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Microsoft is beefing up policing for Windows licensing after going back to the drawing board on its asset management strategy.

Upcoming editions of Systems Management Server (SMS) will introduce metadata and workflow tools and capabilities for management of software licenses in a three-phase plan.

Starting with an SMS 2003 R2 Service Pack (SP) 3 due in the first quarter of 2007 SMS will feature a database of 120,000 software assets purchased with Assetmetrix in April. Assetmetrix provided tools to discover and catalogue applications and map them to servers, and will help users group different licenses.

Next, in 2007 and 2008, Microsoft will automate license management through integration of SMS with procurement systems and provide the ability to generate workflows for different licenses.

The third phase will see Microsoft introduce tools for developers to describe products in metadata and to integrate them into reporting systems to track things like client access licenses (CALs).

Microsoft's director of software asset management Juan Fernando Rivera told The Register: "Today it's an honor-based system [for CALs]. Users will be able to track usage and [the] connection base, and integrate that base into the business processes of the organization."

The renewed SMS focus - part of Microsoft's broader Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) - comes after Microsoft last year ditched plans for an über Windows management system, System Center, due to consist of SMS and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM). A new version of SMS is now due in the first half of 2007. Microsoft cited customer feedback for the change of heart.

According to Fernando the SMS roadmap is a win/win for Microsoft and customers. Rivera said giving customers improved tools to manage Windows licenses meant they that could improve total cost of ownership (TCO) as they'd be able to track investments.

For Microsoft, it's another step towards the bigger goal of stamping out Windows software piracy - in this case, where users inadvertently run illegal copies of Windows or exceed their the terms of their server, client or CAL, as opposed to knowingly buying or using illegal software.

"A lot of business customers know what they did in the stock market, but they don't know what they did with their last software purchase. The idea is to help people maximize the software they bought," Rivera said.

"For Microsoft, we get to know customers are running genuine [Windows] software. SAM [software asset management] is a way to move the piracy needle from reaction to prevention. Some customer are running pirated software without even knowing it," Rivera said.®

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