In what could be a sign of things to come, Microsoft is offering a small sweetener to its Software Assurance licensing programme.
From last week, the company began allowing servers used for disaster recovery to carry copies of its Windows server software at no extra cost.
A key condition is that the server must be used only for disaster recovery.
Microsoft defines such servers as "cold servers" - ones turned off until a disaster arises.
The cold server provision will be applicable for the remaining term of any two- or three-year Software Assurance contract and is not perpetual.
AUT IT manager, Calum MacLeod, said the new terms offered little in the way of benefits to AUT, because "we don't have the resources to have a bunch of servers sitting around, waiting for a disaster".
AUT doesn't subscribe to Software Assurance for its desktops, as it's on a special education licensing contract, but its servers are licensed under Software Assurance.
MacLeod said the university had to be more inventive in its disaster recovery plans, which did not currently include cold servers as defined by Microsoft.
In any event, bringing up a Windows server was not a challenge - it was the database and the data in it that took the time, he said.
Microsoft NZ partner group manager, Steve Haddock, said the offering was about adding value. When asked if the timing of the offer was related to the fact many Software Assurance customer subscriptions were due to expire soon, he said, "I don't think so. There's no right time to do things."
Haddock said the key to successful uptake of the offer would be education of users by Microsoft's channel partners.
Asked about uptake expectations, he said, "I'd expect it to be 30 per cent in the first year.”
Haddock said the offer would aid small to medium-sized customers the most, because often they did not have the money for a back-up solution. Disaster recovery would become more important for SMEs in the next few years, he said.
Last year, Microsoft offered several sweeteners to Software Assurance in the fields of training, support and home use rights.
When it was introduced in 2001, Software Assurance met with mixed reactions from Microsoft users, with some complaining the 25 per cent to 29 per cent annual cost was higher than for other subscription-upgrade schemes offered by other vendors.
Software Assurance works on the basis that customers pay an annual fee, about 29 per cent of their annual licensing fee for desktop software and 25 per cent for server apps, in exchange for free upgrades to the latest version of Microsoft software.
While that has some advantages for users who would have upgraded often, some Microsoft products aren't due to be upgraded for years, such as SQL Server 2000, which is scheduled for re-release in 2005. Longhorn, Windows XP's successor, isn't due out until 2006.