What is the biggest challenge you face as a service provider?

This blog can only be relevant if the content is relevant.  So today, I thought I would ask…”what’s the biggest challenge you face as a service provider?”  Email me at  I am trying to see how I can be a better voice for the hosting community.  No…VDI is still not available!

Thank you for reading,


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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


Epic Community Connect and SPLA

The healthcare community has increased concerns with the way they have deployed (and licensed) their electronic medical record (EMR) software such as Epic Community Connect and others.  As a reader of this blog, you know that when you deploy software for the benefit of a third party (non employee) SPLA must be part of the conversation.  The only exception to this rule is if you actually own the code to the software you are hosting.  In other words, if you developed the software, you can use your own volume licenses to host your software.  If you host a third party software (such as Epic) you must license this in SPLA.   In most cases, many healthcare companies do not own the application, but lease it from the EMR vendor.

Rewind a few years and let’s pretend you are a large hospital who partnered with Epic to provide best in class patient record management for your clients, doctors, and other clinics. Your Epic deployment resides on a Windows Server, SQL Server, and RDS.  As the IT director, you purchased several server licenses and hundreds of Client Access Licenses (CAL) to cover all the external users.  You think you are covered; no one mentions you need to license this via SPLA.  Your reseller didn’t tell you, Microsoft didn’t tell you, and for that matter the vendor didn’t tell you.  You think all is well based off the information you received.  Fast forward 3 years and your volume licensing agreement is up for renewal.  Someone on the licensing side informs you that you shouldn’t true-up licenses or renew your agreement under volume licensing, you need to license SPLA.  You think that’s fine, if you must license under a different program who are you to argue. But what about all those license you already purchased and own?  Unfortunately, you cannot return them, you must allocate those internally.  You think to yourself that’s fine, except for one minor detail…. you purchased hundreds of CALs and you do not have hundreds of employees; those license you own are essentially worthless.  On top of everything else, you just received an audit notification.

Why would they receive an audit notification?  Once a vendor recognizes you have been under-licensed, the vendor might want to dig in deeper to see how long you have been out of compliant and if you purchased enough licenses to cover all the users.  In 90% of all audits, the customer is under-licensed.  Now you own licenses you don’t need, but should’ve purchased more because you don’t own enough licenses to cover all external users initially.  The vendor will want you to pay the delta of what you should’ve paid under SPLA and what you purchased under volume licensing (plus an audit fee).

If you are a healthcare provider and have been notified by Microsoft or any other vendor, please contact us.  We have found that in many cases the licenses report is not always 100% accurate.

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Compliance, EMR Software, Self Hosted


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Why Windows 10 in CSP stinks now but could be GREAT later

Microsoft made a pretty big announcement around Windows 10 and CSP.  Here’s a breakdown for those that are interested:

  1. Software Assurance is not included
  2. Windows 10 is available E3 and in CSP only
  3. Customers need a qualified OS license.  In other words, this is an upgrade license only.
  4. Not available under SPLA
  5. Not available in the shared computer activation model.
  6. Per user licensing with the ability to license on up to 5 devices per license.
  7. No minimum and surprise…no maximum either.
  8. Subscription is 1 year
  9. Pricing varies
  10. New use rights highlighted in the Product Terms

So why does this stink now but could be great later?  Pay attention to number 1, 4, and 5 in the list above.  That’s what stinks.   Thinking this will allow VDI?  Think again.

So why not?  Why the mystery around VDI and SPLA?  If I was Microsoft, I would go ahead and allow it but for only a select few SPLA providers.  Those providers are:

  1. Report on time.  Not one late payment/report during their agreement no matter what the excuse – “My reseller sucks” is not an excuse.  It’s a good reason to work with me though🙂
  2. Deployed Hyper V (they must have some incentive to do this)
  3. Joined CSP program.

There you have it.  Microsoft wins big time – all that missed revenue from non reporters will get reported. Now you, the compliant service provider will be allowed VDI in SPLA.

The likelihood of this happening is slim to none.  I do think Microsoft is missing out with the Windows 10/VDI restriction.  Ever since I started in SPLA, I’ve been asked about VDI (or the lack thereof).  That was 11 years ago.

Thanks for reading,





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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


Time to sign a new SPLA could be NOW!

Do you have an active SPLA agreement that expires in less than 1 year and you report Windows licenses?

I’ve written pretty extensively about Windows 2016.  If you sign a new SPLA or renew one (same difference) after September 2016, you MUST license by core for your Windows Servers regardless of which version you are running.

Don’t hate the messenger, but come October 1st your SPLA costs could rise.

Thanks for reading,



Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Uncategorized


Worried about Windows 2016 Cores?

Yes, it’s the talk of the town.  “Windows 2016!  Oh my!  It’s moving to cores!!!”  That part is true.  What is NOT true is even when Windows 2016 is released, it doesn’t mean you have to license by core – you can still license by processor for all 2012 and earlier editions.  The catch?  Once your agreement expires and you sign a new SPLA after October 1st (when Windows 2016 is released) you must license by core regardless which version you are running.

So what does this mean to you?  If I was a service provider that reports over 2k in Windows and SQL licenses,  I might readjust when my SPLA expires to extend processor based licensing.   Wait…What?   You can readjust when my SPLA agreement expires?  Sure.  I’m SPLA Man.  Anything is possible with SPLA Man.  Hit me up and we’ll figure out a strategy.

Thanks for reading,

Windows 2016 Man


Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized


SPLA Audits are on the rise…are you ready?

There are BIG changes in store for SPLA – some great, some bad, some indifferent.  Windows 2016, Windows 10 in Azure, Shared Computer Activation, etc.  I will write about the updates shortly.

With all this change, Microsoft and other publishers recognize the complexities in tracking all those licenses.  In short, they know many (if not all) service providers have a difficult time staying compliant.  That’s one reason they audit.  I always say, if you go on vacation for a week be careful; Microsoft just might change the licensing rules on you.  So where do you turn for audit support and assistance?  How do you know what auditors are collecting is accurate and how do you know what Microsoft and other publishers tell you is accurate?  I can promise you it not always is.

Some people can play piano with their eyes closed; others can speak multiple languages fluently; and yet others can mow the grass while guzzling a beer.  Net of it is we all have our specialities; mine just happens to be interpreting data, negotiating down audit costs, and understand the licensing rules inside and out.  Who else writes about SPLA in their free time?  (I really need to get out more).

You have enough to worry about with your business, the last thing you need is an audit.  Let us take that pressure off of you and put it on us.  (or the vendor)

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


Everything you should know about SQL Licensing 2016

It’s amazing how confused the hosting community is with SQL.  (Myself included) Core factor; SQL BI (whatever that is); SQL Web – discontinued in VL but available in SPLA? Ugh…Hyper threading licensing; and SQL Enterprise virtualization.  In this article, let’s review these licensing conundrums and finally solve some of the licensing mysteries surrounding them.  There are a lot of good links in this article – check it out if you have time.  There’s also a training on the technical aspects of SQL presented by Microsoft’s Sara Barela.  I interviewed her some time ago when SQL 2014 was released.  Check it out here To register for the webinar see below:

Date and Time: June 16, 2016 at 10:00am PT. For non-registered Cloud Channel Network Members, please register for this live webcast at:

  • REGISTER HERE to attend at and select the SQL Session while signing up. Once you register you will receive reminders, and can also access the add to calendar below.


For registered Cloud Channel Network Members, you will not need to register and can access the event link or add to calendar below:


  • EVENT LINK: LOG IN HERE  to live webcast on Live date and time

SQL Licensing:

Core Factor

For those that were worried about how to calculate cores using the core factor; you can now sleep at night.  Microsoft discontinued this method.  In 2016 use rights, you calculate the number of cores on the physical server or the number of virtual cores on the VM.  You just need to report a minimum of 4 cores per VM/physical core.

SQL Web Only available under SPLA.  It is also only available if you are providing publicly accessible information.  If the data is not publicly accessible, you cannot license SQL Web.  Don’t just licesense SQL Web because it’s less expensive.  It can cost you.


SQL BI is discontinued as well.  For those five service providers that were reporting it this might come as a shock.  The bad news is there is now only (1) product in the SQL family that is licensed by user-SQL Standard.  Why is that bad news?  Keep reading.

SQL Enterprise

Nothing new from a licensing perspective with 2016.  That’s the ok news.  You can still license the physical cores on each host that will allow you to run unlimited virtual machines.  To me, it’s similar to Windows Datacenter but with cores (and yes, Windows 2016 is moving that direction to.  Check out my article here) From a product feature perspective, in my limited technical mind, I highlighted some features from other third-party articles  that I think service providers could benefit (that’s the better news).  Hey, you can leverage another datacenter, I can leverage other blogs right?

  • Always Encrypted: For those that have end customers that are very concerned about security (think law firms/healthcare in particular) This feature ensures your encrypted data remains encrypted even if the server itself is administered by a third-party.   Check out this article by my friend at MSDN to learn more.  I like this feature with license mobility.  With license mobility, the end customer must have software assurance on those licenses they wish to transfer over.  One other feature of software assurance is latest version rights.  In other words, they will have access to SQL 2016 already.   So if your sellers are talking to customers and license mobility comes up – be sure to mention this.
  • Better Performance: I think this goes without saying. I’d be shocked if a new product release didn’t have better performance.  Actually, who remembers Windows XP to Windows Vista?  Ouch.  For all new performance features please check out the data sheet from Microsoft
  • Stretch Database:  Sounds cool.  Check out my buddy at Redmond Mag He can explain this thing better than me.  I will say as a service provider, cost of storing data (purchasing a new SAN, etc) can be expensive, this feature will help eliminate some of those costs especially when leverage a third-party datacenter like Azure.  Check it out.

Hyper Threading Licensing

I think this often gets overlooked until you get audited.  When licensing the physical host only, hyper-threading doesn’t affect licensing.  When you license a VM, things change.  If you have hyper-threading enabled,  a core license is required for each thread supporting a virtual core.

There you have it.  Now let’s review some specific scenarios that have come up recently.

Scenario 1

A company develops an application and would like to leverage Azure to provide the application out as a service.  The application uses SQL Enterprise.  What do they need to do from a licensing perspective?

We all know Azure is  public cloud (code for multiple customer on the same server for licensing purposes).   We also know SQL Enterprise is licensed by core only…right?  C’mon, you just read about it!  When cores/processors are involved AND it’s a public cloud (not dedicated) the hoster (in this case the ISV) has to either purchase SQL from Azure OR use license mobility and leverage self-hosted.  In the latter example, they can use their own licenses because they own the application and SQL is self-hosted eligible.  So the ISV can purchase SQL with SA and transfer that instance over to Azure.  They would still be required to purchase Windows from Azure.

Why cant the ISV use SPLA?  I don’t always agree with this answer but the truth is you can’t.  You cannot license cores/processors via your SPLA and leverage a third-party datacenter public cloud.  You may be asking yourself “Joe’s Hosting does it!”  Well my readers, Joe’s Hosting is out of compliant.

Scenario 2

Exact same example but the 3rd party datacenter is not Azure but some other IaaS.  This IaaS provider offers dedicated hardware and dedicated VM’s.  Could the ISV leverage his own SPLA and license SQL Enterprise?  Yes, he can.  How?  It’s dedicated.  Which means all hardware running a MS OS has to be dedicated.  I don’t care about the SAN or LAN or any other “AN”  All hardware running a MS OS must be dedicated.

Scenario 3

Exact same scenario but ISV requires SQL Standard.  Can the ISV leverage their own SPLA and leverage Azure public cloud?  Yes.  How?  SQL Standard can be licensed by user (SAL).  He would not be able to license SQL Standard core and report it on his SPLA but he can license SAL’s.  Please see the Azure FAQ guide here.  Specifically:

If you are a Service Provider with a signed Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) using SQL Server, you can:

  • Obtain a SQL image from the Azure VM marketplace and pay the per-minute rate of SQL Server, or
  • Install or upload your SQL Server Standard image with Subscriber Access License (SAL) reported via your SPLA.

My tired eyes are starting to fail me.  Let’s review active/passive in another article.  I hope this helps.

Thanks for reading,






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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

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