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Microsoft official defends complex software licensing efforts

Microsoft official defends complex software licensing efforts

Programs are based on customer demand, but a 'hybrid world' with cloud computing and virtualization is challenging to manage, exec says

Acknowledging that some customers have taken issue with Microsoft's software licensing policies, a Microsoft official defended the company's actions Tuesday afternoon and stressed the complexities of the situation.

Microsoft has developed multiple licensing programs, said Michael Beare, Microsoft senior director for worldwide software asset management, during a panel session at the SoftSummit 2010 conference in San Jose, Calif. The session also featured representatives from Oracle and Symantec.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Oracle is eliminating lower-tier license plans for the MySQL database. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]

"We don't have a team of people in Redmond trying to make licensing complicated," Beare said.  Programs have been built based on customer demand, he stressed. "The problem is when you start layering them," with customers having to deal with four or five different programs, he said.

Purchasing managers have had issues such as wanting to pay one bill instead of multiple bills for different computing services, said Beare. Microsoft, though, is trying to provide the most flexible licensing arrangements, he stressed.

Beare also cited new concepts in software usage that must be addressed. "We do see cloud and virtualization as a new area that's going to be challenging to manage," he said.

Microsoft sees a "hybrid world," with some software usage based on a cloud deployment and some that is asset-based, such as having Windows on a PC, said Beare.

Elaborating on virtualization after the session, Beare noted issues customers and Microsoft are having.

"There are very challenging rules around virtualization," he said. "Whereas Microsoft has tried to put the right programs in place, some folks are being misadvised, is the best way to put it."

Looking to be creative, customers can virtualize a bunch of servers, which can unintentionally put them out of license compliance, Beare explained.

"We end up actually with a problem because we've now got the footprint of many more licenses than were actually initially licensed or entitled," Beare said.

Meanwhile, software piracy remains an issue to different degrees around the world, Beare said. In China, for example, the rate is in the 80 percent range, he said. "That means that eight copies of software out of 10 have not been paid for," Beare said.

Also during the session, Oracle's Manjeet Chocker, a representative of the company's license management services organization, detailed the company's new managed services program.

"For the first time, we're actually working with customers in order to evaluate their internal SAM [software asset management] processes," to better understand who is responsible for deploying, managing, and retiring software in user sites, Chocker said. Oracle offers recommendations to customers perceived to be non-compliant with licenses and is looking to educate users to maximize their Oracle deployments, she said.

At Symantec, the company relies on customers themselves for SAM, said Mika Harviala, manager of the company's Global SAM Partner and Tools Program.

"All our initiatives are aimed at making the customers proactive in understanding their deployments," Harviala said.

This article, "Microsoft official defends complex software licensing efforts," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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