No extra licenses needed for multicore chips

No extra licenses needed for multicore chips

Customers who use the dual-core processors that Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are expected to begin shipping next year will not need to buy extra licenses for Microsoft software, the software maker will announce Tuesday.

Until Tuesday, Microsoft declined to comment on how it would license software for chips with more than one core, but under a revised software licensing policy, set to be published Tuesday, Microsoft will now consider dual or multicore processors as if they are a single chip, said Cori Hartje, director of marketing and readiness with Microsoft's worldwide licensing and pricing group. "What we're trying to do here is make sure that customers can upgrade to this new technology without having to pay a premium for software costs," she said.

The announcement means that customers who purchase a number of Microsoft products that are licensed on a per-processor basis, including Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft BizTalk Server, will not see a sudden jump in licensing fees as they move to dual-core processors.

Licensing policy for products like Windows Server 2003 or Exchange Server, which require more expensive "Enterprise" licensing when they run on systems with more than four processors, will remain unchanged, Hartje said. "You could certainly use four dual-core processors and still be using a Standard Edition," Hartje said.

In recent years, microprocessor vendors have begun designing chips with more than one processing unit, or "core," on the chip in an effort to boost performance for certain types of applications. As far as the software running on the systems is concerned, dual-core chips appear to be two separate processors, raising the question of whether or not they should require two software licenses.

To date, there have been different answers to this question. Oracle's licensing policy, for example, treats dual-core chips as if they are two separate processors, while Red Hat has taken the opposite tack.

The announcement was greeted with a dose of skepticism by Anthony Scott, chief technology officer with General Motors' (GM) Information Systems and Services organization, who said that a larger issue for software vendors like Microsoft is their propensity for changing licensing terms.

"I've never seen a software company stick to the same scheme for more than two years," he said.

While Scott welcomed the lower costs associated with Microsoft's policy, he said that 80 percent of GM's software spending occurs after the initial software purchase. "Licensing cost is a relatively small factor of the whole ecosystem," he said.

Microsoft's policy will come as a relief to the hardware vendors, who worry that unfavorable licensing terms could hamper the adoption of their dual-core designs, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of Microprocessor Report, a technical publication for the chip industry.

The policy could put pressure on Oracle and other software vendors to adopt a similar approach to software licensing, Krewell said. "It will make Microsoft's solutions in these multicore processors more cost-effective than competing Oracle solutions," he said. "It's certainly going to be the solution to this issue that all the hardware vendors are going to point to. They're going to point to Microsoft and say, 'Microsoft has decided that per-processor is the right way to go, why can't others decide the same thing?'"

More information about Microsoft's licensing policies can be found at

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