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. 


Anonymous said...

I have a question that you might be able to answer.
Our company might be dropping enterprise and software assurance soon.
Our current OS's that were included are W7/W8.1 and Win 10
So we own Win 10. I install win 10 enterprise on my computer after we have dropped enterprise and software assurance. A few months later the newer Win 10 feature pack\upgrade is out.

Will I be able to upgrade my current Windows 10 with the newer feature pack\upgrade?

Cynthia Farren said...

Thanks for your question. I'm assuming you are referring to the "Media Feature Pack for N and KN editions of Windows 10". Since this is an "update package" not an upgrade it would be included in your rights to use under the original license.

This link provides more information on the package: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3099229

If/When your company drops Software Assurance (SA) on their Microsoft licenses, the company will retain the rights to any current release of the perpetual licenses (including downgrade rights). So, even if this was a new license as long as you had SA as of the release date you would have been entitled regardless.

One important thing to remember on dropping SA from the OS - the right to upgrade to the edition owned only applies to devices in your organization as of the date you dropped SA. If you trade out your machine for a new device after you drop SA, you cannot apply your Windows 10 Enterprise license to that new device (you would instead need to buy the new device with a Windows 10 Enterprise license).

I would recommend having your IT team have a conversation with me before they settle on their decision of whether or not to renew SA...I'm happy to have a quick conversation with them and make sure that they are considering all the necessary pieces to avoid unintentional non-compliance down the road.

Take care and enjoy your update!
Cynthia Farren

Anonymous said...

We upgraded 40 of our 180 PC's from Windows 7 Pro to Windows 10 Pro before the deadline to upgrade was over. In the past, we've never had a need for an Enterprise agreement or software assurance, so we thought this would work fine for us. However, we have had lots of issues managing Windows 10 Pro and anticipate more with future updates (for example, starting with Win10 ver 1607, the GP for turning off consumer features, showing windows tips and turning off the store application, etc. apply only to the Enterprise editions). So we are considering a move to the Enterprise Edition. However, I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not to get SA with Enterprise.

If it was still a model where I have Windows 10 on a device and Windows 11 comes out and I want to upgrade to it, SA would allow me to do that and I could see the advantage of having it. But with the MS new model for Windows 10, once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, MS will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device (in our case, usually 5 years) at no additional charge (Windows as a Service).

If we can continue on like we have without those other benefits of SA like training, support, etc. and we can get the new features of Windows 10 on the devices that have Windows 10 Enterprise for no charge without SA I can't think of why we would spend all the money on it. Am I missing something?

Cynthia Farren said...

Thanks for the comment.

You are right - with the ability to procure Windows Enterprise through the OEM and retail options without the requirement of Software Assurance (before you had to have SA to get Enterprise) it really raises questions of when SA adds value for the Operating System in an environment that refreshes its' hardware regularly.

The only additional thing I would recommend you consider is Virtual Desktop Access (VDA or Windows Virtualization for the desktop). If you are not using any VDA then you are fine but if you are, then SA on the OS would probably cost you less than having a VDA subscription.

My crystal ball on where Microsoft is going with their Windows and SA path is pretty foggy. In the past, Microsoft has done a good job (LOL, for their pockets) of typing key software components to SA thus driving a strong business case for SA but I'm not seeing it for Microsoft Windows at the moment.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

It's unclear to me how this applies to virtual desktops: "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." Here's a specific example. User's laptop is licensed, but she wants the software installed on a virtual desktop. She will access the virtual desktop with a personal device from home. Is another license required for the virtual machine?

Cynthia Farren said...

Thanks for asking. "Office Roaming Use Rights" would allow the primary user of that laptop to access Microsoft Office (same edition Standard, Pro, etc) on a virtual machine (either desktop or server) from home using her personal device.

However; that only covers the Microsoft Office license and only for that (and other primary users of licensed devices) user. Don't overlook any other potential licensing required such as Operating System and any ancillary Client Access Licenses (CALs). I provided a bit more about those below.

OS - The Operating System would still need to be licensed (which may be through SA on that user's primary laptop OS or a VDA subscription for the user or device, etc).

CALs - Alternatively if this was hosted on a server using Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol then the user would need an RDS User CAL.

I hope this helped! If still unclear feel free to call my office for a quick discussion.

Anonymous said...

WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for windows