Monday, February 2, 2009

BizSpark - Calling Startups

I recently ran across an interesting program from Microsoft called "BizSpark". (No that is not BizTalk spelled incorrectly).

For many start ups, initial software licensing is a considerable investment and in many cases an obstacle. For many, a way around this obstacle is to look to the LAMP stack. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (or Perl, Python etc). These technologies are either free and open source. This post is not intended to slam either approach or discuss the strengths or weaknesses of each approach, but rather provide information about the BizSpark program.

Since Microsoft software costs money, many people will take the LAMP route to avoid up front software costs. For many businesses, they would be happy to pay the license fees if they knew that their business would be successful and profitable. But what if there was a way to use Microsoft Software for a period of time without having to pay license fees. Would that change your mind to go the LAMP route? If so then this program may be for you.

The BizSpark program is designed to allow start ups the opportunity to use some Microsoft software in Development and Production environments for free for a period of up to 3 years provided you meet their criteria. This criteria includes:
  • Is in the business of software development
  • Is privately held
  • Has been in business for less than 3 years, and
  • Has less than US $1 million in annual revenue

Please refer to the actual BizSpark site for the fine print.

So what software is available?

For development, testing and demonstration:
The software included in the Visual Studio Team System Team Suite (VSTS) with MSDN Premium, plus VSTS Team Foundation Server (Standard Edition) - for the entire development team

For production use to deploy and host Startup's new "software as a service" application to be delivered over the Internet to Startup's customers:
Windows Server; SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and Office SharePoint Server for Internet Sites hosting, and – Systems Center for managing hosting server operations.

As you can see the software available in the program is some of their flagship (and more costly) software. Even though BizTalk is considerable more cost effective than its competitors, a common complaint is that it is a considerable upfront investment to pay for the Windows Server, SQL Server and BizTalk licenses. If you could use this software for nothing while your business is in its infancy, it could be a great opportunity to use good tools and not have to worry about licencing costs.

So obviously not every organization would qualify for this program, but for those in start-up mode it could be a great opportunity. Also see the Program Guide for more information.

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