What’s Going On?
Sometimes companies appear to make seemingly dumb decisions and announcements without realising the true impact of the change they are trying to make. Occasionally, enough thought has gone into such a decision, but more often than not it hasn’t. It’s been well documented over the interwebs the last few weeks that Microsoft has decided to kill off the TechNet subscription. Their argument for doing so is this:
Why did Microsoft make the decision to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service?
As IT trends and business dynamics have evolved, so has Microsoft’s set of offerings for IT professionals who are looking to learn, evaluate and deploy Microsoft technologies and services. 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.
This follows a trend over recent years to cut down the number of licenses available in the TechNet subscription in a bid to combat software piracy, i.e. TechNet subscriptions being used for production use in small environments. In what seems to be a pretty cynical move the announcement was made over the US holiday of 4th July and the week before their Partner conference. We’ve seen many organisations in the UK try to do this before, burying bad news during quiet periods to varying degrees of success.
While the offering of online labs and eval editions of products would appear to go some way towards replacing TechNet, many of the reasons TechNet is so popular with IT pros is the ability to kick the tires of new and existing products in their own labs (whether at home or at work). Particularly in the case of those who try these products out in homelabs, some elements of infrastructure are required to support that testing and use of evals for this is typically not workable since it leads to the need for it to be redeployed say every 30 – 60 days. For instance you may well be using an Active Directory server to support authentication requirements in Microsoft or 3rd-party products, a Windows Server maybe to run networking services like DNS, DHCP or if testing VMware products a Windows Server to run vCenter on and a SQL database.
This kind of use of a TechNet subscription appears to be either completely unknown to those making these decisions or possibly completely ignored regardless. The reality of killing off TechNet and the significantly higher price of an equivalent MSDN subscription, which is way out of reach for those purchasing them out of their own pocket, will lead to either or both of:
- Increased software piracy as people build their homelabs with
easy to obtainproduct keys (not condoned by me, but inevitable)
- Increased look at alternatives. People will start to consider what other options there are, get more familiar with them and maybe even start recommending them within the organisations they work in rather than the products Microsoft previously helped people to learn via a TechNet subscription. For instance these two posts from well known industry bloggers and home lab aficionados, Simon Seagrave and Simon Gallagher, point to that being an option they will quite likely explore further.
This kind of short-sighted behaviour tends to emanate in my experience from a bean counter looking at a bottom line and having no clue about the real-world impact of the decision being made.
What Can I Do About it?
To be honest when I first started reading about this story I thought “well that’s that, can’t see Microsoft turning back from that one”. Given their recent attitude in the face of so much negative feedback regarding the Windows 8 ‘interface’ and seeming willingness to ignore most of it, albeit giving in eventually with some changes in 8.1, I couldn’t see a whole lot happening for something on the lower end of the scales that is TechNet Subscriptions.
That was until I saw this Twitter discussion between two of my fellow PowerShell MVPs, where @doctordns refers to MVP Black Friday:
If you Google ‘MVP Black Friday Joe Petersen’, you don’t actually get what Thomas is referring to, but it can be found here. This refers back to a time when Microsoft tried to kill off the MVP program and following a co-ordinated community campaign via emails to Steve Ballmer and others the decision was reversed. So it can happen and has done so before, whether it happens again could be down to you.
Here are three things you could do.
1. Email [email protected] and ask him to abort the service’s demise.
2. Sign the petition. As of the time this article is being written, the petition has attracted over 6000 signatures and is getting more every day. Please add your name to this list if you wish to support the campaign.
3. Talk to any journalists you know and ask them to talk up the issue and talk up reinstating the subscription.
Press coverage around the campaign to reverse the decision has started to appear. Whether it will make any difference I don’t have amazingly high hopes for, but if you sit back and do nothing it’s certain that TechNet will be killed off. So don’t go complaining in a couple of years time when you certainly won’t have a chance of doing anything about it!
There are now some additional resources available for keeping track of the campaign: