Microsoft Corp. officials are mulling potential changes to the company's enterprise volume licensing program that could let large systems integrators and service providers license software on behalf of their largest customers

Enterprises now must negotiate their own volume agreements with Microsoft, even when the software is hosted and managed by a third party. New solutions, sources said, could allow pay-as-you-go licenses rather than requiring users to pay for and get tied up by a long-term agreement.

Sources said some licensing changes could be in the cards as early as next year, in time for "Yukon," the next version of SQL Server, or by 2006, for "Longhorn," the next version of Windows. A spokesman for the Microsoft Volume Licensing Team, however, said Microsoft has no plans to institute SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) options into its enterprise agreements "in the imminent future."

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