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How to Report SPLA Usage to be Compliant

The biggest benefit to SPLA is the month-month licensing rules.   The biggest downfall to SPLA (and CSP for that matter)  is its month-month licensing rules.  What’s a benefit to some is a nightmare for others.  In this article, we will review the tips and tricks to properly report Microsoft SPLA usage on a monthly basis and break it down using a fictitious scenario using my friend Joe Hosting.

Scenario  – The under licensing but also over paying SPLA reporter.

Joe’s Hosting  reports to his Reseller SharePoint Standard, Exchange Standard, Windows Standard, and SQL Standard every month.  They installed Exchange Enterprise and Windows Standard.    For simplicity, let’s say he has 8 VM’s on a host, and licenses SQL per instance on a VM, they also have 100 mailboxes he supports.

The Problem

Each month Joe had (key word) his employee Julie place their SPLA order each month to the Reseller.  One day, Joe accidentally backed his Porsche 911 into Julie’s car.  Furious, Joe yelled at Julie for parking near his precious Porsche and blamed her for the damage.  Julie got upset, and quit on the spot.

Julie was a dedicated employee.  Each month she would report to the Reseller almost the exact same thing (with minor fluctuations) – 100 Exchange Standard licenses, 16 Windows Standard processor licenses, 100 SharePoint Standard licenses, and 40 cores of SQL Standard.  Sometimes, she would change the counts based on customer’s coming and going but for the most part the report was stagnant.  The Reseller, happily placed the order without ever asking about their business.   Now that she left, what will Joe do?

Joe is a busy man.  He would never make time or the effort to learn how to submit SPLA usage or understand the licensing rules.   Once Julie left, his workload increased ten fold because not only did Julie report SPLA, but she was responsible for HR, scheduling, customer satisfaction, and making sure the annual company picnic went on without a glitch.  Joe was busy to say the least.  To make matters worse, Julie was the only person in the company to interact with their SPLA Reseller.

Several months went by and no usage was being submitted.  Sure the Reseller would send reminder emails to Julie, but there was no response.  Finally, Microsoft took notice, and started digging into Joe’s reporting.  Now Joe’s problems suddenly took a turn for the worse.

The Audit

It was a cold, rainy Monday, and Joe was really upset – not only did he have a ton of email to go through from the weekend, but his Porsche was getting wet.  He kept staring out his office window at his precious fire engine red baby; soaking wet, with streaks down the windshield.  The site made him sick,  he couldn’t bare to watch anymore.  He took to his email and noticed immediately – Microsoft Self-Audit Review in the subject line.  Joe opened it without hesitation.

The email thanked Joe for his partnership, but informed him that from time to time Microsoft will provide a self-audit compliance check to ensure accurate reporting.  From the email, Joe was to download the MAP toolkit (Check it out here) and provide the data back to Microsoft within 10 business days.  Joe surprisingly cancelled all his meetings that day and proceeded to download the tool.   Once the data was collected, he was to send the data to Microsoft and set up a call to review.  What happened next shocked even the Microsoft compliance guy.

Conference Call with Microsoft

Microsoft:  Good Morning Joe, after some analysis I have a few questions about the data you sent over.

Joe:  Absolutely Mr. Softy.  

Microsoft:  Umm…Say again?

Joe: C’mon man.  Mr. Softy…Microsoft???

Microsoft:  Whatever.  Let’s get to the data, ok?  In my analysis, I noticed you haven’t reported usage in 3 months.  Why?  Are you not providing commercial hosted services?  Your website indicates you are.  Just wondering why you haven’t reported?

Joe:  We had an employee leave the company who was responsible for reporting.  We did everything we can to retain her but she was simply out of control.  

Microsoft:  I don’t really care about why she left, but more concerned about why you didn’t report after she left. 

Joe: Sorry.  I don’t have an answer for that.  I was busy and forgot.

Microsoft:  I noticed you reported essentially the same thing every month which tells me you did not grow or shrink your business.  I did see on your website a press release that mentioned how excited you were to host email for Oil Tankers Inc, one of the largest Oil transportation services company’s in the US.  

Joe:  Yes. It was one of my finest sales calls.  

Microsoft:  I’m sure it was.  That being said, I noticed in the data you sent that over 5,000 users have access to Exchange Server but you were only reporting 100.  Why?

Joe:  I wish I knew.  That darn admin had no idea what she was doing.  I am sorry.  

Microsoft:  Apology accepted.  Now, back to Exchange.  You have 5,000 active users but you only report 100.  There is a license gap of 4,900 licenses.  It looks like they were active six months ago.  That total comes to roughly $50,000 in underreporting.

Joe:  Chuckles.  Yes, but I just sold them the licenses last month.  So really, I only have 1 month of underreporting.  Besides, Exchange is licensed per mailbox. 

Microsoft:  Try again. I just said they were active six months ago.  In addition, I find it hard to believe you just sold the licenses last month when your very own press release matches this date as well.  Last, Exchange is licensed per user, not per mailbox.  Even if it was, the mailbox number and actual users are almost the same.  

Joe:  Ok.  Well sorry.  I will correct it moving forward.

Microsoft:  (Ignores Joes’ comment).  Let’s move on to Windows Server.  You have an ESX host with two processors each.  You are running 8 VM’s on that host.  You are actually over reporting here sir.  Why are you not reporting Datacenter?

Joe:  Because Standard is installed. 

Microsoft:  Actually, you can report the higher edition.  What you cannot do is install Datacenter and report Standard.  Datacenter allows unlimited virtualization.  You could of saved money here.

Joe:  Wow. I had no idea.  I can run Standard but report Datacenter?

Microsoft:  Sighs.  That is exactly what I just said.  Let’s move on to SQL.  You are reporting 40 cores but only have one VM of SQL Server running.  Why so many cores?

Joe:  Because we have over 10 instances running on that VM.  We report 4 cores per instance running on that VM.  

Microsoft:  Yes, but you can run unlimited instances on a VM.  You should really be reporting 4 cores, not 40.

Joe: What!  I am looking at a BIG pay day from Microsoft.

Microsoft:  (Again, ignores the comment).  Let’s move on to SharePoint.  SharePoint, it looks like you have Enterprise installed.  From the data you sent over, it also looks like you provide only Standard features to your clients.  Is that accurate?

Joe:  Yep. Only Standard.

Microsoft:  I can’t believe it.  You are actually reporting SharePoint correct.  Did you know SharePoint and Exchange is licensed by the features accessed not what is actually installed?  

Joe:  No I did not.  The darn admin should’ve told me that.  When can I expect my check from Microsoft for the over reporting of SQL and Windows?

Microsoft:  Well.  Let me think about that.  Never.  

Joe:  Fine!

Conclusion

Throughout my twelve years of managing SPLA, I have had similar conversations and heard scenarios similar to the fictitious story mentioned.  In a lot of compliance situations, a SPLA customer has one person who reports usage.  If that person leaves the company without telling anybody how to report usage or what data is used to collect it, the organization can quickly get of compliance.

In reading the above, you might think that ole Joe came out ahead.  Yes, he did not report accurately or in the most cost effective manner, but he did come out of the audit unscathed.  I would argue that he wasted more money, should have invested in the right resources, and ultimately could have saved his customers money by licensing in the right  manner.  I highlighted below some of the ways Joe could’ve licensed to reduce his exposure and reduce his monthly spend.

  1. Report Windows Datacenter.  If you have more than 7 VM’s on a host, it is more economical to license Datacenter than Standard.
  2. Report the Productivity Suite which bundles Exchange Standard and SharePoint Standard.
  3. SQL Instances – you can run unlimited instances on a VM as long as the VM is properly licensed.
  4. Report USERS not mailboxes when it comes to Exchange
  5. Remember with Exchange and SharePoint, you report the features they have access to not what is technically installed.  Most hosters install Exchange Enterprise (Standard only supports a small number of mailboxes) but report Standard because users only have access to the Standard features.
  6. Reporting usage and stopping will get flagged for compliance.
  7. Stagnant reporting will get you flagged for compliance.
  8. Not reporting what you are advertising.  “I don’t host anymore” when your website says your are is difficult fact to overcome.
  9. Self-audits are exactly what it means “Self”  and “Audit”  The vendor is dependent on the data you provide them.
  10. If you report usage, build a team to make sure it gets reported correctly.  Most compliance gaps happen when an employee leaves the company.  Don’t be dependent on one employee.  If you are dependent on one employee, treat them right!  Poor Julie!
  11. Report on time.  The SPLA agreement says you must report by the 10th for the previous months usage.

Have a question?  Contact info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Compliance

 

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VDI Under SPLA? Maybe it’s possible after all – Multitenant Hosting Rights for Windows 10

Good news for those who have customers who want you to host Windows 10 in your shared cloud environment –  they might now have that as an option.  Microsoft recently announced “Multitenant Hosting Rights for Windows 10.  You can read the announcement here

What is it?

Allows customers who purchased qualified Windows 10 licenses the ability transfer those licenses over to a Qualified Multi-Tenant Hoster shared datacenter environment.

Why is this important?

For years SPLA partners have asked for VDI in SPLA.  Although this is not technically VDI in SPLA, is does provide an avenue to implement a virtual desktop session from your shared server environment.  At the end of the day, it gives your end customers deployment options.

Can I still license Windows Desktop in SPLA?

No.  Windows desktop licenses were removed last year.  You can read/download the lease agreement that outlines the details here

What are the requirements?

To no surprise, the SPLA partner must be CSP Tier 1 authorized.  They must also sign the Qualified Multitenant Hoster addendum and have an active SPLA with Microsoft.  To get the QMH (another Microsoft acronym) you can contact info@splalicensing.com or your Microsoft Reseller.

What happens if I offer dedicated environments?  Do I still need the addendum?

No.  If it is 100% dedicated (isolated hardware) you can always transfer end customer  licenses over to your datacenter environment.  Whenever it is shared – VM or hardware, you must consider SPLA or in this case the QMH addendum)

When is it available?

Program will be available August 1, 2017 for VL and September 6, 2017 to transact in CSP.

Can I bundle my customers Office solution they purchased as well as Windows 10 to offer a complete VDI experience?

Yes.  This is a great way to bundle different desktop applications.

Conclusion 

If you provide IaaS to your customers, this is definitely something you should consider.  Any time you can offer your customers the ability to leverage existing investments the better.  Azure is not going away.  In fact, you don’t have to be QMH authorized to leverage Azure as your datacenter provider.  Please review the announcement, there will be a lot more information on this in the coming days.  I will also write out several scenarios to make this more simple.  As always, you can email me at info@splalciensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Office 365

 

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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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Top 5 Compliance Trends for MSP’s and SPLA

There are so many license changes and gotchas with SPLA, Azure, AWS, and all the others that I thought I would highlight for you some of the trends we see when it comes to compliance.

  1. Licensing Office Standard when Office Professional is installed.  In many cases, an IT administrator will inadvertently install Office Pro, report Office Standard to their procurement team who in return reports it to the reseller.  The IT admin will leave the company, and the procurement team continues to report Standard not knowing Pro is installed until audit time.  In this situation, Microsoft will check when Office was installed, and take the delta of what was reported (STD) v. what should be reported (Pro).  Don’t make this mistake.  Many partners are only charging their customers for Standard pricing!
  2. Not reporting SPLA at all.  Sounds silly, but many providers focus on developing software and not on the licensing.  We have found instances in which the procurement manager (who was in charge of reporting SPLA) left the organization and no one else took over their responsibility.   The reseller continues to email the procurement manager but obviously the email goes unnoticed.  After many months, their SPLA will be terminated and all licenses will have to be trued up.  The problem with this scenario is not just unexpected licensing expense, but when your SPLA terminates, you must sign a new one.  When you sign a new SPLA, you must adhere to the latest SPUR use rights.  As an example, if you had a SPLA prior to the Windows core licensing change, you could continue to report processors.  If your SPLA terminates, you would be forced to license by core now instead of later when your previous agreement (that is now terminated) expired.
  3. Using a VL copy of Office to deploy Shared Computer Activation (SCA).   SCA is specific to Office 365.  If you install Office Pro Plus VL, it goes against the product use rights in which Office (without SCA) cannot be installed on shared hardware.  It takes a lot of negotiation power and time to prove you are SCA eligible, the customer purchased Office 365, and you inadvertently installed the wrong product.
  4. Using License Mobility without License Mobility.  This is by far the most popular compliance trend.  Many organizations do not know what is installed in their datacenter when it comes to customer owned licenses.  Be sure to have the right documentation, addendum, and licensing to ensure compliance.
  5. Leasing an application, hosting the application, and purchasing volume licensing agreement to offer software as a service.   A healthcare company may lease an EMR application, host the application to other healthcare organizations, and license the infrastructure through volume licensing.  If your organization does not own the application you are hosting, you must license it through SPLA.  Self-Hosted for ISV is only eligible for providers who develop and own the application.  This means the code, the rights, everything must be owned by the organization.  Leasing the application and using other plugins you may have developed does not qualify.

I hope this provides you a little insight into the world of compliance.  If you find yourself out of compliant, let us know and we can connect you to the right resource.  info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Compliance

 

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CAL’s, SAL’s and Multiplexing. 101 Licensing for on premise and cloud environments

 

In this article, we will take a closer look at CAL’s and SAL’s…what they are and how to license them.  We will also look at the User Subscription License (USL) for Microsoft Online Services.

Client Access License 

A Client Access License (CAL) provides the right to access a server.  Depending on the environment and product licensed, a CAL can either be a user or a device.   Many resellers, consultants, and even Microsoft, make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.  The biggest trick to CAL licensing is remembering it is just a “right” not a technical requirement to access the server.  In other words, you can spin up a server, users can access it (in most cases with or without a CAL) and away they go.  Sounds great, but it’s not compliant, and I would argue that is the #1 reason customer’s fall victim to compliance.

SQL is a great example of this.  When I go to my SharePoint site, I pull reports, store information, share information, and perform many other tasks.  What I don’t know is SQL is used in the background to provide access to this information.  Did I log into a SQL Server?  No.  Did I “use” SQL?  Yes.  This is where multiplexing come into play. Multiplexing uses hardware and/or software to pool connections.  The best way to know if a user needs a license (and I’ve said this before) is to ask yourself “If I remove this from my hosted solution would it still work the same as it did prior?” If you answer “no” you need a license.  If your SQL Server is licensed in the Server/CAL model, you’re required to have CALs for any User or Device that accesses that application directly or indirectly. Very few users in an organization have credentials to a SQL Server.  One way to eliminate some of the risk with SQL is to license by core.  Cores allow unlimited number of users to access the server.  If they use the server or not, they are covered.

SAL Licensing

Under SPLA there is a Subscriber Access License (SAL).  SAL’s are licensed by user only (there are very few exceptions such as desktop applications and System Center).  Like a client access license, a SAL license is not concurrent.  This is important, since other vendors are based on concurrent licensing.  SAL is like your cable bill, your provider is going to charge you regardless if you turn your TV on or not, SAL licensing works the same way.  I’ve written about this before but it’s worth repeating – SAL is for any person that HAS access not who does access.  Unlike CAL’s, there is no need to purchase a server license in SPLA.

Online Services

To add a bit more complexity, let’s review Microsoft Online Services.  If you license Exchange Online or an Office 365 Suite, you will purchase a User Subscription License (USL).  A USL provides a user access to the online solution.  Unlike a CAL and like a SAL (that’s a mouthful) you do not need a server license to access the solution if it’s online.  If you want to run anything on premise or in another third-party datacenter, you would require a server license.  In other words, if you have SharePoint Online, the USL license will provide on-premises rights (essentially CALs) in addition to their online rights. This allows for the ability to migrate over time and have hybrid environments without incurring additional cost.  Keep in mind, when you run hybrid, you do require a server license on premise.

Additionally, if you to purchase an online suite (Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Skype) you can run pieces of the suite on premise. For example, maybe you want to keep SharePoint on-premises but move Exchange to the cloud. An Office 365 Suite includes both online and on-premises rights for each product in the suite, which means you don’t have to pay for the E Suite and then buy Exchange CALs separately.   Just remember the server license!

Summary

It is very important to understand the licensing rules before purchasing any software.  There has and always will be a difference in the way in which technology can be deployed and the way it must be licensed.  Don’t waste money, time, and effort planning a cloud solution without considering the license impact.  I was on a call recently where a customer wanted to leverage their Windows Server with Software Assurance in a shared public cloud.  Unfortunately, Windows is not license mobility eligible.  They worked with a consultant or “expert” who told them one thing, but the rules state otherwise.  Yes, maybe they can take advantage of Windows HUB, but Azure unfortunately was not the right fit.  Pay attention to the license rules, it can save you.  Question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Office 365, SPLA General

 

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More Dynamics 365 Fun

Quick update for those interested in Dynamics 365 for SPLA and what you should remember when selling to your customers.

  1. No Enterprise Plans in SPLA
  2. No PowerApps in SPLA
  3. Transitions SKU’s are available in SPLA
  4. More differences found here

Not all bad news but not all good either.  You can read more about my opinion here

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Dynamics 365

 

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