Microsoft have announced that subscriptions to their long running MS TechNet subscription will end on the 31st August this year (2013). This is going to be significant blow to many SysAdmins and IT Professionals, such as myself, who use the Microsoft TechNet subscription service for ease of download, evaluation/trial, learning and running of the various Microsoft OS and back-office products daily in their home lab and proof of concept environments.
When Does The MS TechNet Subscription Service End For Good?
Microsoft will close it’s doors to any new TechNet subscriptions on the 31st August 2013, and will run the TechNet service for a year, until 31st August 2014. Purchased subscriptions must be activated by the 30th September 2013. See here for more details.
Why Microsoft got rid of the TechNet Subscription?
Microsoft claim that their decision to end this valuable subscription service is “to focus on growing its free offerings, including evaluation resources”. In doing this they are hoping that IT Professionals will embrace and start using one of the other methods for accessing their products in an evaluation context. Read on below for a summary of what TechNet type alternatives are available.
What MS TechNet Type Alternatives Are There?
For those people still wanting to have access to subscription based Microsoft products the Microsoft MSDN offering will continue to be made available, this starts at £590.66 (US$699) for the entry level package and goes right through to a more encompassing package for £11,237.66 (US$13,299). As you can see this is quite a price hike from the couple of hundred pounds/dollars that TechNet cost, also since MS MSDN is geared towards the developer community, to gain access to the back-office products that most home lab folk and SysAdmins use (eg: MS SQL, Exchange, etc.) the purchase of the MSDN Premium or Ultimate subscription will be required. These start at £5,170.66 (US$6,119)! I unfortauntely can’t justify this cost to continue to have access to Microsoft licenses for my home lab.
Extended Production Evaluations:
As mentioned at the start of this post, Microsoft will be focusing more on providing extended evaluation versions of their products via the TechNet Evaluation Center with most Microsoft products being made available for evaluation for a 30-180 day period. This will be a perfectly acceptable option for some IT Professionals wanting to simply trial various Microsoft products, though where these evaluations won’t be of much use will be for the core Microsoft products used in a lab type environment, for example Windows Server OS for Domain Controller functionality (ie: DNS, DHCP, AD, etc.), MS SQL Server (eg: VMware vCenter Server Database – although admittedly the MS SQL Express version could be used for small/medium lab vCenter installations). The last thing you’ll want to be doing is rebuilding your lab’s Windows Server AD and SQL Server instances every 180 days.
TechNet Virtual Labs:
This is a free online testing environment from Microsoft which is designed to be completed in 90 minutes or less, without the need to install evaluation software locally. Apart from basic training or familiarisation purposes this isn’t going to provide much value to the average IT SysAdmin or lab enthusiast.
Microsoft Azure (Cloud):
You could always embrace the Cloud and spin up Microsoft product instances in the Cloud for lab environments, proof of concepts and general product evaluations. Of course Microsoft will be hoping that you consider their Azure Cloud platform for this purpose. Admittedly I haven’t checked Cloud pricing recently although when I last looked it was still a little on the steep side especially if you wanted to keep your lab environment spun-up and running. It’s safe to say that Cloud pricing will continue to fall though for the average SysAdmin or home lab enthusiast, having to pay for it out of their own pocket, it will have to drop quite a bit further before becoming the widely adopted home lab method of choice.
The closure of the Microsoft Technet programme will likely see people, myself included, going back out to review and assess whether there are any alternative products, possibly from the Open Source community (eg: Linux, etc.) that may now be a better fit for use in my lab. The risk of this to Microsoft is that if/when IT Professionals become familiar with another product, and assuming it is deemed fit for purpose, then they may look at using this in their production IT environment. Whether this will or will not happen, and the extent of it, only time will tell though for many in the front line of day to day IT this could be the shove they need to start evaluating alternative Microsoft products, especially those from the OpenSource community, which generally come with a lower price tag.
A Blow for Home Labs?
Most definitely. Although a 180 day MS product trial license will suffice in many instances, this will prove to be a real inconvenience for those IT Pros running a permanent type lab environment, especially for the core Microsoft products such as the Windows Server OS Domain Controller (DC) and Microsoft SQL DB server. Having to re-install these products after they expire and keeping track of when the various products will expire will prove a real headache. The beauty of the TechNet subscription was that it provided a simple, effective and legal way of running Microsoft software without the hassle of having to keep tabs on when the software would expire.
With Microsoft Hyper-V trying to make in-roads to VMware’s virtualization market-share, if an increasing number of IT Professionals stop using Microsoft Server as their preferred OS of choice then they may not see Hyper-V as a hypervisor contender with it being so tightly paired with the Windows Server product.
Sign the Petition
If you would like to see the MS TechNet subscription stay then why not sign the following online petition – also share the link with your friends. Click here for the petition.
With the exit of the MS TechNet subscription no doubt people will start looking for workarounds (legal or otherwise) to keep the various MS products in their lab running medium/long term, for example; rolling back to earlier instances (via snapshots or similar) and then “tweaking” global time and date settings, etc. Though for many IT Professionals I suspect that this may be the start of them looking around the market and investing time in learning alternative products (ie: Open Source based) that they can run with minimal cost and time restriction in the their lab environments. Obviously this could potentially harm Microsoft’s sales in the medium to long term.
I personally will likely purchase a second Microsoft TechNet subscription on the 31st August 2013 to maximise my access to the latest Microsoft products (and to stock-pile a few extra licenses for my lab), though at the same time I will start to look around at alternative OS, database and other offerings particularly those of the OpenSource variety for when my TechNet licenses expire or the products become outdated. Perhaps Cloud pricing may have dropped enough by that time to make running my Microsoft based lab environment in the Cloud a cost-effective option?
It’d be great to see Microsoft perform a u-turn on it’s decision to get rid of the TechNet subscription programme though unfortunately my gut feeling is that this won’t happen as Microsoft seem pretty steadfast in ending TechNet in preference of alternative product evaluation methods.
Well, TechNet old friend, thanks for the good times – you will be missed….