VA ending Microsoft licensing in 'ruthless reduction'

Wednesday - 4/11/2012, 7:38pm EDT

Roger Baker, Chief Information Officer, Department of Veterans Affairs

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has reworked its relationship with Microsoft. While nothing will change in day-to-day operations for VA employees, Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told In Depth with Francis Rose this is part of the department's plan to re-evaluate relationships with all of its vendors.

In an internal memo first obtained by Government Executive, Baker told employees that VA has decided to discontinue Microsoft Software Assurance, which automatically pays for updates and new releases.

"One of the things we recognized at VA is that we can't keep up with the rate of release that an enterprise vendor like Microsoft has. For example, right now the bulk of our desktops are on Windows XP, not on Windows 7," he said. "We recognized that we need to look at the value we're deriving from all of our enterprise contracts."

The move will allow VA to purchase only the computer products it needs, when it needs them, something akin to buying issues of a magazine versus having a subscription. It's a model VA is looking at for all of its vendors, Baker said.

"This is an approach we're going to look at for all of those products that we use broadly across the enterprise: Are we doing them the right way? Have we done the right analysis about what the right way of licensing and using those products are? And are we deriving the maximum value possible out of the dollars we spend?" he said.

As part of this "Ruthless Reduction Program," VA is also considering reducing use of personal printers and moving toward a network-printer model.

VA holds about 360,000 desktops with licensed Microsoft products. Those licenses will remain unchanged under the new plan, but maintenance and updates will open up to more competitive pricing from other vendors.

Baker stressed that this move would not affect daily operations for VA employees.