TechNet subscriptions: So long to a good thingBy Marco Shaw
A Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) title comes with some pretty sweet perks. Sure, Microsoft invites MVPs to an annual summit and picks up the hotel expenses, but the biggest benefit, in my opinion, is that MVPs receive a free MDSN or TechNet subscription. Or, well, they used to.
For five consecutive years (2007-2011), I received the MVP designation for my contributions to the Windows PowerShell community. When faced with choosing between TechNet or MDSN, I opted for the latter simply because there was a greater choice of software and it came with Windows Azure credits. Eventually though, when my MVP award expired, I chose TechNet over MDSN, which costs three times as much. I couldn’t justify the expense, and I grew to use TechNet for a variety of purposes. That’s why I’m sad to see it go.
Microsoft announced yesterday it’s doing away with TechNet subscriptions to focus on growing its free product offerings. People can still purchase a subscription through August 31, 2013 and will have access to everything until the subscription period ends. Let’s look at what this means for IT pros like me who relied on it.
What did I use TechNet for?
Starting a few years ago, when purchasing desktops, I would buy systems with a decent amount of RAM and made sure the CPU supported virtualization. My latest purchase was a system I put together myself using an AMD FX 8-Core processor with 32GB of RAM. This is now the main system in my home lab because of the amount of RAM it has and I spent a few hundred dollars on an SSD drive, since the latter was my biggest bottleneck.
I use these systems as my virtualization hosts running Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESXi. With my TechNet subscription, it was convenient to use those licenses for my host, so I didn’t have to track or worry about the licenses expiring. As for the guests, there was enough churn that even if I used the readily available trial versions of various products, the VM was deleted after a short period of time anyway.
Benefit to Microsoft also
Not only was it nice to have access to Windows Server licenses, but my subscription also gave me access to other things like the newest Office, the full System Center suite and the Windows client operating system. I used all of these products to learn and evangelize things at work. Now that I’m going to have to struggle with time-limited versions, I’ll be more likely to lose interest when reviewing and testing newer products because I never know how busy I’m going to be. To have to go through the bother of tracking when I installed something or to fire up a program only to get an error that it expired, may not make it worth it.
It showed commitment to learning
On my 2012 performance review at work, I made a list of the things that I’ve done to go above and beyond. I strongly believe that to move ahead and show you are passionate about your work, you have to make a certain amount of personal sacrifices.
One of the line items on my review last year was that I paid for a TechNet subscription on my own. I think that says quite a bit about the investment I’m willing to make to advance my knowledge and career options.
What will I do now?
Now, I’ll likely limit what I experiment with, but I may have to rethink how I do a few things. I’ll have to look at storing more information on things like external drives, so that I don’t risk losing the ability to access information stored on something that’s expired.
There could be a small benefit though. If I have to continuously reinstall software, I’ll likely look into how I can possibly automate things.
This may also lead to me to look at open source alternatives or try stretching my budget to purchase different things.
What’s the real reason TechNet is going away?
In its announcement yesterday, Microsoft took a standpoint that things have changed, and that there are better alternatives to TechNet today. Microsoft suggests that IT professionals will get a better experience through the TechNet Evaluation Center, Microsoft Virtual Academy and TechNet Forums, which are free.
However, one could speculate that this was all done to try to deal with the pirating of Microsoft licenses. Some groups would sign up for TechNet subscriptions, and then resell the license keys. Theoretically though, even tripling the cost of a subscription might not deter many groups from purchasing it as long as the demand is there and they can continue to profit from such activities.
What’s left for the IT pro?
VMware had a similar program available, which it dropped a few years ago. Now, VMware’s trial version time limit is a mere 60 days. Unless you’re really focused on it, that time goes by really fast, and before you know it, you need to rebuild or reinstall again. It’s frustrating!
Most of Microsoft’s server software that I’m interested in has a 180-day time limit, which is much better, but, nonetheless, I’m disappointed in this decision by Microsoft.
Time will tell if this changes my personal view of Microsoft. TechNet offered a great benefit to my own personal growth at a reasonable price—and it’s one that will be missed.
About the Author
Marco Shaw is an IT consultant working in Canada. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years. He was awarded the Microsoft MVP award for his contributions to the Windows PowerShell community for 5 consecutive years (2007-2011). He has co-authored a book on Windows PowerShell, contributed to Microsoft Press and Microsoft TechNet magazine, and also contributed chapters for other books such as Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and Microsoft SQL Server. He has spoken at Microsoft TechDays in Canada and at TechMentor in the United States. He currently holds the GIAC GSEC and RHCE certifications, and is actively working on others.
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