September pricing and licensing changes

I want to update you all on the pricing and licensing changes we’ve been working on over the past year.

VS Online Basic users

The new, less expensive, tiered pricing model I announced a couple of months ago goes into effect Sept 1st (today).  In addition, we are finalizing the licensing documents to include an on-prem TFS CAL with your VS Online purchases, making it easy for you to use on-prem, cloud or both.  That will also go into effect in Sept.

A changing philosophy

Before I explain some other changes that are coming, let me step back for a minute and talk about how we are changing the way we think about things.  Team Foundation Server and VS Online have always tried to serve as a “one stop shop” to solve your ALM needs.  It’s a great integrated experience that helps you throughout the engineering cycle.  We’ve packaged it to make it easy to acquire and priced it to optimize for “one price for everything”.

The reality, is that every customer has a mix of tools.  Some just because they have legacy tools that they aren’t ready to replace.  Some because, for some part of the tooling, they prefer another solution.  Some because they have specific needs that TFS/VSO don’t fill.  Whatever the reason, we live in a world where people will use an amalgamation of tools from us, from other vendors, from open source.  The “one size fits all” approach we started TFS with back in 2005 isn’t really sufficient any longer.

We started adjusting for this reality 18 months ago with our REST, OAuth and Service Hooks work to better enable integrating TFS and VSO with other tooling.  We announced the next phase of this at //Build this spring with our new web UI extensibility model.  And this fall, we will be launching a new “marketplace” for finding/purchasing tools, add-ons and integrations for VS Online and TFS.

We have also generally been moving in this direction with pricing and licensing, though I haven’t explained it that way yet.  In short, rather than always buying everything, we’re moving in the direction of “pay for what you need”.  It is, of course, a spectrum and one can always take any offering and break it down further or aggregate it further, so rather than saying it’s 100% a la carte, let’s just say it’s a lot more a la carte than it has been and that’s the general direction.

So, when we reduced the prices of VSO Basic users and the CAL, it was, in part to set us up for this transition.  In the future you’ll purchase an inexpensive base license (as low as $2/user/month) and then you will purchase (from us or through the new marketplace) “extensions” that add additional capabilities for your users.

The base includes what I think of as the core capabilities everyone needs – source control, work item tracking/backlog management, and some build automation.  We’ll have lots of add-ons for additional things.  For instance, later this Fall, we’ll eliminate the VS Online Advanced license (we’ve basically trimmed it back to just testing features) and transition it to a “Test extension”.  So you’ll purchase a basic license/CAL for everyone and then test extensions for the users that need them.

We also plan to launch a bunch of other extensions this Fall – both from us and from 3rd parties.  It’s a bit too early for me to get too specific yet but in the next few months we’ll unveil the details.  For now my main purpose is to communicate the concept – we are moving more to a model where you pay for what you use.  We will continue to have a free and easy way for small teams to get started.  We’ll have a very low entry point and then the more you want, you pay for it.  Of course, we’ll continue to offer MSDN subscribers a complete and compelling offering.  As we get more feedback, we’ll evolve the offering.

Upcoming Build pricing and licensing changes

Consistent with that philosophy we’re introducing some pricing changes with build on VS Online.  Our per minute pricing has gotten mixed reviews.  Among other things, people get worried about the seemingly unbounded nature of it.  We decided we wanted to move to a per-agent billing model for build that allows people to budget for a fixed (and reasonable) price. 

We are *not* making any changes to build pricing and licensing for on-premises TFS servers.  Everything I say below only applies to using VS Online.  Of course, even if you use VS Online, your build server may be hosted in the cloud or on-premises and what I say below does address both of those.

For starters, we’ll continue to have a free experience for small teams and teams just starting out.  In fact, we’re increasing our free build service from 60 minutes per month to 240 minutes per month, enabling a larger number of teams to just use the free build service.

Rather than paying for minutes beyond the free allocation, going forward, you will purchase agents.  We can host the build agent for you (Hosted Agents) or you can host the agent yourself (Private Agents) – on your hardware or on Azure IaaS or anywhere you like.  An agent can run one build at a time and is 100% yours.  You can consume all of the build time each month, if you need it, for one flat fee.

  • Hosted Agents: $40/agent per month – The Hosted Agent is run by Microsoft in VS Online, provides unlimited total job time, and increases the maximum duration of a single job to 6 hours.  The $40/agent charge is all-inclusive for the customer; there are no supplemental charges for the VMs Microsoft runs.
  • Private Agents: $15/agent per month – The first Private Agent is free for each VSO account, so customers will only pay for Private Agents when they need to configure 2 or more Private Agents.  With Private Agents, customers acquire and manage the server or VM where the agent runs, and can install custom or packaged software since they have full control over this agent.  Customers are responsible for the costs of running this infrastructure, such as VM charges if the agent is running on a VM that the customer has provisioned on Microsoft Azure or other service.

In summary, build licensing and pricing with VS Online is now:

  • 240 minutes per month free of cloud build and deployment time.  30 minute max job length.  1 concurrent job.  We provide the compute.
  • 1 free on-premises build agent connected to VS Online.  Unlimited max job length.  You provide the compute.
  • $40/hosted agent per month.  6 hour max job length.  1 concurrent job, unlimited time.  We provide the compute.
  • $15/additional private agent per month.  Unlimited max job length.  You provide the compute.

Release Management V.next, which we are launching this Fall, will use the same agent automation infrastructure as our new build service, meaning agents can run builds or releases.  This means that the pricing and licensing model for Build and Release Management will be the same – some free, then purchase agents.

These changes will roll into production in Sept.  For customers that already have private build agents configured, you won’t start getting charged for them right away.  They will be “grandfathered” in until Jan 1 2016 to give you time to figure out what you want to do, optimize, consolidate, etc. before you start getting charged.  In January, we’ll start charging for all private agents – beyond the 1 free one every account gets.

Again, none of this affects on-prem TFS customers where all private agents continue to be free (included in the TFS price).

That’s it for this update.  I’ll have some more stuff to talk about within a few months.  Here’s the official build pricing web page.

Brian