Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Microsoft Licensing and Software Assurance - When Do You Need It

I am a strong advocate of only paying for what you need when it comes to software licensing (and maintenance).  However; when considering whether to drop Software Assurance (SA) from your Microsoft licensing (or not buy it in the first place) it is important to make sure you have fully considered the implications.

While SA was originally a glorified upgrade program, Microsoft has evolved it over the years to try and make it critical for organizations. In doing so they have moved some key functionality to SA, the following are some common mistakes I encounter at organizations when it comes to Software Assurance and their Microsoft licensing.

1. License Mobility - this is one of the most compelling reasons to keep Software Assurance on your Microsoft applications servers (Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Skype for Business Server (fka Microsoft Lync Server) and Microsoft SQL Server).

In today's technology environment server virtualization is commonplace and many organizations use automated tools to move virtual guests between hosts for load balancing and other functionality. The problem with this is that Microsoft licenses get assigned to a physical host, not a virtual guest and typically licensing does not allow for a license to be reassigned from one host to another in under 90 days.  So, if you are running your Microsoft Exchange Server on a virtual machine in a cluster that has 5 hosts and you are moving those virtual machines between hosts you would have to license each host where that virtual machine might move to within a 90 day window.

This is also the benefit that allows a hosting company to leverage your licenses should you choose to outsource your workload.

Note, Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft System Center Server do not come with License Mobility.

2.  Office Roaming Use Rights - particularly important for organizations licensing Microsoft Office per device (any licensing other than Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus) that also allow users to access Microsoft Office applications remotely (via Citrix or other). 

Office Roaming Use Rights allows the primary user of a device licensed for Microsoft Office with active Software Assurance to remotely (off company site) access Microsoft Office from a device not licensed for Microsoft Office.  Without this right companies need to account for every device accessing Microsoft Office remotely and ensure that it has a company provided license.

Note, while this is called "Office" Roaming Use Rights, the same applies to Microsoft Visio or Microsoft Project with active Software Assurance.

3.  Office Multi-Language Pack - for all of the geographically diverse organizations this can be key.

This allows a company to deploy a single image of Microsoft Office with support for 40 user interface languages.

4. Windows Roaming Use Rights - this allows the primary user of a device licensed with Microsoft Windows with Software Assurance to access a company desktop remotely through VDI for a non-company device such as a home computer.

5.  Windows Software Assurance Per-User Add-On - allows organizations with active Software Assurance on their Microsoft Windows OS (or Virtual Desktop Access - VDA subscription) licenses to add-on per user licensing rights.

While there are many potential benefits to this one of the key benefits in my perspective is in organizations with full platform Microsoft Enterprise agreements where the total number of devices exceed the total number of users. The cost of this add-on per user could be less than the cost of having to license all of the devices for the OS.

This also has the benefit for those organizations under a full platform Microsoft Enterprise agreement with per user licensing through Microsoft Office 365 and user CAL's to be able to transition the OS also to per user licensing avoiding the requirement of calculating both "Qualified Users" and "Qualified Devices" streamlining the license compliance and True-Up processes.

While Software Assurance benefits change and some are based on product (such as the Microsoft SQL Enterprise server virtualization rights) the above are some of the current key benefits in my opinion but I would recommend fully reviewing all current Software Assurance benefits prior to making a determination as to whether or not to buy (or allow to lapse) Software Assurance. 

Deploying Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus - Important Licensing Information Before You Start

Several of my clients are starting their implementation of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus and I'm seeing a key misperception that could lead to expensive license compliance issues down the road.

Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus is licensed per user (Yeah! Something many of us have wanted for years) but Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 (or 2013, 2010, 2007, etc) is licensed per device. 

The change to "per user" licensing is one of the key reasons many organizations have licensed the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, but by using the incorrect installation bits a company can quickly become out of compliance.

These are two different products - they may contain the same feature set but just like you cannot install Microsoft Office Standard when what you own is Microsoft Office Professional, you also cannot install Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 when what you own is Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus!

In order to maintain compliance (and benefit from the "per user" licensing) you need to make sure that any deployments of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus are done with the Office 365 bits, not the volume (or otherwise provided) licensing bits for Microsoft Office Professional Plus.  While years ago there was a short-term exemption to this requirement that exemption has since expired and if you install with Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits then you are installing a device based license.

This information used to be spelled out in the Microsoft licensing briefs but in my latest search I could no longer find reference to it, however; the thing to remember about Microsoft licensing is that they only tell you what you can do - not what you cannot do so the absence of this clarification does not mean they've changed the requirement. This Microsoft TechNet article on "Getting started guide for deploying Office 365 ProPlus" provides some guidance to consider.

While I have not seen Microsoft actively auditing on this yet, you should expect that in the not too distant future it will probably become a compliance item so if you are planning your rollout now, it will pay to do it under the correct installation media.  Also,  your Microsoft Account team is presently financially interested in your Office 365 usage, something that cannot be measured if you are using the Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits.

Example of impact: A user has 3 dedicated devices with Microsoft Office installed (workstation, home, laptop).
  • If all of these are installed using the Office 365 ProPlus bits then the company only needs to license the user for some form of Office 365 ProPlus. 
  • However; if each of these is installed with the Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits then each install would have to have it's own license requiring the procurement of 2-3 licenses (2 if the laptop could be covered under Portable Use Rights but that is dependent upon how the license for the workstation was acquired).
So, in summary - do not use your Microsoft volume licensing MSI's for Office Professional Plus to deploy you Office 365 ProPlus.  It could end up costing your organization unnecessarily!

As a side note, for those organizations getting ready to deploy Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus 2016 please be aware that there is currently an issue with volume licensed versions of Microsoft Visio 2016 or Microsoft Project 2016 installed on the same computer (as well as 2013 versions of Visio Pro for Office 365 or Project Pro 365). For more details please refer to this Microsoft TechNet article (scroll down to the topic "Visio and Project versions that can be installed on the same computer with Office 365 ProPlus").

Update January 27, 2016 - I have been informed by Microsoft that there is a resolution planned in February 2016 for the above point about volume licensed versions of Visio 2016 and Project 2016. It is planned to come in the form of a "Click to Run Compatible Bits" (C2R-P) for the volume licensed Visio and Project. Keep your eyes open for these updated bits.