At the PDC, the volume of announcements on product updates, new offers and emerging technology can be so high that details can be easily lost.  While there are those who pride themselves on detecting every nuance, my guess is there are developers, customers and service providers looking for a little more information on what the Windows Azure announcements might mean for them. If you think you could be a member of the latter, please read on…


Today we announced a new role for Windows Azure – the VM Role.  This functionality does the obvious thing – runs Windows Server 2008 R2 on Windows Azure.  Key to this feature is the user’s ability to construct a Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD on premises, then upload and run it. This is a scenario that we hear a lot about in terms of licensing, so we are taking this opportunity to clarify how this works.


Thing you care about #1. Customers with Windows Server licenses obtained through VL may use their media for Windows Server 2008 R2 to create images which can be run in either dedicated or shared hosting environments including the Azure VM Role. .


What does that mean in plain English?  Most Service Providers provide their customers with canned images that have one or more products pre-installed.  They do this for license compliance reasons, security and simplicity for the user.  This approach is preferred for many customers for a variety of reasons. Some developers tell us that they want the ability to create images locally rather than configure them while the meter is running or use an existing image rather than configure an image from a Service Provider.  Service Providers who want to be in the business of running customer-provided instances have a simple mechanism for doing so.


Three things that might not be clear on the point above and are probably worth clarifying:

·         The point above is about the software, not the license.  This is not license mobility.  You aren’t moving a Windows Server license from on premise into the cloud; you are just using your Windows Server media to create images which will run outside of your organization.

·         The license for Windows Server in this scenario still comes from the service provider.  The service provider (via SPLA) provides the customer a Windows Server license.  Using your own bits doesn’t change the need for a Windows Server license.

·         Any other MSFT software that runs on top of the image needs to be licensed through the service provider.  Take SQL Server for example, running SQL Server on that image requires a license through the Service Provider.


Thing you care about #2.  As a pilot, MSDN customers can use products under their active MSDN subscription in a Dev / Test capacity in the Windows Azure VM Role.


Many of our Windows Azure customers came to us by way of the MSDN trial.  We know that many developers want to use Azure to spin up cloud instances to test scenarios, reproduce bugs and check out new features. This pilot gives you a way to use SQL Server and other MSFT software in the VM Role for development & test scenarios and will run until May of 2011.  Of course, MSDN does not give you rights to run the software / applications in a production environment, and this pilot is no different. We’ll collect feedback and see how useful this offer is.  Towards the end of the pilot we’ll announce next steps and how we might modify or extend this.


Thing you care about #3. No changes on License mobility…for now.


While I’d prefer to leave foreshadowing to meteorologists, I will say that when it comes to the desire for expanded license mobility, we hear you loud and clear.  It’s a very complex issue for our customers, resellers, hosting partners and outsourcing partners.  We’re working on some ideas and would welcome your thoughts. In as much as customers use hardware from a variety of sources, we know that customers will likely use cloud services from multiple providers and we will bank on that as we work through the details.