UK IT chiefs have slammed Microsoft over the cost of signing up to the Software Assurance (SA) licensing model, and accused the Redmond giant of wanting to “have its cake and eat it and charge customers to watch”.

In the biggest shake-up of the subscription-based SA in the four years it has been running, Microsoft has added technical support, training, desktop deployment planning services and other side benefits in an attempt to placate angry customers.

But UK CIOs and IT directors have rounded on Microsoft, saying the changes do not address root problems with the scheme. All 12 of’s CIO Jury IT user panel voted ‘no’ when asked if the new changes to SA went far enough.

Kirk Downey, CTO at Centrica, said Microsoft has failed to address the root problem organisations have with SA – the cost – and that it compares unfavourably to programmes run by the likes of Oracle and SAP.

He said: “If Microsoft is to position its SA programme alongside annual spend for maintenance on other critical technologies, it needs to demonstrate the economic value of the investment and introduce more flexibility in the commercial model to allow enterprise customers to negotiate this expense into their planning cycles.”

Sean Powley, head of IS strategy at the London Borough of Barnet, said: “It still looks like Microsoft wants to have its cake, eat it and charge users to watch. Where’s the flexibility in the new arrangements for complex organisations like local authorities?”

One IT director who did not wish to be named simply said open source “looks more and more tempting” while Paul Broome, IT director at, said he plans to migrate off Windows server and SQL server as soon as he can.

Broome said: “It’s a millstone to enterprise for an SME. To allow us to grow, all new database servers will use 64-bit Linux and MySQL. We’ve had enough. We can’t scale out with Microsoft as it’s too expensive.”

Others like Peter Ryder, head of ICT at Preston City Council, never signed up for SA in the first place, calling it “unjustified pricing” that is too expensive, especially for smaller local authorities.

Microsoft’s customer relations appear to have taken a severe knock from SA and John Odell, group IT director at the BBA Group, said: “Microsoft’s business objectives are not aligned with its customers’ and it will stay that way while Microsoft has a near monopoly in this market.”

Perhaps the best summary came from Luke Mellors, IT director the Dorchester Hotel in London, who said he initially took out SA and then dropped it.

He said: “Taking out an insurance policy on the future of technology at 27 per cent of the cost price of software per annum does not add up financially, practically or strategically. Using value added services to make a bad investment appear better is rather like using a plaster for a gunshot wound.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Ian Auger, IT director, ITN
Paul Broome, IT director,
Kirk Downey, CTO, Centrica
Andrew Leaning, IT director, Dod’s Parliamentary Communications
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Vans
Luke Mellors, IT director, the Dorchester Hotel
Colin Moore, head of IS, Department for Education and Skills
Simon Norbury, head of ICT, Westminster City Council
John Odell, group IT director, BBA Group
Andy Pepper, director of business information systems, Tetley
Sean Powley, head of IS strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at