Microsoft makes big Software Assurance changes

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Microsoft makes big Software Assurance changes

Limited support for US$250k spend, new planning services, training and more.

Microsoft has made a number of changes to Software Assurance, its volume software licensing program.

The big change covers support eligibility, which will move from incident-based support to “as-needed support and credit toward Unified Support”, according to a Microsoft FAQ.

The change means “Software Assurance customers will no longer earn a limited number of support incidents based on spend, agreement type, and product(s) but instead will get as-needed support with a Software Assurance spend of US$250,000 or more annually. The Software Assurance support provides business hours support with a 24-hour response time goal.” The number of support incidents handled is tied to spend.

“Customers that spend less than $250,000 per year on Software Assurance with no enterprise support agreement (Premier/Unified) will be directed to a partner for support or can purchase Professional Support incidents”, the FAQ adds.

The changes to planning benefits under Software Assurance will see the current Planning Services offer retired.

Planning Services sees either Microsoft or its consulting partners offer end-customers advice on efficient use of its on-prem and cloud products. Partners offer a certain number of days of advice based on the level of licence acquired by end-customers.

Its replacement is FastTrack, a service that “… helps customers deploy Microsoft cloud solutions” and that is offered to “customers with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365” who “can use FastTrack at no additional cost for the life of their subscription.”

Microsoft’s billed the change as a necessary “consolidation” because “FastTrack is our primary implementation support offer.” But there's also an element of cloud-herding involved, given FastTrack's focus on cloud products.

Other changes to Software Assurance include retirement of the Training Vouchers, in favour new courses and certifications.

Microsoft’s offered the following timeline for changes to Software Assurance.

  • February 2020: Deployment Planning Services cloud engagements will be retired and you can apply to use FastTrack programs.  
  • February 2020: Training vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days.  
  • February 2021: End to accrual of new deployment planning days. 
  • June 2021: Last day to create Planning Services vouchers. 
  • January 2022: Last day to redeem Planning Services vouchers. 

There’s a distinctly cloudy flavour to these changes, which will surprise few given Microsoft’s direction.

And now to see if Microsoft’s struck the right balance: the giant knows that many of its customers have few alternative suppliers, so it can occasionally turn the screws. But it also pushed too far recently by cancelling free software licenses for its partners, sparking widespread anger and swift reversal of the change.

iTnews can recall just one example of customer rebellion forcing license changes - VMware's 2011 "vTax" incident. Microsoft will be hoping these new changes don't spark a similar reaction! 

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