Microsoft has announced plans to retire its TechNet Subscription service, closing all new memberships and renewals by the end of August with a view to shuttering the download page by September 2014.
Designed for IT professionals, TechNet provides subscribers with access to evaluation copies of all Microsoft software packages, including unreleased beta software. The idea behind the service was for enterprise customers to be able to try out software and check their systems for compatibility before splashing out on licences for a given product. Combined with the ability to call Microsoft directly in the event of problems and access to various knowledge bases and other technical information sources, the service proved extremely popular.
What can be used can also be abused, however, and TechNet - much like its developer-centric equivalent, a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscription - soon became rife with piracy. With subscribers being granted multiple licences for high-end and unreleased products, theoretically for evaluation use, it became common for TechNet logins to be shared out to employees - giving them access to the latest version of Windows for home use, for example.
Despite it being against the terms and conditions of the subscription, many businesses also started to use their TechNet software packages in production - in particular packages like Microsoft SQL Server, which could cost a significant amount if properly licensed.
Microsoft denies that these had an impact on its decision to close the service, however. 'Although the TechNet Subscriptions service has experienced piracy and licence misuse in the past,
' the company admitted in a statement regarding the closure, 'there was no single factor in the decision to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service. 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 of this supposed shift, Microsoft is to cease selling new subscriptions or renewals to existing subscriptions on the 31st of August 2013. Those who purchase a renewal or new membership have until the 30th of September 2013 to activate their account, while the software download portal will be active for those without Volume Licensing agreements through to the 30th of September 2014 - after which the download page will simply vanish. Those on a Volume Licensing agreement will find themselves with access until their current agreement ends, after which they too will be locked out of the download page.
Microsoft has pointed to numerous free services, many of which did not exist when TechNet was founded, as justification for its move, including the TechNet Evaluation Centre
and TechNet Virtual Labs
. For those who have got used to receiving access to all Microsoft's software for virtually unlimited experimentation, however, the 30-180 day trial periods available through the TechNet Evaluation Centre may prove a bitter pill to swallow.