Category Archives: Top 5 Licensing Questions

Top 5 licensing questions…Answered


SQL BI is included with SQL Enterprise.  Is it available in SPLA if I license SQL    Enterprise?

SQL BI is a Software Assurance (SA) benefit for on premise deployments.  Although SPLA includes latest version rights and failover rights, it does not include BI. 

My customer has a combination of E4 and E5 subscriptions.  We want to provide all the Skype for Business features including telephony and video conferencing.  Is there a SAL for SA line item in SPLA that covers everything included with the Enterprise Plus SAL?

For Enterprise Plus, you would need to report both SAL for SA (Skype for Business Enterprise and Skype for Business Plus) in order to meet this requirement.

My customer has Office 2013 Pro Plus installed.  It is using their own key and was told by the customer that it was purchased under an Enterprise Agreement.  Would an EA and License Mobility cover this Office 2013 deployment in a shared environment?

Office does not have mobility rights.  The only way they can install Office is through the QMTH program or on isolate dedicated hardware.  

I am very confused.  If I provide an application to my end users it is SPLA but if I create an online store where external users access that’s not SPLA?

That is correct.  If you host an application on behalf of another organization, that’s SPLA. Creating an e-commerce site benefits your organization, not a third-party.  

 Let’s go back to Office 365.  Is the QMTH program available for CSP 2-Tier?  We currently resell Office 365 through our distributor.  

No.  QMTH requires your organization to be CSP 1-Tier authorized.

Have a question? Email

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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Top 5 Licensing Questions


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Top 5 Mistakes Service Providers Make…

If you have gone through an audit or going through an audit now, I am sure you will agree with some of these mistakes listed below.  If you have never gone through an audit, pay attention  -this list can save you.   Here are the top 5 mistakes a hosting company can make when deploying Microsoft technology as a service.

  1. Not understanding that you are hosting.  Sounds kind of silly, but many organizations do not know they are hosting software until an audit comes knocking on your door.  Why?  Many organizations are still unfamiliar with SPLA.  (even Microsoft and especially resellers).  Not all resellers are authorized for SPLA.  If you purchase licenses to provide as a service, SPLA must be part of the conversation.  But what happens if you work with someone who is unfamiliar with SPLA?  Unless you are a licensing expert, you could easily find yourself out of compliance based on the advice your reseller or consultant gives you.  If they are not authorized, they wouldn’t understand SPLA because they do not sell it.   Let’s use a company that develops an application but uses Microsoft Excel to deliver a report or pulls data to support your solution.  You speak to your reseller, and they have a strong Volume Licensing background.  They know there’s a Software Assurance benefit called “Self-Hosting“, so the reseller advises you to purchase the software outright through your own Enterprise Agreement.   The problem with this advice is in order to qualify for Self-Hosting, all software must be eligible for this use right.  Excel does not qualify.  Therefore the entire solution, Windows, SQL, Excel, RDS, etc. must be licensed via SPLA.  Unfortunately all the licenses you just purchased is for not.  Pay attention to the use rights!
  2. Not understanding License Mobility.  SQL is the biggest licensing risk when it comes to audits.  Many organizations host an end customer’s SQL instance without knowing that the end customer requires Software Assurance (SA)  to transfer their licenses in a shared cloud environment.  In any audit, you must prove those licenses have active SA or else you will be held responsible for those licenses.  With cloud competition on the rise, going back to your customer after the fact might be a challenge.  I recommend having a web page dedicated to License Mobility.  Check out Amazon’s AWS page here.  AWS must follow the same rules you do.
  3. Server naming conventions.  There are use rights available to you such as customer trials, demonstrations, administration access, and testing.  Whenever you go through an audit, the auditors will look at every server in your datacenter (or at least a snapshot of your datacenter) They will generate a report to show you what was installed versus what was licensed.  In many instances, they will show a SQL Server (as an example) that was installed in 2014, but never reported.  Since the auditors typically go back 3 years, they will want you to pay for that SQL Server from 2014 to present day.  Why?  It’s part of your hosted environment, it needs a license.  But you argue – “that server is for admin access!”  Prove to the auditors it’s only for administration purposes!  Easiest way to do that is to name it appropriately so when the auditors generate the report, they will be able to identify its admin, or testing, or passive.
  4. Reporting Windows VM’s not physical cores.   Windows is licensed differently than SQL.  Pay attention.  More information can be found here
  5. Not reading your Microsoft Business and Services Agreement (MBSA).  You signed a SPLA agreement, but did you know you also signed the MBSA agreement as well?  This agreement is especially important in audits.  It outlines the cost associated with compliance and how far back auditors can go.  Ask your reseller for a copy if you do not have one.  It is very important to have a copy of this!

Have a question?  Please email

Thanks for reading,



Answers to Your Cloud Licensing Questions

Will Azure be part of the SPLA program?

I wouldn’t think so and wouldn’t know how they could incorporate the two.  Azure is Microsoft hosted and SPLA is partnered.   Microsoft will want to keep SPLA and Azure separate.

Is Azure Stack part of SPLA?

Azure Stack by itself is not part of SPLA.  What’s part of SPLA is the Windows licenses.  As a service provider, you could deploy Azure Stack, pay the base consumption rate, and use Windows licensing with SPLA.  In fact, I think it’s less expensive to do it this way.

If my customer wants to use their own Windows license on Azure Stack, do they also require CAL’s?

Yes.  You need to pay attention to the Product Terms to ensure compliance.  As an example, volume licensing prohibits hosting.  You cannot install your own Windows licenses through volume licensing and host using Azure Stack.

Does Office 365 qualify for the SAL for SA product in SPLA?

The only Office 365 product that is eligible for SAL for SA is Skype.

Is SPLA pricing going up?

Yes and will not be decreasing anytime soon.

Since AWS offers dedicated hardware, could I transfer my customer’s license to their datacenter without Software Assurance?

Yes.  If its dedicated hardware Software Assurance is not required.

What about Azure?

No, you would need Software Assurance.

Will Microsoft finally allow MSDN to be licensed in my datacenter?

Probably not.  Although if you use Azure, MSDN is eligible to be transferred.

If I sell CSP through 2-Tier distributor, can I sign the QMTH addendum?

No.  You must be CSP 1 – Tier to qualify for QMTH.

Can I outsource support for certain software through CSP?

Yes.  You an resell the solutions you can support and leverage another partner for support for other products.

Thanks for reading,








Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions


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More SPLA Questions…More Answers.

Here is a list of some of the questions we received this month.  Enjoy!

Why does Microsoft not allow a SPLA SQL VM to be installed in a public cloud?  I understand if you were licensing the physical layer, but if you want to install on a VM, you can easily allocate the number of cores and report accordingly.  Any ideas?

No.  Honestly there is no reason outside of it’s just prohibited.  You cannot license SPLA cores/processors in public clouds even if the VM is dedicated.

What can be installed in Azure through SPLA licensing?

Anything that is licensed by SAL can be moved to Azure.  For your end customers, anything that has Software Assurance and is license mobility eligible can be transferred including: Windows 10 E3  (QMTH), Office 365 Pro Plus (QMTH) and MSDN.  Your end customers can also leverage Azure HUB to get discounted pricing for the Windows Servers they purchased with SA.   Check out the Azure FAQ site

Is Microsoft going to discontinue SPLA?

Nah.  I bet it will be merged into a new program though.  Just a hunch.

I received a compliance notification the other day.  Am I in trouble?

Depends on the type of notification and if you are out of compliant :).  If you have questions, we can review it with you.  Just email

Can I report Windows 2016 but run Windows 2012?

Yes.  No problem there.  What you cannot do is license Windows 2012 and run 2016.  Don’t do that.

Thanks for reading,






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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions


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Top 5 Licensing questions…Answered

  1. If a customer has 4 x SQL Server Standard (8 cores), does that mean I will also need to have 4 x SQL-SAL?

There’s no server + CAL model in SPLA.  You license either per core or per user depending on the product.  Remember, SAL is not licensed per server, but for each user that has access to that server.  Your question indicates you might believe a SAL is licensed per server which is not true.

2.  Is MSDN available through SPLA?  Is it through Azure?

MSDN is not available in SPLA, but you can license the individual components through SPLA.   If an end-user would like to bring their MSDN license over to your datacenter, you must dedicate the solution for your customer.  Yes, Amazon must play by the same rules.  Oddly enough, Azure (which is shared) does allow MSDN to be transferred over to their datacenter.

3. I received an audit notification.  Should I respond?

Yes. But don’t work on their time, work on yours.

4.  If I signed the SCA addendum, do I need to sign the new QMTH addendum?

Unless you are planning on hosting Windows 10 you do not need to sign the new addendum.

5.  If I buy from a CSP indirect partner, do I qualify for QMTH?

No.  Your company must be CSP 1 tier authorized in order to qualify.

Thanks  for reading,


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Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions


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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 QMTH addendum or do I need to get it all from one source?  Totally confused.

In QMTH, 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 QMTH 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 QMTH 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,


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

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


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Top 5 Questions…Answered

Where can I get my license keys for CRM?  My Microsoft contact can’t seem to find the answer and my reseller doesn’t know either.  Any ideas?

For CRM and D365 you can download them directly from the VLSC website.  All other Dynamics products need to go through the License Key Creator Tool.

If I am a CSP Tier 1/direct provider, can I sell CSP to another CSP Tier 1 provider? 

Yes. There are no limitations as to who you can sell to.  Good luck!

Is CSP replacing SPLA?

Not entirely.  I am not Microsoft but I can see the similarities.  In the end, they are both Microsoft programs, how they consume it doesn’t really matter.  The only drawback to SPLA (In Microsoft’s eyes) is the service provider has the option of offering other software outside of Microsoft.  Exchange as an example, could technically be replaced with Zimbra.  If they use Office 365, the customer is using Office 365.

I offer desktop as a service.  When can we expect VDI to be available in SPLA?


Will I get audited?

Yes.  Make sure to read the MBSA agreement that you signed.

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions


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