Server Farming

Aug 21 2008   3:24PM GMT

How Microsoft’s licensing change does (or doesn’t) affect disaster recovery

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

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Active Directory

Microsoft’s announcement of licensing changes on 41 of its server software products was a welcome change for users (and analysts) alike, although as reporter Bridget Botelho wrote, the virtualization licensing policy comes with a catch.

As it turns out, the change may or may not have an effect on your company’s disaster recovery testing. This morning Richard Jones from Burton Group wrote about the licensing change’s effect on disaster recovery. The answer? It depends.

Let’s first take a look at what the licensing situation was before the Microsoft announcement this week. From Jones:

Prior to the revisions, a user could not transfer an application license to another physical server more often than once every 90 days. Legally, this didn’t allow for disaster recovery testing with only one license for your application instance, nor for any type of disaster event that would result in failing a service over to a recovery site for less than 90 days. You would need to either stay at your failover site for 90 days minimum, or you would need to purchase additional licenses for your recovery sites, even though they would not be in use except during a disaster event or testing.

So then the announcement changes all that, right? Now you can be fearless in your disaster recovery testing, knowing that Microsoft isn’t going to punish you for transferring licenses from one data center to another, right? Well, not quite.

Microsoft’s press release on the licensing changes doesn’t go into sufficient detail. But when looking for further documentation, there is this Microsoft Word document on the so-called Application Server License Mobility. According to the document, the change “allows you to freely move both licenses and running instances within a server farm from one server to another.” It then defines a “server farm:”

A server farm consists of up to two data centers each physically located in the following areas:

  • In a time zone that is within four hours of the local time zone of the other (Coordinated Universal Time [UTC] and not DST), and/or
  • Within the European Union (EU) and/or European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

Each data center may be part of only one server farm. You may reassign a data center from one server farm to another, but not on a short-term basis (that is, not within 90 days of the last assignment).

Why does this definition, and in particular the bullet point about four time zones, matter? Jones writes:

For those who have disaster recovery centers within four time zones of your production data center, you now only need one license per covered Microsoft server application instance. This can translate into savings in your business continuity plan. However, those of you who have off-shored – or are looking to off-shore – your disaster recovery solution, you may not be able to reap the benefits of this licensing revision. You will want to take this into account when calculating your potential savings by off-shoring – it may change your plans.

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