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SPLA Audit Support

We are quickly approaching Microsoft’s fiscal year-end which tells us two things:  1) Microsoft will announce new program and cloud strategies and 2) Microsoft will more than likely increase audit notifications.

I work for an organization that helps specifically around audit support, compliance, and SPLA reporting.  One of the biggest cost for any hosting or manage service organization is licensing.  Let’s eliminate risk before it becomes a risk.  Our technique:

Data Collection – Create a baseline of what you are reporting, how you are reporting, and why.

Review of the Data: Ensure we mutually have a clear understanding of your risks as well as what you should be licensing, contracts you need to have in place, and how you should report.

Forward Strategy:  How to optimize or reduce your costs moving forward, tools and practices you need to implement, and what you should consider before outsourcing your datacenter environment.

If you would like to learn more, please email

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Posted by on March 8, 2018 in Compliance, Uncategorized


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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,



SQL Developer Edition: Be very…very…careful

Here’s a brief rundown with SQL Developer edition and what to be aware of if you decide to deploy it.

  • It’s free – you can download it for zero costs
  • It’s a compliance nightmare – When you deploy MAP tool in an audit, the scan typically will reveal a SQL Enterprise installation not SQL Developer edition.  Most features of Developer are found in Enterprise which brings on more confusion.  If you are audited, you must prove this license is for non-production environments.  Which brings us to the next bullet point.
  • What is a non production environment?  Any time you host Microsoft software it is defined as “production.”  Whether or not you charge for this access is irrelevant.  (Microsoft doesn’t care if you make money off of it).  If you do internal development, that’s non production.  If you host a dev environment for the benefit of your customer, now that is software as a service and would be considered production.
  •  Microsoft made SQL Development free in 2016.  For those that need prior versions, you would need to access them through Visual Studio subscriptions.   Again, for non-production environments.  Otherwise, you can report Visual Studio through SPLA; per user, per month.
  • To play it safe, isolate the hardware for any customer’s that want to transfer their free version of SQL Dev to your datacenter environment.

One might ask if it’s free, what’s the penalty if I am found out of compliant?  If you were deploying SQL Dev for production use and Microsoft finds out, you would have to true up using SQL Enterprise.  In other words, if you installed SQL Dev in 2014, get audited in 2017, Microsoft could force you to true up SQL Enterprise dating back to when you first installed Developer edition.  That’s not a very cheap solution!

Is this confusing?  Yes.  You have to make a decision of whether or not this is production or non-production environment.  Do not install SQL Developer because it’s free.  It may cost you in the long run.

Thank you for reading,



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What is SAM in 2018?

Software Asset Management (SAM) has been around since Microsoft first published their Product Use Rights.  With every product introduced came an enormous amount of licensing complexity.   Unless you hold a PHD in Microsoft licensing rules, most organizations would quickly find themselves in a licensing conundrum they never saw coming.  In walks in our friend SAM.  SAM will help you with your audit, SAM will make sure things are running smoothly, and SAM will be your new best friend.  But where does  SAM fit in if your customers move to the cloud?  Do they even need SAM anymore?  Poor SAM might be pushed aside like he is a box of Windows Vista.

Not so fast my friend.  SAM is needed more now than it was even two years ago.  Why?  Regardless of what any publisher may tell you, moving to the cloud doesn’t lower licensing complexities, if anything it enhances it.  Sure if you are a new organization  and do not own any licensing, moving to the cloud is easy, but if you are like 99.9% of all other organizations, you have licenses you may want to leverage instead of buying them all over again. How do you do that?  If you are a service provider, how do you ensure your customer’s are compliant?

Most of my conversations have moved away from “How to license Windows Server” to “How can my customers leverage SQL in my datacenter environment if I am also reporting SQL on my SPLA” or “I want to use AWS using my SPLA licenses, can I do that?”  And recently, “I signed a CSP Direct agreement to leverage QMTH, but now what?”

SAM is no longer about audits.  Sure, you might get audited, and we can certainly help, but more importantly,  what are you going to do about your licensing once your audit is completed?  How much time do you spend making sure your licenses or your customer licenses are compliant?  How do you know if you report 10k a month, that it’s right?  Most service providers are concerned about under reporting SPLA, I would argue the bigger concern is over reporting.  Here’s what a good SAM engagement should provide:

  1. Licensing Costs – how much are you paying for licenses as compared to other organizations?
  2. Use Rights – What use rights are available that you might know exist.  (there are plenty)
  3. How to ensure your customers are compliant and what language should you include to eliminate compliance risk in all your agreements.
  4. Help identify which licensing program is best for your organization and your customers.  Wouldn’t it be great if you worked with a company that can also reduce your clients licensing costs? This would include CSP, License Mobility, Outsourcing (AWS/Azure/Google, etc).
  5. Compliance:  How to ensure you are not only compliant, but licensing the most cost-effective way possible.
  6. Audit Support – Yes, if the audit police come knocking, you should be in good shape to handle based on your SAM partner expertise.
  7. Roadmap (I hate that term) but it’s important.  What is on the radar that you should be aware of?  As an example, CSP is an annual term, are there plans to make it 3 year like other licensing programs?  Pricing is locked, but can I negotiate at the end of my renewal for CSP?   What happens if I true down?  (Good luck with that by the way).

There are plenty other examples but I think you get the point, cloud licensing is about as complex as on premise licensing.  SAM in 2018 should help you tackle these areas and not just handle audit support.  Any company that promotes audit support is not a business partner, they are the One and Done’s of software licensing.

If you have a question please email

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on January 17, 2018 in Uncategorized


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See ya 2017! Upcoming changes for and Microsoft SPLA

Happy New Year to all my followers, partners, and readers.  It has definitely been a year of transformation for Microsoft and the cloud community.  2017 has also been a big year for  Here are some of the highlights of 2017 and upcoming announcements for 2018!

  • had over 150k unique visitors in 2017.  To put this in perspective, I had 3k visitors in 2014.  Which I guess is good but bad that there’s some much confusion over licensing.
  • The number one topic with the most views?  “How to License Exchange”
  • Microsoft announced major price increases in 2018 (starting February for January usage)
  • Not all SPLA Resellers are created equal.  Make sure your pricing is accurate. You can email to review.
  • I am creating a forum and easy to read white papers for  If you have any recommendations or topics let us know.
  • Microsoft is transforming SPLA to CSP.  Surprise!   Many resources are moving away from SPLA to focus on Azure. will not be 100% Microsoft focused but cloud focused.  (including Google, AWS, and other publishers).
  • I  am launching a charity called “Mow Down Cancer” to help families with their lawn care and other household needs while their child is going through cancer treatments.
  • Last, my family bought a cat in 2017.  I think I would rather read the SPUR than deal with a cat (although she has grown on me).  The things we do for our kids.  Maybe I should go by “Cat Man”.

Thanks for reading and here’s to a prosperous 2018!




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Posted by on January 2, 2018 in Uncategorized


Microsoft SPLA Audit Notifications…

Tis’ the season to be merry!  To bring a little holiday cheer, Microsoft is gifting you an audit!  In this article, I will break down some of the tricks to stay ahead of the game when Mr. Audit comes knocking.  If you need help, please email us at We have the resources and the expertise to help navigate through the process.

Do’s of an audit:

  1. Do a pre audit yourself.  This is best to engage a third-party to know what is in your environment and what the auditors will look for.  I like to think of it this way, if you pay your reseller 20k dollars a month (as an example) don’t you want to make sure you get it right?
  2. Use your own tool or method to collect the information.  We know (and so does Microsoft) that you may not be collecting everything that auditor’s will  look for but that’s one of the reasons why you should engage a third-party.  We can use your data but we will compare it against the licensing rights so we know the risk before it becomes a risk.
  3. Know and understand customer owned licenses.  Auditors will look at everything that is installed in your hosted environment.  You need to know what you should be reporting and what you can get away with not reporting.
  4. Engage with the publisher, not disengage.  Avoiding the notification will not solve anything and put you in a tricky situation.
  5. Keep calm.  Overreacting doesn’t help your cause.

Don’t’s of an audit:

  1. Similar to 4-5 mentioned above, don’t be a jerk.  Kind of like getting mad at another driver at a stoplight, it never solves anything.
  2. Hire a law firm to work with Microsoft on your behalf.  If that happens, the publisher will engage their legal and it becomes very black and white.  In this case, my bet is on the company with the billions of dollars in their bank account.  If you engage in a third-party, it’s best to work with the third-party directly with your organization, not the third-party work with the publisher.
  3. Give the auditors everything they ask.  Sometimes they ask for things that are not relevant to the situation.
  4. Throw in the towel.  Even organizations who never report SPLA but are hosting can find a way to negotiate.
  5. Rush to close it.  There are strategies that work out to your benefit if you hold off.  Another benefit is it may give you better financial options.

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for reading,



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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized


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Azure Partner Shared Services

Microsoft recently announced a new Azure Partner Shared Services offer in CSP that will allow resellers and other MSP’s the ability to create a unique tenant within Partner Center to purchase and deploy Azure subscriptions for internal use.

Prior to this announcement, CSP’s would have multiple invoices from Microsoft – (1) for internal workloads and others for their customers.   This announcement is intended for existing CSP resellers and MSP’s.  It is not necessarily intended for ISV partners to join CSP to build their applications.  Microsoft recommends ISV’s purchase Azure through a reseller or even   For existing CSP’s and MSP’s, this announcement does three things:

  1. Allows you to purchase and use Azure in Partner Center (same place you resell and manage your customer’s Azure environment)
  2. Allows MSP’s to  build test environments and deploy internal workloads
  3. Extend your environment to include multi-tenant solutions.

Some common FAQ’s for Azure Partner Shared Services

Are ther specific licensing restrictions for this type of solution?

It’s actually licensed by the CSP partner.  When you (the CSP partner) purchase the solution, you are the licensee and is governed by the end customer license terms since it is internal use as oppose to the Reseller terms which is for your end customers.

Is this available in Office 365?

No.  It is not available for other cloud services at this time.

Is this available through any other licensing program?

No. It is designed for CSP providers only.

How do i create the shared services tenant?

For complete details, I recommend going here to learn more.

Is this part of SPLA?

No. It’s part of the CSP Program.

Thanks for reading,



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