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Microsoft Enterprise Agreement – To renew or not to renew? That is the question.

When the time comes and organizations are faced with their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) renewal decision, it’s always a fierce internal debate. The cost of a renewal can be significant and represents a huge chunk of any IT budget. The complexity of Microsoft licensing, not to mention the challenge of negotiating a new agreement, require that you have a clearly defined plan for the future. New implementations of virtualization and cloud computing will reflect the decision to renew or not, and there are many options to consider.

Software Assurance:

Microsoft has been increasing their push on Software Assurance (SA) as a way for them to better predict revenue. It certainly comes with its benefits, which includes upgrade rights, proactive support offerings, and licensing rights. If you plan to virtualize, in many cases SA is a requirement. In order to make an informed decision on whether or not SA is a worthwhile investment, you will need to evaluate which aspects of the SA package you will actually use. If you aren’t going to take advantage of the full offering, it’s probably not worth the extra money. For example, the support offerings are great but if you don’t require support that frequently, if might make more sense to buy one-off support and pay the fees as they come.

Virtualization:

The decision to virtualize or what to virtualize is a question many companies are facing. Whether or not you choose to use a vendor like VMWare or Citrix, your Microsoft licensing requirements will still be the same. You will want to evaluate the different licensing options along with your virtualization plans in order to get the best bang for your buck. Virtualization has caught on so quickly it has left vendors like Microsoft catching up with their licensing terms. Consequently, we would recommend getting outside help to be sure you are in compliance. The implementation of virtual desktops can be daunting enough – don’t make the mistake of not licensing properly and find yourself facing fees from your vendors.

Cloud Computing:

More companies are looking to the clouds to for alternatives from their current vendors, such as Google and IBM. Taking IT functions in-house and using a cloud-based program to manage these processes are appealing to those looking to cut costs. Data storage, for example, is much less costly in the clouds, and can be a much better option for organizations where storage needs change frequently. Before committing to one vendor, look at all the options. Evaluate what functions would be better managed in-house and the compare costs.

All in all, the question or whether or not you should renew isn’t so cut and dry. Every scenario for your company from now through the length of the contract needs to be considered to prepare yourself for changes you may face, and any new technology you may deploy. The negotiation process will be much more effective if you have a clear-cut plan ahead of time and are prepared to get the best deal to fit your needs. The worst thing that can happen is that you negotiate a complete renewal, leaving you with unused licenses or even requiring you to make another big purchase.

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