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Microsoft's new licensing agreement has 24/7 support

The recent wave of benefits added to Microsoft's licensing maintenance agreement includes around-the-clock support for server products.

Of the benefits recently added to Microsoft's beleaguered licensing maintenance program, the one most likely to appeal to most enterprises is around-the-clock problem resolution support.

Microsoft added the 24/7 phone support for critical outages for all products last week, as well as a handful of other benefits in its regular efforts to make Software Assurance palatable to the broadest range of customers.

"This is the most significant of the additions because it's for unlimited Web support for all Microsoft server products," said Alvin Park, an analyst at Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm. "I think this will be what generates people to look at SA more than any of the other benefits."

According to Microsoft, the support also includes Microsoft Windows and Office applications. As good as 24/7 support may be, however, it is no guarantee of an upgrade which is something some customers have been clamoring for, and many expect, though no promise is written in stone.

"Customers would like to be sure they get at least one upgrade in the length of their contract," Park said. "If they added that it would be really hard to say you shouldn't buy Software Assurance, but in Microsoft's defense, other vendors don't offer this either."

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Other vendor support contracts, such as IBM's, are renewed on an annual basis and no one complains. But with Microsoft they do, and Park surmises that it's because Software Assurance customers are forced to sign a three-year commitment.

Another perk worth some money is the inclusion of the Enterprise version of Vista, which has a multilingual interface card that normally costs extra. More training vouchers and consulting services further enhance its acceptability.

Also, the Windows Vista Enterprise version will be available exclusively to customers with Enterprise Agreements, which already include Software Assurance anyway. The Enterprise version of Windows Vista will include Virtual PC Express, which lets users run two Windows client operating systems at the same time, the company said.

The new incentives will be available starting March 2006.

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