Microsoft plans to hike license fee, but adds security software access

Microsoft is boosting the price of a license that provides client access to Windows Server, SharePoint, Exchange and Systems Centre, but is sweetening the deal by giving buyers access to a new endpoint security product and the new Lync unified communications software.

Microsoft is also expected to lower the price of an enterprise license that includes more robust access to key Microsoft software.

The annual price of the Core CAL (client access license) is expected to rise from $80 to $89, according to information distributed by Microsoft partner Softchoice, although final pricing won’t be made official until Aug. 1. The numbers are estimates that “reflect preliminary info from Microsoft.”

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The Core CAL currently provides access to Windows Server, Systems Centre Configuration Manager, and standard access to SharePoint and Exchange. Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 and standard access to Lync will be added to the Core CAL, potentially making it a better deal despite the higher price. Forefront Endpoint Protection by itself would cost $10.20 annually per user, or per device.

Microsoft would not confirm the final pricing, but said customers who have the Core CAL and have purchased Software Assurance can lock in today’s price and receive the new pieces of software.

“Active Software Assurance customers with Core CAL receive these new rights,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “The changes are effective Aug. 1 – so now is a good time for customers to renew Core CAL and get these extra components (FEP and Lync Standard CAL) at today’s pricing.”

Client access licenses are separate from server licenses. They allow individual end users to connect devices such as PCs to Microsoft’s server products.

In addition to the Core CAL, Microsoft also offers the Enterprise CAL. According to the Microsoft partner information, the Enterprise CAL cost will drop from $94 to $86. That means customers who buy both the core and enterprise licenses will end up paying about the same price as before. Again, these are estimated prices and the final numbers won’t be known until August.

The enterprise CAL includes Active Directory Rights Management Services; the enterprise versions of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync; System Centre Client Management Suite; Forefront Unified Access Gateway, and the Forefront Protection Suite, which includes several products in addition to Forefront Endpoint Protection.

Customers should carefully examine the pros and cons of Microsoft’s licenses. They may not necessarily benefit from the additions to the Core CAL.

“I don’t have a single customer who will benefit from this,” says Cynthia Farren, who runs the Cynthia Farren Consulting firm and writes a blog on Microsoft licensing for Network World. “The functionality of Lync Server Standard CAL is pretty limited, so basically unless you’re just using it for PC-to-PC IM it’s not going to be of much use, as you probably already needed the Enterprise CAL. Forefront Endpoint Protection requires System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) to manage it – that’s fine as it’s part of the Core CAL but a good number of my clients have elected to not invest in the manpower needed to implement and run SCCM, so Forefront Endpoint Protection adds no value to them.”

Even customers who don’t need System Centre may still opt for the Core CAL in order to get Windows Server, SharePoint and Exchange at a reduced rate, Farren notes. But customers who purchase the Core CAL, but not the Enterprise CAL, will see a rise in price regardless of whether they opt to use Forefront Endpoint Protection and Lync.

Another benefit of the core and enterprise CALs, according to Microsoft, is that they may be licensed on either a per-user or per-device basis, even when the pieces of software included in the CAL are eligible for only one or the other when purchased individually.

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