SharePoint 2007 (MOSS) is described by Microsoft as an enterprise content management system. However, under the covers it sports web content management, document management, search, collaboration and business intelligence, among other talents. If you ask the experts, the primary target market for SharePoint is small and medium businesses (SMBs). If you ask SMBs you might get a different answer though -- as the licensing model alone is enough to send most of them running, with tails tucked tightly between their legs. What if you are a SMB who just wants a solid Web CMS for your external website? Has SharePoint been priced out of your space? What about the companies who bought into Microsoft CMS (MCMS) and were expecting to continue playing with Wild Billy and Redmond Content Wranglers? The SMB Web CMS market, we assert, has been left high and dry by Microsoft.The SharePoint licensing model is typical for Microsoft -- it’s confusing. It’s been discussed across the web more than a few times, which is not surprising considering MOSS' to-date popularity and buzz factor. CMSWire had an opportunity to talk with Tom Rizzo, Director of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server and he provided us with some insights into the MOSS licensing story and the decision to combine MCMS and the SharePoint Portal Server.

A Little Background on Microsoft Web Content Management

Prior to SharePoint 2007, if you wanted web content management from MS, you bought Microsoft Content Management Server (MCMS). It cost a little over US$ 6k for a per processor standard license and US$ 20-25K for an per processor enterprise license. The primary difference in the licensing was related to scalability. A standard license could only be used on a server with a single CPU. With an enterprise license you could have an unlimited number of licenses on a single server and you could load balance your servers giving you high availability, etc. So for standard license owners, they only paid the piper US$ 6k. For enterprise license owners they paid a minimum of US$ 24k and were likely paying at least double that for a dual processor server. If you wanted portal capabilities you bought SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and a special MCMS connector to push content from MCMS to SharePoint.

Microsoft Web Content Management Today

Today, you cannot buy a standalone Web CMS product from Microsoft. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that SharePoint and MCMS needed to be integrated into a single product. That product is Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 -- note the missing “portal” word --, more fondly and efficiently known as MOSS (see our review here). Tom Rizzo said that the decision to combine the two products was partly driven by Microsoft customers who didn't want to have two separate products that were not very similar or complimentary things. He also said Microsoft looked at the two products and identified a lot of synergies such as workflow, search and versioning, deciding that rolling the two together made the most sense. So to get SharePoint here's what you need to buy: * You pay a set license fee per server (not a per processor) * You can purchase a standard or enterprise license * A Standard license gets you WCM, document management, collaboration and search * An Enterprise license adds Excel Services, Business Data Catalog and eForms * If you want to build your public site with SharePoint, you must buy Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Internet sites Take a look at the following table for a breakdown of costs:
MOSS Standard$4424
MOSS For Search Standard$8213
MOSS For Search Enterprise$57,670
MOSS For Internet Sites$40,943
This is the basic licensing model for SharePoint; we haven’t even touched all the other components that can be packaged with it -- SharePoint Designer, Forms Server and SQL Server -- nor have we included the whole Client Access License (CAL) fun. From this information we glean the following: # If you want WCM, you have to buy the entire package # If you want WCM for your public site you have to buy the Internet Sites license. # If you want WCM for both your internet and intranet, you have to buy two separate licenses, plus a bunch of CALs. Up until September 2007, you couldn’t put an Internet Sites license and an intranet license on the same server. This kind of defeated the purpose of giving SharePoint a “Extend a Web Application” feature now didn’t it? But Microsoft smartened up and changed that rule. Let’s give them a bonus point for matching their licensing model to their software’s capability. So do the numbers now: For a company to have web content management for their public site only they are looking at roughly US$ 40-80,000 (2 servers) for licenses alone. Now if they also want to have web content management for their intranet add another US$ 4500 minimum (1 license). That’s a total of $85,000 for something they previously paid between $6 to $48k for (1-2 servers).

How Were MCMS Customers Upgraded?

According to Tom Rizzo, Microsoft was very "generous" for MCMS owners, thinking carefully through all the different scenarios that could occur. For those customers who had purchased Software Assurance the upgraded was fairly painless. For customers using MCMS for the Internet, their licenses were automatically transitioned to the SharePoint Internet Connector license at no extra cost. For those using MCMS for their Intranet, Microsoft transitioned their license to the SharePoint Standard License and then gave them all the CALs they needed (based on their current MCMS use) for free (if they were also using MS Office). The goal was to ensure that these customers lost no functionality when they upgrade. Rizzo also stated that he had heard of no complaints with the upgrade to SharePoint for MCMS customers, from a licensing/pricing standpoint. According to Ryan Duguid, Technical Product Manager, SharePoint Server group:
"We moved from per processor to per server licensing so customers can have as many processors and cores as they want, whereas in MCMS 2002 they had to buy a license for each processor. Customers with Software Assurance and a single processor license were provided with a step up to a full server license at no additional cost, otherwise the model involved a 2 processor for one server license exchange. Given the advances in hardware between MCMS and MOSS 2007, this meant that customers could leverage 4, 8 processor systems with multiple cores at no extra cost. MCMS customers migrating to MOSS can now provide end users with a seamless experience across internet, extranet and intranet facing environments. For those customers only interested in WCM, they have a far richer feature set under MOSS".

The Marketplace for Web Content Management

Is SharePoint 2007 WCM targeted at the SMB? Well let’s put their pricing in perspective of other .NET WCM products same market:
Vendor License (approx. starting price)
Ektron CMS400.NetUS$ 10k
Sitecore CMSUS$ 11k
Quantum ArtUS$ 9-15k / CPU
Yes, SharePoint offers a lot of other features, but so do some of these other products, especially in the Web 2.0 arena. Still, we only want WCM and we can’t get SharePoint WCM independently. So we have to buy the entire cow when we only wanted a good jug of milk. Add to this that WCM is still considered the weakest component of SharePoint and that the customization costs for a visually appealing site are the most expensive part of the solution. When you put these pieces together one might start to wonder why any small business would consider buying it.

What Microsoft Thinks

When we asked Tom Rizzo about their competition he responded that there will always be niche vendors who can under price SharePoint. He believes SharePoint offers a broad appeal and a level of functional richness which will compel customers. In addition, he did acknowledge that the SharePoint Internet Connector License was aimed more at enterprise customers and that small to medium sized businesses are more likely to use only Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) or go through 3rd party hosting providers to bring the costs down.

An Affordable MOSS WCM?

There are ways to get MOSS WCM more cheaply. There are a number of providers of hosted SharePoint services that a company can use -- including Microsoft's own (and fairly shallow) Office Live Workspace, which can be used for both external and internal websites. However, when comparing licensing models and Web CMS features, we're not sure what would drive a company to go with SharePoint, when there are a number of viable and more cost effective solutions just waiting in the wings.

Your Thoughts?

The ex-MCMS and SharePoint community is large and dynamic. We want to hear from you. If you were a former MCMS customer tell us about your transition to MOSS or your shift to a new solution. If you are actively considering a SharePoint purchase, continue the conversation and share your thoughts on MOSS licensing.