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Breaking down Microsoft’s Q4 and what it means for your business.

Microsoft reported earnings last night that surpassed expectations and gave us insight into their cloud business. I am not a stock analysts, but I thought I would spend some time reviewing some of the highlights and my opinion for what’s next for the software (I mean cloud, actually, no -I meant Intelligent Cloud) giant.

Azure – Microsoft did not provide specific revenue numbers for Azure, but did say revenue grew 97% y/y.  Although exact numbers for Azure revenue is not specified, Azure is part of the all-important commercial space, which includes Dynamics 365, Azure, and a little program called Office 365.  That revenue number combined was over 18B which more than doubled last year’s number.

Office/Dynamics and Competition – Office 365 subscription business just surpassed the traditional Office model with revenue up 43%.  When was the last time you went to a box retailer and purchased software?  That’s a telling sign that more and more organizations prefer subscription pricing over box products.   Dynamics 365 was up 74%, probably because Dynamics in SPLA is about as complex as it can possibly get.  Need help with a Dynamics licensing question?  Ask your reseller.  The reseller will ask Microsoft – and then it goes into a big, dark, black hole until someone loses their mind.  Nothing happens.  Microsoft also revamped Dynamics in SPLA to make it very difficult to compete.  The same can be said for Office.  Where I see concern for Microsoft is with Google, who is just getting their foot in the door in the enterprise space.  If they make traction (and they will) it will be interesting to see the two giants go at it.  Google’s cloud platform is growing exponentially as well.

Surface Sales – I guess you can say is one of the low points of the conference call.  Surface revenue dropped 2%.  Xbox sales also dropped and became less profitable with price drops and competition.  That’s the bad news – the good news?  Maybe with the new CSP Windows 10 thing Microsoft will include Surface as part of the program.  Rental PC in SPLA is yesterday’s news.  Customer’s want the latest and greatest but don’t have the resources to upgrade the hardware.  Adding Surface to the subscription model makes sense.  Although the new CSP Qualified Multitenant Hosting addendum is great, not everyone wants VDI.  Give end customers, partners, and your Surface sales a boost by adding it to subscription services.   I think making Surface part of CSP would make sense.  What do I know?

LinkedIN – Only Microsoft can spend over 26B for an acquisition and investors are still wondering what it is they bought; and more importantly, not hurt their quarterly earnings.  Yeah, they can tie it in for Dynamics and Yammer/Teams with all those users.   They also have a pretty impressive data list of users to sell additional collaboration products and services to.  I guess the jury is still out on this.

Opinion – Microsoft recently announced a major change in their sales organization. Their sales teams that were focused on the enterprise need to focus more on solution type selling.  A lot of organizations in the industry are going through the same transformation.  It’s also not an easy thing to do.  Time will tell.

I wrote an entire article without mentioning Amazon, they report earnings next week.  It will be interesting to see how they compare to Microsoft and how much they grew year of year in comparison.  Lots of analysis say Microsoft will surpass AWS as the king of the cloud.  I still think Google is lurking in the background and might surprise some people as well.

What does all this mean for SPLA?  In my humble opinion, I think Microsoft better be careful with the way they are handling their third-party hosters.  Those numbers they threw out yesterday were great, but they can get even better.

Microsoft built a program for partners who have their own datacenters, relationships, and sales resources to promote Microsoft products and technology.   There are close to 30,000 SPLA partners (rough estimate) that have datacenters spread throughout the globe.  Nobody, can have the reach like your SPLA partners.  Google and Amazon do not have 30,000 datacenters, why disrupt it?  Don’t audit them, partner with them and help grow this business to build a true hybrid cloud ecosystem.  The strategy should be their cloud – our cloud, and customers will thank you.  Teaming with Walmart makes sense too.  Say what!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in In My Opinion, Uncategorized

 

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Opinion – Microsoft audits will skyrocket in 2018

Microsoft compliance programs are not going away and will increase significantly in the coming years.  Why such a doom and gloom outlook?  In this article, I will highlight some of the reasons but more importantly the ways to stay ahead of the game before Mr. Audit comes knocking on your door.

This past week, most of my articles had to do with CSP, Azure, and more CSP.   To no surprise, CSP is the direction Microsoft is moving towards for the partner community.  Check out my friend www.csplicensing.com 🙂 Licensing is not getting easier, in fact it’s getting harder.  Check out my Azure Stack article if you don’t believe me.  That article will either put you to sleep or give you a headache.

In today’s world, a service provider is not just licensing SPLA, they are combining on premise licenses, different cloud vendors, and hybrid licenses.   Unless you focus full-time on licensing, one misstep can ruin an organization.  In the coming weeks and months, I will focus heavily on all the cloud transitions and as the title of this blog site states ‘uncover the complexities of SPLA licensing.”

So why will audits rise?   There’s two reasons: 1) Licensing is confusing.  Publishers know there’s no “one-size fits all” solution to solving all licensing complexities and scenarios.  2).  With the push towards the public cloud (such as Azure), CFO’s and owners will start to wonder why they mess with the licensing at all, especially after a large compliance settlement  from an audit.  The goal will be to move to AWS or move to Azure and let them deal with the complexities licensing.

What do you do?   Throw in the towel and say, “they win” or develop a strategy to maintain compliance and create a solution to help your customers?  My advice? Don’t throw in the towel.

  1. Develop a license management practice.  Licensing is a full-time commitment (Full-time job).
  2. Don’t cave in.  I get it, that’s easier said than done – even for SPLA Man.  I HATE confrontation in all areas of my life but compliance.  I always like to see the underdog win the audit battles.  When SPLA started, I felt it was the rest of the world v. the SPLA community.  ABS – Anything But SPLA.  I still feel that way today (even stronger).  When was the last time you talked to a representative or were offered advice to help grow your business?  I am an advocate for the hosting community and the primary reason I started this blog in the first place.  Checkout my “About” section written over 4 years ago.  Don’t get bullied into the tricks of the audit.  If you need help, ask.
  3. Eliminate risk before it becomes a risk during the audit.  Going back to point #1, create a practice, understand the areas of concern, and correct it before the auditors force you to.  The time is now.
  4. I promote 3rd party advocacy for support.  I like to say, “there’s the publisher’s way and then there’s the real way” both are compliant, but one will cost you a lot more than the other.

Will audits be on the rise in 2018?  Yes. And 2019, 2020, and 2021.  After that who knows, we might be flying around the moon and vacationing on Mars.  Licensing is a dangerous game but everyone can win – if they have the right strategy in place.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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How service providers can use Azure Stack in their datacenter environment

Azure stack is what Microsoft describes as an “extension of Microsoft Azure…”  to on premise (or partner hosted) datacenter environments.  In this article, we will review what it takes to deploy Azure Stack and best practices for partner hosted scenarios.

How a Service Provider Acquires Azure Stack

Azure Stack is available through the Cloud Solution Program (CSP) for service providers. Just like any other CSP relationship, the service provider will ultimately own the billing, the support (if Direct/Tier 1) or through your authorized distributor who will manage the support (Indirect/Tier 2).  Usage can be purchased through CSP or through the Azure hosting exception leveraging your existing Enterprise Agreement.  One thing to note is the actual Windows license.  In my humble opinion Windows Server in SPLA is less expensive and has the flexibility of month/month licensing.  Let’s use a couple examples to illustrate this further:

Scenario 1:  Bill sells Jennifer Azure Stack services through CSP.  Bill is Direct authorized and has a SPLA agreement in place.

  • Bill will purchase Azure Stack from an authorized hardware vendor.
  • Bill licenses Windows Server via his own SPLA agreement.
  • Jennifer will pay Bill for her consumption through CSP at a lower rate because Bill is already providing the Windows Licenses.
  • Bill is responsible for all the support and billing because he is CSP Direct authorized.

Scenario 2 – Bill sells Jennifer Azure Stack services through CSP.  Jennifer decides to transfer her Windows Server licenses through her own Enterprise Agreement.  

  • Bill will purchase Azure Stack from an authorized hardware vendor.
  • Bill would have to completely isolate the hardware for Jennifer if she wants to transfer her existing licenses to Bill’s datacenter environment.  As with other hosting scenarios, Windows is not license mobility eligible and therefore the Windows licenses must be deployed in a 100% dedicated cloud environment.
  • Bill will sell the consumption via his CSP Direct agreement.  Since she is using Windows licenses that were already purchased, he will only pay the base consumption rate.
  • Bill will provide the support since he is providing this as a service to Jennifer as part of the CSP program.

Scenario 3 – Bill deployed Azure Stack in his datacenter.  He’s running Jennifer’s SQL Server she purchased with SA from her Open agreement.  She will also pay Bill for the Azure Stack consumption through Bill’s indirect CSP agreement.

  • Bill will purchase Azure Stack from an authorized hardware vendor.
  • Bill will have an agreement with his authorized Indirect distributor to resell Azure Stack through CSP.  (Bill is not Direct authorized, he must use a distributor to enable him to resell CSP to his end customers.  The distributor will provide all the support and billing platform).
  • Jennifer will transfer her SQL Server licenses and CAL’s she purchased with Software Assurance over to Bill’s shared cloud environment through license mobility.

Conclusion

These are all hypothetical scenarios used to illustrate the different licensing options available to SPLA partners.  As you can see, the licensing can be complex as you are crossing multiple licensing programs – CSP, Enterprise Agreement, and SPLA.  I am always interested in different scenarios.  Have one?  Email me at info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Azure, Uncategorized

 

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What is a Service Provider?

The year 2017 has brought on A LOT of change for the hosting community.  A hosting company used to be an organization that hosted Exchange – fast forward to today and a service provider takes on a whole new meaning.  In this article, we will take a look at defining a service provider and how it applies to licensing.   Let’s play a little game called “Do they qualify”  Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

An organization that provides or extends  litigation software (that they leased from the publisher) to law firms and other legal entities who are not wholly owned by the organization providing the solution. Does this organization qualify for SPLA?

Yes.  If you are an avid reader of splalciensing.com, you probably read my article on EMR Software The same holds true for any software (not just EMR) that runs on Microsoft technology that you do not own, but lease from a third-party.   Remember “AS”  If you are providing software AS a service that’s hosted from your datacenter environment,  SPLA must be part of the equation.  Why does this solution qualify for SPLA?

#1 they don’t own the software they are hosting

#2 they do not own the organization(s) who are consuming (using) the software for their benefit.

An organization who sells a product on a website to external users –   do they qualify for SPLA?

No.  Although they are selling something to consumers via the internet, the software used to deploy the solution benefits the e-commerce company, not the end-user.   Where SPLA does fit is if the web company decides to host a website on behalf of another organization.  The web company would fall under the SPLA rules.  Who benefits from the access is a key question to ask yourself.  Second question – is the access used to run their business or my own?

An organization who provides SharePoint to end users to share information.  Do they qualify?

No.  Simply sharing information does not qualify.  If the organization was hosting SharePoint on behalf of another organization, that’s SPLA.

A company hosts Exchange on behalf of another organization but does not charge for this access.  Does this qualify for SPLA?

Yes.  Microsoft doesn’t care how much money you make from the solution.  The question remains – are you providing this “as a service” for a third-party?

A company decides to use AWS as their datacenter provider to host an application they use internally.  Do they need SPLA?

No.  In this example, you are the end-user.  AWS has a SPLA to cover all infrastructure products they host on your behalf.  If you were to use AWS as a datacenter provider to host SharePoint to your end customers employees; you would pay AWS for Windows and SQL and report on your SPLA SharePoint SAL licenses.

 

I have 25 Linux machines that I host for my customers.   Do I need SPLA? 

No.  You have 25 Linux machines.  If you had 24 Linux machines and 1 Windows VM, you would have to license the host machine to cover that Windows VM through SPLA.

My reseller told me I didn’t need SPLA because the access qualifies for Self-Hosted.  The auditors told me it does not qualify.  Why?

All software used to deploy the solution has to be self-hosted eligible.  I bet you are running an application that does not qualify as part of your solution.  This would be SPLA.  Secondly, if you did not buy the software with software assurance, that is out of compliant.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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Why SPLA will not go away

Why I think SPLA will not go away:

  1. Service Providers can differentiate.  You are independent from the publisher and have unique set of offerings.  The hybrid cloud, dedicated cloud, local support are all compelling to the end user.
  2. Warren Buffett – “Price is what you pay…value is what you get.”  There’s a lot of truth in that when it comes to the hosting world. Other large providers and vendors may cut pricing, but is the price really worth it?
  3. You own your datacenter and no one can take that away.
  4. SPLA licensing rules are complex.  What’s even more complex is CSP.
  5. SPLA is a great revenue stream for the channel.  The hosting provider, Azure, and AWS all win.
  6. The world needs more SPLA.  Don’t hate the SPLA Man.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Epic Community Connect for Healthcare Organizations

In this article we will review how Epic Community Connect effects your Microsoft licensing position.  This is a follow up to my earlier post which can be found here

What’s the concern?

If you host/extend Epic (or any EMR software that you do not own) to outside clinics or other healthcare facilities SPLA must be licensed.

What’s an outside organization?

If your organization (who hosts Epic/EMR) does not have at least 51% ownership of the other entity, that would be considered an outside organization as it pertains to this solution.

I’m confused…big time.  Why would I license SPLA when I was told to license through my Enterprise Agreement?

The EA is for your own internal employees.  The Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) is for companies who host Microsoft software to third parties.

Wait.  I just went to your website and I am not an employee.  Are you saying you have a SPLA agreement?

No.  I don’t host an application or any server whatsoever.  I do pay a web company to host my website.  The web company is under a SPLA agreement if they use Windows Server.

What are my options now?  I already deployed Epic and I don’t have a SPLA.  

I would work with a SPLA Reseller who can walk you through the steps and how to be compliant.  You can email me at info@splalciensing.com if you have additional questions.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2017 in EMR Software, Uncategorized

 

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Microsoft Online Services Terms – What you need to pay attention to before signing your Azure agreement

There’s a lot of benefits to moving to Azure, I’ll let your Microsoft account team review them with you.  On this website, we are not that concerned about the benefits, all we care about is the licensing.  In this article, we will review the Microsoft Online Services Terms.

What is the Microsoft Online Services Terms?  First starters, it used to be called Microsoft Online Services Use Rights or MOLSUR for short (or long).   It is now called OST pronounced OAST when speaking to Microsoft.  Basically the OST defines how you may consume online services through Microsoft.  You can download a copy here.  Although your legal team should review the document in its entirety, below are some of the highlights I think you will find relevant and are often overlooked.

License Reassignment 

“Most, but not all, SLs may be reassigned. Except as permitted in this paragraph or in the Online Service-specific Terms, Customer may not reassign an SL on a short-term basis (i.e., within 90 days of the last assignment). Customer may reassign an SL on a short-term basis to cover a user’s absence or the unavailability of a device that is out of service. Reassignment of an SL for any other purpose must be permanent. When Customer reassigns an SL from one device or user to another, Customer must block access and remove any related software from the former device or from the former user’s device.” (April, 2017 OST)

What does this mean?

Most Microsoft products cannot be reassigned on a short-term basis, that’s why Microsoft has the use right called license mobility.  In short, pay attention to which users are assigned a license and if/when they no longer need the service.

Hosting Exception “Customer may create and maintain a Customer Solution and, despite anything to the contrary in Customer’s volume licensing agreement, combine Microsoft Azure Services with Customer Data owned or licensed by Customer or a third party, to create a Customer Solution using the Microsoft Azure Service and the Customer Data together. Customer may permit third parties to access and use the Microsoft Azure Services in connection with the use of that Customer Solution. Customer is responsible for that use and for ensuring that these terms and the terms and conditions of Customer’s volume licensing agreement are met by that use.” (April, 2017)

What does this mean?

It allows you (a service provider) the right to use Azure as a datacenter provider.  The last sentence is very important in the above definition “Customer is responsible for that use and for ensuring that these terms and the terms and conditions of Customer’s volume licensing agreement are met by that use.”  In the above definition,  “customer” is you.  If you use Azure as a datacenter provider, purchase Azure via your own volume licensing agreement, and use SPLA for user based products (e.g. RDS) you must follow the OST, Product Terms, and the SPUR!

Azure Services Limitations

Customer may not “Allow multiple users to directly or indirectly access any Microsoft Azure Service feature that is made available on a per user basis (e.g., Active Directory Premium). Specific reassignment terms applicable to a Microsoft Azure Service feature may be provided in supplemental documentation for that feature.” (April, 2017 OST)

What does this mean?

Sounds similar to a SAL license right? “Directly or Indirectly access any Microsoft Azure Service.”  Although if you are using Azure as your datacenter provider, the likelihood of you consuming user based licensing through Azure is not very high.

Security

I encourage you to read the security measures and policy’s set forth by Microsoft for their online services.  You can read it here.  I included a breakdown of the difference compliance and security certifications below:

Microsoft Online Information Security Policy (as of April, 2017)

Online Service ISO 27001 ISO 27002

Code of Practice

ISO 27018

Code of Practice

SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type II SSAE 16 SOC 2 Type II
Office 365 Services Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Core Services Yes Yes Yes Yes* Yes*
Microsoft Azure Core Services Yes Yes Yes Varies** Varies**
Microsoft Cloud App Security Yes Yes Yes No No
Microsoft Intune Online Services Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Power BI Services Yes Yes Yes No No

 

Last and certainly not least, I get asked A LOT about language that you should include as a service provider.  I would encourage you to create your own online services terms for your hosted offerings.  Too many providers do not have basic language around compliance, licensing, and overall use rights.  At a minimum, you should include a copy of the End User License Terms for SPLA.  If you do not have a copy, please contact your reseller.  If you forget to include licensing terms and conditions, you could be on the hook during an audit.  Don’t be on the hook.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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