Microsoft makes big Software Assurance changes

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Microsoft makes big Software Assurance changes

Microsoft has made a number of changes to Software Assurance, its volume software licensing program, and again signalled that it wants customers in its cloud.

The big change covers support eligibility, which will move from incident-based support to “as-needed support and credit toward Unified Support”, according to a Microsoft FAQ.

The change means “Software Assurance customers will no longer earn a limited number of support incidents based on spend, agreement type, and product(s) but instead will get as-needed support with a Software Assurance spend of US$250,000 or more annually. The Software Assurance support provides business hours support with a 24-hour response time goal.” The number of support incidents handled is tied to spend.

“Customers that spend less than $250,000 per year on Software Assurance with no enterprise support agreement (Premier/Unified) will be directed to a partner for support or can purchase Professional Support incidents”, the FAQ adds.

The changes to planning benefits under Software Assurance will see the current Planning Services offer retired.

Planning Services sees either Microsoft or its consulting partners offer end-customers advice on efficient use of its on-prem and cloud products. Partners offer a certain number of days of advice based on the level of licence acquired by end-customers.

Its replacement is FastTrack, a service that “… helps customers deploy Microsoft cloud solutions” and that is offered to “Customers with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Azure, or Dynamics 365” who “can use FastTrack at no additional cost for the life of their subscription.”

Microsoft’s billed the change as a necessary “consolidation” because “FastTrack is our primary implementation support offer.”

The good news is that FastTrack operates similarly to Planning Services, inasmuch as consultancy can be delivered by partners. So Microsoft isn’t cutting the channel out of the loop, just changing things up and emphasising the cloud.

Other changes to Software Assurance include retirement of the Training Vouchers, in favour new courses and certifications.

Microsoft’s offered the following timeline for changes to Software Assurance.

  • February 2020: Deployment Planning Services cloud engagements will be retired and you can apply to use FastTrack programs.  
  • February 2020: Training vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days.  
  • February 2021: End to accrual of new deployment planning days. 
  • June 2021: Last day to create Planning Services vouchers. 
  • January 2022: Last day to redeem Planning Services vouchers. 

There’s a distinctly cloudy flavour to these changes, which will surprise few given Microsoft’s direction.

And now to see if Microsoft’s struck the right balance: its recent decision to remove internal user rights from its channel program sparked protests and a swift reversal. Microsoft customers probably won’t take their anger public to the same degree as partners, but their back-room influence will be substantial if these Software Assurance changes are seen as unfair or overly-costly.

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