Upgrade rights are included but so are updated rule requirements
A frequently misunderstood area of Microsoft licensing is knowing what rules apply when you are utilizing downgrade rights (the right to install an earlier version of the product under a newer license).
However; this gets a little more confusing for companies who maintain Software Assurance on their products. For example if a customer bought a license for Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise in July of 2011 with Software Assurance (we’ll assume 3 full years of Software Assurance) they would have bought the rights to Microsoft SQL Server 2008R2 Enterprise (either per server or per processor) and enjoyed upgrade rights to later versions of that product. If they choose to run 2008R2 (or an older edition), then the 2008R2 rules would apply. If they choose to upgrade to 2012 then the 2012 rules would apply.
In July 2014 that customer will need to decide if they are going to renew Software Assurance. As soon as they renew Software Assurance they are in essence refreshing the license version of all products with Software Assurance to the current edition. Therefore, they would no longer get to leverage the rules from 2008R2 they would now have to follow the rules for Microsoft SQL Server 2014.
There are both advantages and disadvantages for customers but the important thing for customers to remember is that renewing Software Assurance has a licensing impact which should be considered so that you are not accidentally put in a position of being non-compliant.
Just one more thing to consider in your due diligence when determining what products to renew Software Assurance on at your next renewal. Let us know if we can help!