Cloud spells the end for Microsoft Technet software subscriptions

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——- UPDATE July 3rd 2012 —— If you don’t want to see MS Technet discontinued considering signing up to this petition. It’s going to need much more than the 750 signatures (as of this morning) to effect change however!

Yesterday Microsoft announced that it is retiring the popular Technet Subscription service which IT Pros have been using to access software for well over a decade. On Twitter the reaction seemed to be one of surprise and general disapproval and I feel much the same – I’ve had a subscription for the last eight years although I’ve used it less and less over the last few years as my focus has moved through VMware and storage to more general architecture. Microsoft summed up the rationale for the move quite succintly;

In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources.  As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013.

Microsoft will focus on growing and improving our free offerings for IT professionals, including evaluation resources through the TechNet Evaluation Center, expert-led learning through the Microsoft Virtual Academy, and community-moderated technical support through the TechNet Forums.

All these are free internet services but this isn’t surprising – over the last ten years Technet has gone from shipping on floppy disks through to packs of CD/DVD through to online downloads and now online labs exclusively. Companies like Google and mobile phone app stores have popularised the freemium model to the point where it’s the defacto expectation.

Interestingly this seems to be the same approach that VMware are taking. In 2007 they disontinued a a software subscription service (the VMTN subscriptions) although in recent years as their portfolio has diversified there has been a groundswell of support for its return. Despite this and some talk from people within VMware, nothing has surfaced over the last eighteen months but they are currently pushing a beta of their online labs (much like Microsoft’s Virtual Academy). I posted about the rise of ‘cloud labs’ last year and this seems to confirm the trend. As I pointed out in that article the online labs don’t cater to all use cases – installations are often missing from the online labs for example. There will also be issues with integration testing. If I just want to test a Microsoft product then the Virtual Academy is fine, but what if I want to test a multi-tier application which runs on Windows? For the foreseeable future there are going to be times when you need to build your own evaluation labs whether that’s inhouse or in clouds like vCloud or AWS.

I’d still like to see VMware provide better alternatives for testing/evaluating software and Microsoft will still offer the MSDN Subscription service for those who need more than the online labs can provide.

There’s something satisfying about ‘owning’ software which isn’t the same when it’s presented online – I suspect the buzz of getting the latest copy of some product and installing it on your own kit has brought many a techie into our industry but the truth is ‘the business’ don’t care about that – they just want the end result, a running application delivering value. Surely this is the evolution that we as IT pros are evangelising – ‘the cloud’ can and is disrupting the status quo in many areas, including our own. To abuse a popular saying, the cloud giveth, and the cloud taketh away!

What do you think? Is the demise of Technet a sign of the times, or is Microsoft out of tune with its customers?

2 thoughts on “Cloud spells the end for Microsoft Technet software subscriptions

  1. Mostly agree and it makes sense.
    There is just that rare case of the individual who wants to have a test lab. Now that has to be something which will last more than 180 days. On it’s own 180 days is 6 months. Sounds a long time. But if the “can I just test X somewhere” and you find you’ve got to rebuild your test lab then it’s a bit hrumph.
    Similarly having access to a product to snapshot your vm, install, test and rollback is great. It just needs that stable base. Esxi/Hyper-v server both free. Great stuff but the majority of enterprise still run MS a their core so testing out an obscure Certificate issue or AD/GPO problem is going to become a thing of the past without spending lots. Rather than the £150 ish which Technet had become.

    1. Agreed – it’s the ‘home labber’ who’s hardest hit by this. Companies can stump up for an MSDN subscription (starting at £500pa and going up to over £10k p/a as per Microsoft’s MSDN costs) but that’s beyond the resources of a keen individual who wants to learn MS technologies. Back in the late 1990’s I felt like easy access to Microsoft software was one of the factors behind its success. Time will tell I guess!

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