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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Free SPLA Licensing Consultation

The complexity of SPLA and CSP licensing is not getting easier. In fact, I would argue it's getting more challenging.  I am often asked about topics such as:

  • How does the CSP Qualified Multitenant Hosting work?
  • How do I know I am NOT being overcharged for my SPLA licenses?
  • How can I compete against AWS and Azure?
  • How does License Mobility work?
  • How about a second opinion?
  • How does an audit work?

If you are interested in the above "How's"  we are offering a free licensing consultation to get those questions answered. For a limited time, we will review  anything related to Microsoft SPLA licensing. We can sign an NDA if preferred.  It's for (1) 30 minute review and is valid only through 8/18/2017.

The catch?  I ask you to make a donation (large or small) to my buddy Brett.  If you think Microsoft licensing is hard – look at what this boy has gone through:

Brett was a healthy child until around May of 2014 (age 10) when he was diagnosed with a high grade brain tumor (anaplastic astrocytoma) shortly after experiencing many headaches, nausea and fatigue. Brett has endured 7 weeks of daily proton radiation, 5 brain surgeries on an ‘inoperable tumor’, 3 years of chemo, and multiple hospital stays and is now on immunotherapy. It has been a difficult journey, but Brett has always been hardworking and determined to get better.

The Make-A-Wish foundation told him he could meet any celebrity or go to any sport event he desires.  His choice?  He wanted to be a priest for just one day.   He got his wish.  I think this is a testament of his character, his family, and his desire to help others even though he is going through something no one (especially a child) should have to go through.

Let's solve the world's licensing problems while helping this boy out.  Email info@splalicensing.com and your donation and let's set up time to review.  Here's how to donate:  https://www.gofundme.com/team-brett-stay-strong 

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man #IHATECANCER

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Licensing Office Online for External Users

What happens if you have end customers who want to use Office Online for external users (non-employees of your organization).  Is that SPLA?  In this article, we will break down Office Online through three programs – SPLA, Volume Licensing, and CSP.

SPLA

If you are hosting Office for another organization SPLA definitely fits.  As an example, if you provide DaaS to your customers who are also licensed for Office, they can access Office Online.  In this model, you license SharePoint (requirement for Office Online) Office by user, RDS per user, and Windows + SQL Server.   Very expensive to simply offer a customer the ability to view and edit documents online.

Volume Licensing and Office 365

Office Online was added as a Software Assurance benefit for Office in 2016.  End customer’s who simply want to view documents can download it directly from the Volume Licensing Services Center (VLSC).  End customers that require document creation, edit/save functionality will be required to have an on-premises Office license with Software Assurance or an Office 365 ProPlus subscription. Any customer that purchased an Office 2016 suite through Volume Licensing before August 1, 2016 will not require SA through August 1, 2019.   After August 1, 2019 they must buy SA for any on-premise Office licenses.

According to the Product Terms (May 2016) “If Customer has a License for Office 365 Pro Plus, then Customer may use Office Online services.  Each of Customer’s Licensed Users of Office 365 Pro Plus may access Office Online services for viewing and editing documents, as long as they are also licensed for SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business.”  It’s the last sentence that stings.  In other words, you want Office Online?  Better buy Office 365 E3.

Office Online for CSP

The same rules apply.  In this scenario, the hosting company could sell Office 365 E3 through CSP program to their end users.  In CSP, the end customer is paying month – month and paying for support.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Office 365

 

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Slaying the dragon and saving the princess – audit style

We all love stories.  All of us. We love to hear about good overcoming evil – the prince saving the princess, the bad guy that's captured by the good guy.  In short, what we love are fairy tales.  The reality is we do not live in a world of fairy tales and sometimes, yeah, the bad guys do win. The prince, admired by many, is not such a good prince after all.  We trust without knowing they can be trusted.  So, what does this have to do with audits?

Businesses are built based on one concept – to solve a customer's problem.  You are their hero to save whatever pain they have or problem they can't seem to overcome.  You, are (as the story goes) their knight in shining armour.  Your customer needs someone to deliver a solution, you are just the good guy to do it.

Fast forward a couple years, your business is booming, your customers are happy, and in walks every IT nightmare…the auditor.  Eye glasses the size of saucers, a necktie tied just a shade too short, and a laugh that is about as annoying as a nail on a chalkboard; you are succumbed to a software audit.

How do you defend such evil?  The biggest mistake a hosting partner (or enterprise's in general) often makes is being fearful.  They give the auditors everything they ask.  That's not always bad, but if you don't understand why they are asking for certain things or feel they are painting you in a corner, take a step back.  Don't give in without understanding what they are asking and why.  Why do they want to know who your customers are?  Why do they ask about customer owned licenses?  Software Assurance? Historical information?  If you can't answer "why" maybe you need help.  In walks SPLA Man.  Nah, in walks Mrs. SPLA Man, every auditor's worst nightmare.  She put together the following list on how to better prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Mrs. SPLA Man's List

  1. Don't be fearful – no matter what, it's your business and YOUR customers.
  2. Have a plan.  Know what's in your customer agreements.  If you need to refresh your agreement language, do it.  Software licensing rules change daily, if you have not updated your contracts on license mobility or datacenter outsourcing, update it now.
  3. Don't bring unwanted attention to your organization.  Always report usage on time and pay on time.  80% of all delinquent reporting has nothing to do with the reseller or Microsoft.  It has everything to do with a SPLA partner's account payable dept.
  4. Don't have one person manage your usage reporting.  In a lot of cases, a person leaves a company who was the only one who worked with the reseller directly.  When that person leaves, who is responsible for reporting?
  5. Don't be pressured.  Audits can take up a lot of resources.  Don't give up customer engagements to satisfy an auditor.  Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, don't delay meetings with your clients.
  6. The publisher needs you.  You are their sales arm.  You bring the hybrid cloud to life.
  7. Find out from the publisher who manages your account.  When was the last time you spoke to them about strategy or best practices?
  8. Relax.  It's not the IRS auditing you (yet)
  9. Don't settle just to settle.  You didn't grow your business to the magnitude you've grown it without having negotiating skills (and guts).
  10. Don't be scared to ask for help.   Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

Mrs. SPLA Man

PS – Slay that dragon!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Compliance

 

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How the Microsoft CSP Program Indirect Program Works…Directly

The CSP Indirect program is a quick and relatively painless way to get started with Office 365 and other cloud solutions.  In this article, we will review how it works, how it doesn’t work, and things to consider before signing up.

The point of this blog is to make things simple; let’s stay with that concept for a moment.  In the simplest terms, CSP Indirect means you are “indirectly” selling solutions to your end customers.  Why indirect?  In this model, you do not hold (perhaps you do but don’t want to mess with it) the qualifications/authorizations to sell Microsoft cloud solutions directly to your end customers from Microsoft, you must purchase through a distributor and then sell to your customers.  This could mean higher pricing, working with third-party systems instead of your own, and procurement.  One of the biggest disadvantage (sometimes an advantage) is there’s no direct support line to Microsoft.  If something goes wrong, you contact your distributor, who works directly with Microsoft.

As a cloud provider, you are also limited in some of the solutions you can sell to your customer from your datacenter environment.  Take as an example, the Qualified Multitenant Hosting Addendum (QMH).   If you are currently purchasing licenses through an indirect partner, you cannot host Windows 10 E3/E5 from your shared cloud environment. Only authorized CSP Direct partners have that luxury.  The same is true for Office Pro Plus and other desktop applications.

The advantage of CSP Indirect is you do not have to spend resources (including investing in additional staff and funding a platform) That’s all on the distributor.  You can think of CSP Indirect as white labeling Office 365.  It’s not technically white labeled (your end customer knows they are getting Office 365) but the billing comes from you.  CSP Indirect means you are leveraging someone else’s resources to deliver a solution to your end customers.  You still bill your customer and can provide basic support, which has its benefits.

Is CSP Indirect right for your business?  If you are just getting started in selling Office 365 or are currently purchasing Office 365 licenses on behalf of your customers from the Microsoft portal, CSP Indirect is the way to go.  If you are a large provider who has the resources, personnel, and funds to support CSP Direct solution, I would recommend going CSP Direct over Indirect.

In either program, you do not get off without knowing the licensing.  That’s for another article.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
 

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Top 5 Licensing Questions….Answered

You have questions…We have answers.  Another month, and another list of licensing questions asked by the hosting community.

  1. I have a small hosting company that runs primarily Linux machines with a few Windows VM’s mixed in.  The only thing we do customer facing with Windows systems is a small number of users access our application via a published app over RDP Web.  Do I need SPLA?

Yes.  You have Windows running in your cloud environment.  It does not matter how small or large the environment is.  One thing you might want to check out is the Cloud Platform Suite.  You must run Hyper-V and System Center but it could lower your costs. 

  1. I get CSP from one reseller and SPLA from another.  Do I qualify for the new QMH addendum or do I need to get it all from one source?  Totally confused.

In QMH, you are the CSP partner, not someone else.  I am guessing you are using the CSP reseller to go indirect.  If that is the case, you must become CSP Direct authorized.  Purchasing CSP from a third-party does not qualify you for QMH.  That being said, your customer can purchase CSP from any organization and you can host it for them (if you are QMH authorized).

  1. The audit bug got me. I think it’s because my reseller refuses to submit my usage report even though I sent it to them several times.  Any advice?

Microsoft can audit any partner they choose.  There’s not one factor that triggers an audit.  More eyes will be watching if you are continually delinquent on your monthly report.  The biggest reason why a reseller does not submit a usage report is because the provider is delinquent on their payments. Are you up to date? All payments paid to the reseller?

  1. Can I rent a PC using the QMH addendum? I know in the past I could rent a Windows desktop license in SPLA.  Can I do it now?

I think it makes sense to do so but unfortunately it is not part of the addendum.  I would love feedback here.  Section C of the QMH addendum states” “This Amendment does not authorize Customer to resell, distribute, or otherwise provide End User or CSP Licensees direct access to Windows 10 Software” In order to lease a PC to a third-party you need to follow the Microsoft Leasing Agreement. 

  1. I report Office, Exchange, SharePoint and Skype. I heard rumors of a price increase coming in the pipeline from various resellers that I reached out to.  Any truth?

Let me put it to you this way – The products you just mentioned happen to be part of Office 365.  I don’t foresee Microsoft lowering pricing in SPLA for the same products offered by Microsoft.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

PS – What was the SPLA partner’s response to my answer for question 5?  “That’s BS Mate!”  My response?  “Don’t shoot the messenger.”  Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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Details of the Qualified Multitenant Addendum

There’s been a lot of talk as of late about the new QMH addendum.  I’ve written a couple of articles on the topic here  In this article, we will summarize what is written in the addendum so there’s no surprises.  I listed some (not all) of terms and conditions to ensure you are up to speed on the latest developments.

  • CSP Membership – You (or affiliates) must be a Direct CSP partner.  This means you cannot leverage an Indirect CSP partner for this program.  In other words, if you receive CSP licensing from Ingram Micro or SherWeb (as an example) your partnership with those distributors/partner does not qualify for QMH.  Your organization must be CSP Direct authorized, not your partner.
  • Must meet the system requirements – System Requirements can be found here
  • Have an active SPLA agreement.
  • Reporting Requirements – You will always need to report underlying licenses in SPLA.  Those underlying licenses could be any software to deploy a VDI solution – (Windows Server and RDS).   In addition, you must report (by the last calendar day of each month) the Windows 10/O365 licenses deployed.  This is manual, meaning you will send an email to the QMH alias for submission.  Once automated reporting is available, you must enable Microsoft’s automated reporting tool.  Microsoft will use the tool to collect your customer’s organization ID and tenant ID as well as the total number of users accessing the software.
  • As the provider, you must report to your SPLA Reseller the program administrative fee.  If you are currently in the SCA program, you will be familiar with this SKU.
  • As the provider, you must make all education materials publicly available.  You cannot just sign up for CSP, the education material should be like what’s on the QMH website.
  • For each per user subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise, the end-user can only access up to four (4) instances of Windows 10 either on Azure or you, the QMH hoster.  This is like the SCA program in which the end user has five (5) instances of Office Pro Plus, Windows 10 works the same way.

Listed above is a summary.  I encourage you to reach out to your Microsoft rep for additional information.  I am happy to review it further, it’s a new program with pluses and minuses.  Be sure to understand the minuses first 🙂

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Office 365

 

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Yikes…how to move from one cloud to the next.

The latest buzz word in this crazy IT world in which we live is not “Cloud” it’s “Hybrid Cloud”.   Even the definition of hybrid cloud has evolved throughout its short existence. Having a mix of on premise workloads and cloud workloads has transformed into having workloads spread throughout different cloud vendors as well.  “Cloud Sprawl” is born and guessing is here to stay.

In this article, we will review how the licensing works to move a customer’s workload from one cloud to another; customer’s owned licenses back to on premise; and customers on premise licenses back to your cloud.  As the title of this article states..Yikes!

Moving away from your cloud to another cloud

So, your sales rep “accidentally” promised the world to your customer that he/she could not deliver.  Unfortunately, they now want to move to another provider.  First thing to do is fire the sales rep.  Second thing to do is read your SPLA agreement.

When you sign a SPLA agreement (or any Microsoft agreement) your license keys are your license keys.   The data is not yours, but the keys are (at least while you have an active agreement – remember, SPLA is non-perpetual license). License keys are not to be transferred, resold, etc. over to another datacenter provider.   Where does it say that?

In section 6C, page 5, of the 2017 SPLA Indirect Agreement “Copying and distribution of Products and Software documentation” states: “customer may distribute original media or software contains products only to outsourcing company and affiliates.”  Another cloud provider is not your affiliate or outsourcing company, they are your competitor.  The section continues: “Customer may distribute original media or software containing client software and/or redistribution software to its end users.”

What that statement is saying is the service provider can provide the image to their client but not to another service provider.  If they do this, Microsoft requires the license keys to be removed first.  Remember, your keys are your keys, not theirs. As mentioned, the data is not yours either.  An end customer has the right to transfer their data from your datacenter to another provider.  You can also transfer the media to your customer, but not to another service provider as the statement suggests.

Over the years, the transfer of data, transferring images, and using outsourcing companies has made it difficult to track which media/keys belong to which company.  My recommendation is to have language in your agreement that is like the one in your SPLA to protect you.  Is this a gray area?  Absolutely.  My other recommendation is that no matter which keys belong to which organization – be sure to license the environment correctly; in the end, that’s the most important part.

Customer’s owned licenses back to on premise 

The same sales rep screwed up again.  They promised the customer that by moving to your cloud environment they would never be audited again.  Guess what?   They got audited.  Now they are upset and want to move back to on premise.  How does the licensing work?

In this situation, let’s assume the customer is moving workloads that have software assurance (SA) and are using license mobility. (even if they didn’t, same rules would apply.  I just like using license mobility because it’s more common).   Whenever an end customer transfers their own licenses (not SPLA) it’s important to read the Product Terms, not just the SPUR.  The Product Terms is for volume licensing, which applies to customer owned licenses.  The SPUR, as we all know is for SPLA.  Two different programs, two different use rights.

Page 84 (good Lord this is a massive document) of the 2017 Product Terms states “Customer (your end customer) may move its licensed software from shared servers (license mobility) back to its Licensed Servers or to another party’s shared servers, but not on a short-term basis (not within 90 days of the last assignment).

When you buy a license through volume licensing (VL), you assign that license to a server.  That’s one of the reasons you cannot mix SPLA and VL on the same server (different use rights).  When you assign that server to a different server farm (another datacenter provider) that server license cannot move within 90 days of assignment.  If your end customer gets upset and demands you transfer their licenses back to their premise, you can pull out this little blurb in the Product Terms.  I would recommend having language in your agreement that states the same.

You might be wondering – “isn’t the benefit of Software Assurance the ability to move workloads freely without worrying about the 90-day rule?”  That’s true and I’m glad you brought that up.  If it’s within the same server farm, workloads can move freely.  Pay attention to page 84 of the Product Terms as well as the definition of a server farm.

One of the best lines in the Product Terms happens to be on the same page (84).  “Customer (again, customer in this example is your end customer) agrees that it will be responsible for third-parties’ actions about software deployed and managed on its behalf” I would definitely include that statement with your customers.

Moving back to your cloud

You gave your sales rep an ultimatum, win the customer back or lose your job!  Your sales rep won the customer back.  Now your customer can move back to your cloud, but make sure you follow the license mobility use rights as mentioned above.  Remember the 90 day rule.  Once a customer assigns a license back to their premise, they have to wait 90 days to move it back.  Secondly, if they do not have SA, you must dedicate the entire infrastructure for your customer.  Dedicated means the hardware used to support the solution.

The moral of this story?  Make sure you have a good sales rep!  Secondly, read the SPUR, Product Terms, SPLALicensing.com, and have language written in your agreement to protect yourself.  Lots of talk about moving to the cloud, moving away from it is just as important.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Compliance

 

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