Chris Wolf and I were briefed by Microsoft on their licensing revisions for their server based applications that make the licensing terms more favorable to virtualized environments. Chris blogged on these details here. There’s another aspect of the licensing revisions that I want to talk about: Disaster Recovery in your Business Continuity plans.
Prior to the revisions, a user could not transfer an application license to another physical server more often than once every 90 days. Legally, this didn’t allow for disaster recovery testing with only one license for your application instance, nor for any type of disaster event that would result in failing a service over to a recovery site for less than 90 days. You would need to either stay at your failover site for 90 days minimum, or you would need to purchase additional licenses for your recovery sites, even though they would not be in use except during a disaster event or testing.
The new licensing terms are more favorable to disaster recovery and business continuity practices, but not for everyone. The new terms define the concept of a “server farm” which is composed of no more than two data centers that are no further than four time zones apart from each other. You can transfer a license between physical machines as part of virtual mobility, disaster recovery, or business continuity within your server farm as often as you like.
My first reaction to the "server farm" restrictions were "what?!?" and "why would you do that?". So I questioned Microsoft during the briefing as to why they chose to define a “server farm” as no more than two data centers located within four time zones of each other. Their answer was clear: They do not want customers transferring a software license around the world within a 24 hour period as in a “follow the sun” fashion. They regard this as misuse of a license. Personally, I see this restriction as unnecessary. As long distance data transmission latencies decrease, the business division of a world wide company in Japan can use the same license as the division in New York just by both remotely accessing a common data center in Colorado. Why make the restriction in the first place? I know of a smaller company located in the Phoenix, AZ area that placed and now remotely manages their production servers in a co-location center on the Isle-of-Man (British Isles) to save money.
So what does this mean for you the customer? It has a series of implications. For those who have disaster recovery centers within four time zones of your production data center, you now only need one license per covered Microsoft server application instance. This can translate into savings in your business continuity plan. However, those of you who have off-shored – or are looking to off-shore – your disaster recovery solution, you may not be able to reap the benefits of this licensing revision. You will want to take this into account when calculating your potential savings by off-shoring – it may change your plans. Those of you who have already setup disaster recovery data centers of your own across an ocean, such as a primary data center in New York City with a recovery center in Ireland, will not be able to take advantage of these licensing revisions between those data centers.
Note that Microsoft specifically indicated that they want to discourage license movement to “follow the sun”, as you can reap the benefits of the licensing revision in a long distance recovery site if you setup a data center in North America with a disaster recovery center in South America, for example.
[Posted by Richard Jones]