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Microsoft licensing: bad for today’s users

We’ve posted the white paper Microsoft Virtualization Licensing and Distribution Terms, which lays out our concerns about some anti-consumer, anti-choice, and anti-ecosystem policies that Microsoft is choosing to implement. It goes into some detail around support, restrictions on virtual machines being converted or even running on other platforms, desktops, virtualization mobility, and APIs. The motivations of the players can be summed up in this intro paragraph:

In particular, Microsoft does not have key virtual infrastructure
capabilities (like VMotion), and they are making those either illegal
or expensive for customers; Microsoft doesn’t have virtual desktop
offerings, so they are denying it to customers; and Microsoft is moving
to control this new layer that sits on the hardware by forcing their
specifications and APIs on the industry. Included below in this
document are explanations with supporting details of some of these
specific areas.

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. Do you think that when Viridian, Microsoft’s hypervisor, eventually comes out and has "live migration" that they’ll find a way to decouple licenses from physical hardware? That when Viridian can do the equivalent of DRS and HA, they’ll suddenly become advocates of putting your enterprise software in virtual resource pools for manageability and reliability? Funny how that works. It’s all bad for the consumer right now in 2007.

On Sunday,  Mike Niel, Microsoft’s GM for virtualization strategy, posted a pre-rebuttal on the Windows Server blog. Link: Where We’re Headed With Virtualization.

It’s a pretty good overview of all the activity going on inside Microsoft. We should reward good behavior — recent changes in licensing for Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition and SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition are glimpses into our virtualized resource pool future, so kudos to Mike and the team there. But I’m struck by how isolated a vision it is — it’s Microsoft’s world, and we’re just living in it (or as Dave Winer would say, just living in Microsoft’s locked trunk). Just wait a few years and you can use Microsoft’s hypervisor with
Microsoft’s management software, but for now just write to Microsoft’s APIs and
"Virtualization is a new technology for consumers, and one that isn’t
mature enough yet from a security perspective for broad consumer
adoption." This is not a worldview that recognizes the existing healthy
ecosystem around virtualization that exists today. More on the security FUD later.

I am not a Microsoft hater, and I’m not an "open source or die" zealot.
But the current situation seems like Microsoft is preventing users from realizing the very real benefits of
virtualization in their homes and businesses today.

[Here's Mary Jo Foley's take. This story is bouncing around the periphery of Digg and TechMeme, but for now you can follow along at Google News.]

–jtroyer

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