Amazon unveiled the Microsoft Windows Server License Mobility Pilot program in late March on its website but many Windows shops were surprised to hear about the offer -- which requires a U.S.-based company to have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that is valid for at least 12 months, and to purchase Software Assurance on the applicable Windows Server Enterprise, Datacenter and Standard licenses. Sign up must be completed by September 23, 2010.
The resulting Amazon EC2 Instances running with the Windows Server licenses "work exactly the same as any other Windows instances in Amazon EC2 , including their ability to take full advantage of all Amazon EC2 features like Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon CloudWatch, Elastic-Load Balancing, Elastic IPs, and existing Windows-based [Amazon Machine Images]," according to the Amazon post.
The pilot program is an interesting option for Windows shops that might need new hardware. Instead of forking out a lot money for new servers, they have the option of renting them from Amazon and using their familiar EA license alongside it.
It's clear that Amazon wants to grow the workload of Windows-based instances running on EC2. What's less evident is what Microsoft gets from the deal, especially since many see its nascent Azure computing environment as a competitor to Amazon's hosted services. However, one source close to Microsoft said the company is amenable because it needs to boost incentives for customers to renew their enterprise agreements (EAs).
"This is all about EA/SA renewals," the source said, referring to the multi-year, volume enterprise and support agreements. Such renewals are a closely watched metric on Microsoft's earnings calls each quarter.
Making Amazon a full-fledged hosting partner also boosts Microsoft's message that its software will run on the full on-premises, partner-hosted, Microsoft- hosted cloud continuum.
Microsoft partners respond to the news
Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft partner, was thrilled by Amazon's news. "I love this idea. This is a clever partnership and an approach I think shows openness. Microsoft's willingness to move licenses is a fantastic trend," Sobel said via email.
A Boston area Web developer and integrator that does a lot of EC2 work was also impressed, although he said none of his current EC2 customers have Microsoft EAs. He also disagrees with some observers who think Microsoft wants to kneecap Amazon's services.
"I don't think that Microsoft wants to block the use of Windows on Amazon Web Services, because the alternative [for that customer] is to leave Windows."
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