Microsoft is shutting down its TechNet subscriber service for new subscriptions, though the online TechNet blogs and customer support forums will be retained.
There will be no new subscriptions available after August 31, 2013, and the service will gradually shut down as the contracts of current subscribers end.
The good news for developers is that MSDN is continuing (at least for the moment). Action Pack, which offers discounted software to registered partners, is also currently continuing unchanged.
TechNet has been popular with IT professionals for the deal it provides. The annual subscription fee of a couple of hundred dollars has given subscribers the right to download nearly all Microsoft’s desktop and server software, and install it for evaluation purposes.
As each subscription came with multiple product keys, it was possible to install and use the software on multiple machines. The software licenses were evaluation purposes only, but the restriction was part of the license agreement rather than being enforced in the software. This meant many subscribers used TechNet to get Windows client and server licenses at a much reduced amount, for use on PCs that would be used for production rather than evaluation use.
A further problem arose because software pirates would sell the TechNet keys online to purchasers, many of whom did not realise they were buying essentially unlicensed software. Microsoft attempted to overcome this problem by cutting down on the number of product keys granted to TechNet subscribers.
However, TechNet is now being closed down completely. The reason, according to Microsoft, is that:
“The service is being retired so that Microsoft can focus on bettering our free experiences for IT professionals through TechNet including the TechNet Evaluation Center, Microsoft Virtual Academy and TechNet Forums.”
The TechNet Evaluation Center has a range of time-limited free evaluation software for between 30 and 180 days. The Evaluation Center includes TechNet Virtual Labs that let you try out the software without the need to install it locally.
The Microsoft Virtual Academy is a collection of free-to-use online training courses. There are currently around 200 technical training courses across 15 Microsoft technologies.
Of course, for many TechNet users, it has been the ability to install (or often fail to install) the Microsoft software locally alongside other software in your own test environment that has been the most useful aspect of TechNet. The time limited editions are more useful, but the time limits are a big disincentive.
Some will say that this is another big boost that Microsoft is giving the open source community. After all you don't have to hand over any money to download and try out an experimental Linux or LAMP system. In practice it probably has provides sufficient resources to allow any systems engineer to try out a configuration - as long as they are prepared to buy the software should it prove to work. They most likely have driven the people who would use the non-commercial software for production systems to open source - but this is presumably the desired effect.
MSDN, Microsoft’s software subscription service for developers, is continuing unchanged at the moment, though this may not be of help to TechNet subscribers looking for an alternative because of the much higher prices.