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Enterprise Customers Can Use Their Licenses to Run Windows Instances on EC2

by Abel Avram on Apr 07, 2010 |

Amazon extends their Windows VM offering, and offers customers the possibility to use their enterprise license to run Windows instances on EC2 through a pilot program consented with Microsoft. Microsoft is going to evaluate the results of the program, possibly offering the same license mobility in the future, and promises to support Windows VM on Azure some time this year.

Amazon announced it would support Windows Server 2003 instances back in 2008, and added support for Windows Server 2008 in December last year. Besides that, AWS offers support for SQL Server Express and SQL Server Standard 2005 and 2008, making it possible to run the entire Microsoft Web Platform including ASP.NET, ASP.NET AJAX, Silverlight, and IIS on EC2. Another change is that enterprise customers having Windows Server licenses now can transfer their licenses and run their Windows servers on Amazon’s EC2 for the price of Linux On-Demand or Reserved instances. Practically, Amazon charges like running free software on their hardware, the customers still having to pay to Microsoft yearly as part of their license program.

This is possible under a pilot program supported by Microsoft until September 23rd, 2010. It is not sure what will happen after that, if Microsoft will continue the pilot, cancel it, or move to a long time dedicated program.

Not everyone qualifies as a Microsoft “enterprise customer” and for the pilot program. Some of the conditions are: having at least 250 desktops running Windows software, the organization must be based in US, owning a Software Assurance, and the agreement with Microsoft should not expire in 12 months after entering the pilot program.

While Microsoft is supporting Windows VM instances to run on Amazon’s EC2, Windows Azure currently does not support virtual machines. Customers running on Microsoft’s cloud need to write their application from scratch to make them possible to run on Azure. But Microsoft is still working on supporting Windows VM instances which is needed to let customers run older applications on its cloud. But these VMs will be somehow different from Amazon’s offer:

While Windows Azure is a cloud service that uses (and charges via) computation resources that are analogous to physical computers, it differs in important ways from platforms such as AWS that offer VMs on demand. With a purely VM-based platform, the situation is much like hosting: You bear full responsibility for configuring and managing the VMs and the software they contain. With the proposed VM functionality in Windows Azure, while developers have the flexibility to customize the Windows Azure VM and incorporate it in service models, the platform itself takes care of everything else.

Microsoft said they intend to offer VM on Azure some time this year and they are evaluating providing license mobility to let customers run Windows instances based on already purchased Windows licenses.

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