Just as businesses are starting to discover the benefits of virtualization, Microsoft is changing the license terms for new versions of Windows.

VMTN Blog The goal from Microsoft seems to be to slow down the market and downplay features they can’t match, so that they have a chance to catch up.

In fact this is in direct conflict with the needs of their customers. The move by Microsoft not at all surprising. Before virtualization, businesses had to choose one operating system to install on their servers, and there was often one application that forced that operating system to be Windows. Once you installed an operating system on your server, you would likely end up buying other applications that ran on Windows - and Microsoft had a pretty strong lock on those customers. With virtualization a business can ran exactly as many different operating systems as they need, and new applications need not run on a Microsoft operating system. This is a threat to Microsoft’s lock on the market - so naturally they want to prevent the use of virtualization (except on their own terms).

Nothing surprising here.

The kicker is - if I were a business making use of virtualization, I would be looking at two things right now:

  • Moving services off Microsoft’s operating systems where practical.
  • Buying up old licenses for Windows 2000 (and 2003?) Server that did not limit use of virtualization.

Right off the bat, I bet we could free up some licenses by moving file and directory servers from Windows Servers to Samba on Linux (or Solaris). The freed licenses could be used to host any legacy Windows Server applications. In the mid-term I would be looking at moving any databases hosted on Windows Server machines onto one of the many non-Windows alternatives. Certainly if I were a forward-looking business, I would not be fond of Microsoft limiting my choices while cranking up costs.

With Samba, moving file and directory services off Microsoft servers is dead easy. Moving databases off Microsoft servers is more difficult (depending on the application), but given a bit of lead time, often quite feasible.

This is a dangerous gambit for Microsoft. By restricting the choices available to businesses currently using Windows Servers, they run the risk of pushing customers off Windows more quickly.