Microsoft's murder most foul: TechNet is dead

Do we 'low margin' dregs matter to you anymore, Redmond? Thought not


Sysadmin blog The end of TechNet Subscriptions is upon us. Let's take a moment to digest this, shall we?

TechNet subscriptions were a cheap way to get access to virtually the entire Microsoft library of software for the purposes of building and maintaining a testlab environment.

The cost ranged from $200 to $600 a year, and when combined with the free eval versions gave you everything you could ever want to build a Microsoft test environment. TechNet subscriptions were the gateway drug to the Microsoft ecosystem, a need Microsoft now feels will be met by MSDN subscriptions (starting at $700 and going up to $13,400), Microsoft Virtual Academy and the Technet forums.

Why TechNet mattered

I don't doubt for a second that the advent of virtualisation saw a shift from TechNet usage to free evaluation copies of software. I think my own use case for TechNet is fairly typical and even I see this shift.

I use TechNet to build the "structure" of my testlab environment: a domain controller, a file server, an SQL server, and so forth. These are the types VMs that I will need for years at a time to maintain my testlab environment. I supplement these with free/eval VMs for application servers and so forth because these VMs won't be around for very long. They need to be spun up to test a restore from backup or to see if a patch will work.

After they've served their purpose there's no reason to keep them around and it isn't worth my time to fight Microsoft's maddening DRM by applying a licence at VM creation and then attempting to recover it at VM destruction. As an SME admin, none of my clients are large enough to be using volume licenses (or for that matter to afford the utterly worthless Software Assurance cost premium) and thus don't have KMS servers to make this headache smaller.

So I agree with Microsoft: the bulk of my usage – and the usage of every single sysadmin venting their outraged spleen into the two dozen or so IRC channels I hang out on – is indeed free eval copies. Yet our testlabs couldn't function without those long-term copies provided by TechNet. This isn't an either/or scenario: both options simply must exist.

You're all Freetards

According to Microsoft's own FAQ: "The software provided with TechNet Subscriptions is designed for hands-on IT Professionals to evaluate Microsoft software and plan deployments. The software provided with MSDN Subscriptions is available for evaluation, development, and testing purposes."

Microsoft's Monday e-mail said this: "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."

I read the both of these combined to say that those of us who have been using TechNet to build a stable testlab environment for the purposes of testing and new software versions or MS patches have been freeloading on Microsoft's goodwill. We should really have been paying for MSDN all along; testing a new version shouldn't require infrastructure to stick around for more than the 30-180 days provided by free evaluation copies.

Anything that might require a stable envrinoment isn't "evaluating software" or "planning deployments". It is "evaluation, development or testing" and thus really should be something we pay extra for.

Of course, how this jibes with the inclusion of TechNet subscriptions into Action Pack subscriptions is a mystery. It was made fairly explicit to me as a Microsoft Partner that the TechNet subscription was to build my testlab and the Action Pack licences were to give me production usage rights; the combined package was to be enough for a small business to get off the ground in the Microsoft ecosystem.

Take that, sysadmins!

The cancellation of TechNet subscriptions isn't merely a Windows 8.1-style slap in the face or an incomprehensible XBone-class failure to read the market. This is a deliberate, planned, carefully considered shot to the vital bits from on high.

The message is crystal clear: if you want to test Microsoft software on anything excepting disposable short-term "free evals", then you will do it in the cloud and you'll pay for the privilege. Can't afford to subscribe to the cloud for a test lab? MSDN a little too pricy, or the restriction to development use too severe? Too bad.

You and I – we dregs of the IT industry – are not Microsoft's target market. Microsoft has moved beyond the SME, the hobbyist, and the power user. Where once we were the foundations of the empire – the hearts and hands upon which Microsoft built and projected its global mindshare – we have become too "low margin" to maintain as customers.

Murdering TechNet is only the latest in a series of moves by Microsoft aimed at cutting the deadweight from its customer base. From shenanigans such as trying to neuter Office licences and push us all to subscriptions, to the perpetual guilty-unless-proven-innocent ratcheting shut of MSDN and TechNet subscriptions (to fight "piracy"), all have made Microsoft's ambitions clear.

Why you and I aren't really relevant at all

Microsoft can't win a fight to defend a monopoly position forever. All you need to do is look to Apple's halving of market share in the face of Android to understand that. It is simply bad business for Microsoft to continue to expend vast resources on placating the kinds of people for whom things like TechNet make a difference.

Microsoft is in no real hurry to bleed away market share – I'm sure their PR droids will be along soon to tell the world that Microsoft does indeed care about the fuzzy wuzzies and 'Why are you saying such mean things!' – but the reality is that if it is to survive it needs to set a bold vision and convince those with deep pockets that it is the way forward. That vision is the cloud, subscriptions, and driving margins up, not down.

The rest of us can follow – or not – as we choose. Microsoft ultimately doesn't care. Microsoft is in the process of shifting into an Oracle-like high-margin player. It wants fewer customers with bigger pockets and it isn't afraid of "drop off" suffered by the disenfranchised or the poor.

Make no mistake: this isn't an arrogance born out of a belief that it retains a monopoly on the desktop, the Office productivity suite, or the server market. It is a wholesale shift in approach in recognition of its loss of monopoly.

You don't matter to Microsoft and neither do I. We've known all known this for ages, but Microsoft has finally decided that they aren't going to even bother to fake it anymore. Now is the time for those of us who don't live "at scale" – and with budgets to match – to start looking farther afield, before we move from "customer" to "hostage". ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Demand for PC and smartphone chips drops 'like a rock' says CEO of China’s top chipmaker
    Markets outside China are doing better, but at home vendors have huge component stockpiles

    Demand for chips needed to make smartphones and PCs has dropped "like a rock" – but mostly in China, according to Zhao Haijun, the CEO of China's largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

    Speaking on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call last Friday, Zhao said smartphone makers currently have five months inventory to hand, so are working through that stockpile before ordering new product. Sales of PCs, consumer electronics and appliances are also in trouble, the CEO said, leaving some markets oversupplied with product for now. But unmet demand remains for silicon used for Wi-Fi 6, power conversion, green energy products, and analog-to-digital conversion.

    Zhao partly attributed sales slumps to the Ukraine war which has made the Russian market off limits to many vendors and effectively taken Ukraine's 44 million citizens out of the global market for non-essential purchases.

    Continue reading
  • Colocation consolidation: Analysts look at what's driving the feeding frenzy
    Sometimes a half-sized shipping container at the base of a cell tower is all you need

    Analysis Colocation facilities aren't just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

    But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that's driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

    "You can only provide those value-added services if you're big enough," Forrester research director Glenn O'Donnell said.

    Continue reading
  • D-Wave deploys first US-based Advantage quantum system
    For those that want to keep their data in the homeland

    Quantum computing outfit D-Wave Systems has announced availability of an Advantage quantum computer accessible via the cloud but physically located in the US, a key move for selling quantum services to American customers.

    D-Wave reported that the newly deployed system is the first of its Advantage line of quantum computers available via its Leap quantum cloud service that is physically located in the US, rather than operating out of D-Wave’s facilities in British Columbia.

    The new system is based at the University of Southern California, as part of the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center hosted at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a factor that may encourage US organizations interested in evaluating quantum computing that are likely to want the assurance of accessing facilities based in the same country.

    Continue reading
  • Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants
    US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act

    The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022