We recently changed our Core Client Access License (CAL) here at Microsoft. Mary-Jo Foley wrote an insightful article on ZDNet about these changes – thank you Mary-Jo for helping us all understand the changes. For those of you who are not familiar with our CAL suites offerings, they are a way for enterprise businesses to purchase multiple software licenses at a discount. 

Being a marketing guy, I find the CAL suites offerings generally hard to understand, so I decided to educate myself by sitting down with my colleague Barbie Stafford, Director of CAL Suites. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

Sean: Tell us what was changed to the Core Client Access License (Core CAL) and why.

Barbie: We are expanding the suite with instant messaging and presence, PC-to-PC voice and video and, antivirus protection to keep pace with technology advances and customer expectations.   Communication and collaboration capabilities once considered optional are table stakes in a world where workers are separated by location and time zone. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2013, 95 percent of Global 100 organizations will use the IM client as their primary interface for computer-based, real-time communication1. And in today’s security climate, a desktop without antivirus protection is like a car without seatbelts.

For anyone unfamiliar with Core CAL, the addition of Lync Standard (IM, presence and PC-to-PC audio-visual), and Forefront Endpoint Protection (FEP) antivirus supplements the existing line-up:  Exchange email and calendaring, SharePoint collaboration and content management, System Center configuration management, and Windows Server Active Directory and authentication capabilities.

Sean: What impact will these changes have on enterprise customers?

Barbie:  From my perspective, the real value story here—the 2+2=5 equation—is the way FEP and Lync enhance the value of the existing components of the suite.  Lync presence lights up in SharePoint collaboration workspaces, in Outlook email, and in Office documents, allowing users to immediately see a colleague’s availability and then to easily reach out through IM, PC-to-PC chat, or email—right from within the context in which they are working. You don’t have to go fire up a bunch of individual applications or cut and paste from window to window.  And FEP builds on System Center Configuration Manager so that antivirus protection and device management are administered from a single console – clean and simple. To me, that’s what the future of productivity is all about—getting to a place where the benefit of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Sean: How does this align with the general availability of Office 365?

Barbie: The upcoming changes better align with our cloud offerings, Microsoft Windows Intune and Microsoft Office 365, so that our customers have similar experiences no matter where their servers or services are deployed. In the context of the updated Enterprise Agreement (EA), the alignment helps smooth the on-premise to cloud transition. It also simplifies mixed scenarios like hosting remote branch office users in the cloud while keeping headquarter users in a corporate data center.

Sean: What is the best way for organizations to take advantage of the new Core CAL offering?

Barbie: Really, the only way to see the full benefit of the expanded Core CAL Suite is to put it in the hands of end users. There is little reason not to move quickly and wring every drop of value from your investment in the Core CAL Suite.  Our existing customers with active Software Assurance (SA) coverage will automatically have use rights when the change goes into effect August 1, with no price change until renewal. They can also sign an “Early Use Right Amendment” that enables them to use the products today.  And, with the upcoming release of Office 365, customers can take advantage of the cloud to speed deployment of new capabilities or more effectively deliver existing ones. 

Thanks, Barbie, for helping us understand what the core CAL changes are and how they impact our customers. Please share your thoughts with us about these changes – we value your opinion.

1  Source: Gartner, MarketScope for Enterprise Instant Messaging and Presence. 10/8/2010