forward to working closely with Microsoft to complete the certification of VMware ESX under the SVVP program to provide customers the support they need to gain the flexibility and benefits of working in virtualized environments.”