Considering the amount of money that Microsoft spends on marketing, ($518M in 2009) one would think they would keep their customers well informed about their upcoming System Center 2012 & SQL Server 2012 product releases. According to a recent article in the Business Insider, those customers are big companies with Microsoft Enterprise Agreements (EA). At least $20 billion of Microsoft’s more than $70 billion in revenue a year comes from those agreements, so you would think these customers would be treated well, or at least, not badly.
An EA typically runs for a 3 year term. But since the majority of companies renew for either the same or more products at the end of a term, it is more like a 3 year cycle. As happened recently with one of our clients, several Microsoft customers are nearing the end of their 3 year term/cycle and suddenly finding out that 1. Microsoft is changing the way they license and price a number of the products in which they have already invested large sums of money (our client has in excess of 25k users), and 2. Microsoft is imposing a deadline for converting to these new products without proactively informing their customers about the full extent of the changes and their potential impacts.
Now, some will say that the Microsoft Marketing Machine provided plenty of advanced notice. This is true if you were paying the big bucks to attend the conferences where their high level executives made their proclamations. However, most of the folks that have the day to day responsibility of the Microsoft relationship for their companies have to rely on Microsoft Partners (known as Software Advisors if you have an EA), to provide them with up to date information about the Microsoft Technology Roadmap and how they may be affected. The other way they may have found out is if the revenue hungry sales reps for a particular Product Group proactively contacted them to give a presentation usually titled “Why Converting Now Will Save You Millions”.
You see, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Microsoft’s licensing and pricing policies, the Product Groups decide individually how they will license and price even though all products are licensed under the same agreement. In our client’s case, the SQL Server Product Group had previously given them a “convert now” sales pitch, but they had no idea about System Center 2012. Now they are left scrambling to gather all the internal technology, financial and business impact data they need in order to make a decision before the end of the month.
I don’t want to appear cynical, but do you think it’s possible that it was in the best interest of Microsoft’s SQL Server team to have this client convert before April 1st – whereas for Microsoft’s System Center team it was more advantageous to wait until the deadline for converting had passed?
Come April 1st Microsoft might say “April Fools, only kidding”… but I doubt it. There will be plenty of fools around on April 1st and Microsoft won’t be one of them. Hopefully your company hasn’t been caught unawares this time around. But if so, make sure you are well informed about these changes and how they will affect your Enterprise Agreement and budget moving forward.