Posted by: Charles Maitland | Monday 18 December, 2006

Beware the Sharepoint Data Catalogue

Or how Microsoft licencing could kill its own portal!

Microsoft Office Sharepoint Services 2007 (MOSS) has a really cleaver technology that allows data from other applications to be surfaced in Sharepoint by defining a data catalogue. This is demonstrated very well in this Channel 9 video. There is also links to web casts and FAQ on this posting by Matt Hester

This data can be brought in as just the data or can be linked back to a url of the source application so the user can click on the data in their Sharepoint view and navigate to the relevant web screen of the original application.

This is potentially huge and to demo it there is a data catalogue sample for bringing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM data which can be seen here.

Whenever I demo this it goes down really well as people can see a huge benefit in making their data available to a wider audience within their company.

BUT, there is a huge problem. It turns out that the EULA for Microsoft CRM and other Dynamics products forbids the use of any other application accessing the data unless the user has a full licence. This means that, in the case of CRM, every Sharepoint user that wants to use a data catalogue to view CRM data needs a £670 CRM CAL in addition to their MOSS Enterprise CAL at £120! (Other Licence rules such as Portal licences may apply for other products)

This effectively kills the proposition unless the deal is big enough to negotiate a sensible price with Microsoft.

The wording of the licence also means that if you want a scorecard based on MSCRM data that’s another licence please.

The reason for this blanket ban is to stop people getting round the licence by creating functionality using, for instance, InfoPath. Microsoft call this “Multiplexing”.

It is my contention that this no longer functions, especially with products like MOSS being released. It is completely contrary to Microsoft’s current ethos as epitomised by the “People Ready Business” mantra they are preaching. What is needed is a low cost licence to cover this situation that allows users to view the data in Sharepoint or Business Scorecard Manger etc.

I can appreciate that there is a desire at Microsoft to maximise revenue from products such as CRM but I consider this short sighted.

Hypothetical Example

I am pitching CRM to a 100 person company.

They have a requirement for 40 users to fully interact with CRM and the other 60 only need occasional read access to some of the data. For example the Accounts department sometimes need to look up a customer record and the director wants a scorecard with his marketing metrics in it.

They are also looking for some document management and an intranet portal but this is a lesser requirement.

Under the current situation I would need to sell them 100 CRM Licences and try and sell an additional 100 Sharepoint Enterprise Licences. This would come to £84,000, £72,000 of which would be CRM Licences.

Now it is highly unlikely that there is justification for the purchase of CRM for all the company when the majority of users will only be making very limited use of it. The reality is that they will probably buy the 40 CRM Licences for £28,000 and make do with Windows Sharepoint Services as they will not be able to leverage the power of Sharepoint Enterprise.

If there was a licence that allowed read only access to the CRM data using Sharepoint then we could sell them 40 full CRM Licences for £28,000 AND Sharepoint Licences worth £12,000 so a total sale of £40,000.

So there are 3 scenarios.

  1. They purchase everyone CRM for £84,000 which is highly unlikely
  2. They purchase CRM only for the core users for £28,000 Very Likely
  3. They are allowed a read only licence and can then buy Sharepoint for a total sale of £40,000

Now there are further issues that give weight to allowing option 3.

  • If they buy Sharepoint as well then there is additional revenue from buying  additional SQL Server licences.
  • There is also a much greater chance of them doing a full Office upgrade.
  • We can look to sell them other Microsoft products such as Business Scorecard manager or Live Communications Manager.
  • If more people have sight of the data then, over time, more people will find reason, justification and budget to purchase full licences. This will result in a long tail of licence sales. If they never knew the data was there then they would not even think to make the case.
  • If the customer is not able to justify the purchase of CRM for everyone then they will have a lower overall satisfaction with the solution and this will adversely effect our ability to introduce other Microsoft products such as Dynamics GP.

Conclusion

Microsoft have said that they will consider the issue when examining the licence for the next release but makes no commitments on any changes.

I must point out that any change of this nature will have profound effects right accross all the Microsoft Dynamics range and beyond so I do not underestimate the issues at stake here.

I suspect, but have not confirmed, that most commercial software has similar clauses.

So if anyone has read this far, what do you think? Is it just me that thinks this will be a bit of a show stopper if you dont own your own code?

Should we set up a campaign “Set Our Data Free”?

Comments with your views please.

Charlie

The opinions expressed herein are TOTALLY my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view in any way.

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Responses

  1. I guess licensing is the very point where most mistakes are made. That full-license idea will change to full access\view-only bundles for sure, after some real selling.
    Yet it’s very bad time, between sane licensing policy and current “give-us-money” problems. I’d suggest to talk with vendor on every prospect\pre-sale to form normal prices. Yet you cannot attract vendor attention on every 50k, from another point of view.

  2. Charlie

    Very good post on the licenses issues. Its definitely a problem for the mid size company.

    You are now part of the Sharepoint BUZZ

    Visit http://www.sharepointbuzz.com

  3. [...] Yes they even use the example of CRM despite the fact that the Microsoft licensing cripples ANY realistic prospect of this admirable goal being achieved. I have ranted about this before. [...]

  4. Why not use a 3rd party reporting product like insight, by Scribe, to pull the info out and put it into Sharepoint.

    This software is about $1000.

    So it’ll take 2 days to custom and you are done.

    Peter

  5. Charlie, you are spot on. This is a huge problem for us. We clearly see the potential of BDC’s but if Microsoft insist on full licensing then it will go no where.
    Does the same apply if we batch copy the relevant CRM to a SQL store and then rpesent that in sharepoint? A cludge I know but does it solve the license problem?
    A read only license is the answer. MS gets more money and we partners are free to generate affordable “People Ready” solutions.

    Geoff

  6. Hi
    I have added a clarifying post on the Microsoft Definition of Multiplexing which my reading shows rules out both Peter’s and geoff’s ideas.
    http://charliem.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/multiplexing-and-licenses/

  7. [...] Here Here and Here [...]


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