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,