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Predicting the future of SPLA

The one thing consistent with Microsoft is change.  Attempting to predict what will happen tomorrow is just as difficult as predicting what will happen two years from now. That being said, Microsoft is giving hints as to what the landscape of SPLA and CSP will look like in the not so distance future.   Without further delay, here’s my predictions:

  • Microsoft will increase SPLA pricing at some point.  It’s inevitable.  See point number 2.
  • There will be a big push to move SPLA providers to CSP and it’s happening now.   CSP pricing is not going up any time soon.
  • CSP membership will be part of the requirement to join SPLA.  Going out on a limb here, but if the goal is to move SPLA to CSP, I think this would be a good way to do it.
  • CSP requirements will be more streamlined and easier to obtain.  See point number 2.
  • SPLA compliance will increase.  See point number 2.
  • SPLA Resellers will put more focus on CSP than SPLA.  See point number 2.

Good news?  I think it’s time for SPLAlicensing.com to get a facelift.  It’s been several years using the same format.  What features would you like to see?  What topics interest you?  What do you think will happen in SPLA?  Email info@splalicensing.com and would love any suggestions.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

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Posted by on September 14, 2017 in In My Opinion

 

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How the Microsoft CSP Program Indirect Program Works…Directly

The CSP Indirect program is a quick and relatively painless way to get started with Office 365 and other cloud solutions.  In this article, we will review how it works, how it doesn’t work, and things to consider before signing up.

The point of this blog is to make things simple; let’s stay with that concept for a moment.  In the simplest terms, CSP Indirect means you are “indirectly” selling solutions to your end customers.  Why indirect?  In this model, you do not hold (perhaps you do but don’t want to mess with it) the qualifications/authorizations to sell Microsoft cloud solutions directly to your end customers from Microsoft, you must purchase through a distributor and then sell to your customers.  This could mean higher pricing, working with third-party systems instead of your own, and procurement.  One of the biggest disadvantage (sometimes an advantage) is there’s no direct support line to Microsoft.  If something goes wrong, you contact your distributor, who works directly with Microsoft.

As a cloud provider, you are also limited in some of the solutions you can sell to your customer from your datacenter environment.  Take as an example, the Qualified Multitenant Hosting Addendum (QMH).   If you are currently purchasing licenses through an indirect partner, you cannot host Windows 10 E3/E5 from your shared cloud environment. Only authorized CSP Direct partners have that luxury.  The same is true for Office Pro Plus and other desktop applications.

The advantage of CSP Indirect is you do not have to spend resources (including investing in additional staff and funding a platform) That’s all on the distributor.  You can think of CSP Indirect as white labeling Office 365.  It’s not technically white labeled (your end customer knows they are getting Office 365) but the billing comes from you.  CSP Indirect means you are leveraging someone else’s resources to deliver a solution to your end customers.  You still bill your customer and can provide basic support, which has its benefits.

Is CSP Indirect right for your business?  If you are just getting started in selling Office 365 or are currently purchasing Office 365 licenses on behalf of your customers from the Microsoft portal, CSP Indirect is the way to go.  If you are a large provider who has the resources, personnel, and funds to support CSP Direct solution, I would recommend going CSP Direct over Indirect.

In either program, you do not get off without knowing the licensing.  That’s for another article.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
 

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Why you need a plan B, C, D, and E.

The title seems obvious, if you are an entrepreneur, you should always be thinking about what’s next.  I read/follow Richard Branson, who wrote an article recently on focusing on the future, check it out here.  It’s all about looking forward to what’s next and dreaming big.  Very few organizations are as diversified as Virgin.  In a way, it might be too diversified, but the point is he does not settle for the status quo, if he doesn’t like it, he changes it.  Think of all the different industries under his portfolio: Entertainment, health, financial, technology, travel, and many more.  The company started out in the music industry!

What does this have to do with SPLA licensing?  Over the past week alone, how many different programs and licensing nuances did I write about? (too many to count). Those changes only had to do with Microsoft!  Think of all the other changes going on in the industry including security, data and backup, and development.   If you do not have a plan in place or to adapt change, you might be left in the dust.

In SPLA, way too many organizations report the exact same thing each month.  They even report the same quantities!  They have a few loyal customers in which their hosting business depends on.  My question to them –  What happens if the loyal customer is not so loyal?   If you are hosting, you have everyone and their brother trying to convince your customer to move to their cloud.  If you are a managed service provider, forget about it.  Not only are hosters your competition, everyone in the industry is your competition.  What are you going to do to stand out?

This blog is about licensing, and I like to think there are ways to be creative with your SPLA usage to diversify your business.  Don’t just report the same thing each month and not give it a second thought.  There are always ways to reduce or optimize what you license.  In a way, licensing can help expand your offering.  SAL for SA, as an example, can help build your DR business and lower your SPLA costs.  Check out my article here  Windows Datacenter, allows unlimited VM’s which can help build your IaaS platform.  Azure Stack, can help bring an Azure type offering from your own datacenter.   Qualified Hosting Addendum, will allow you to offer VDI from a shared environment.  My point being, don’t just settle for the same old usage report each month.  Licensing is a big headache even for a guy who spends his free time writing about it, but that doesn’t mean you cannot learn to leverage licensing to your own advantage.  If you understand the licensing, you can start to look at ways to really get creative and expand your offering.   I’ll go back to SAL for SA.  If you did not know about SAL for SA, you would be telling your customers that they cannot leverage their investment in software assurance from both your datacenter and theirs.  You would probably tell them about license mobility which transfers a license over to your datacenter.  That’s a big miss in my opinion.

Learn the licensing, diversify your business, and I promise your loyal customer will remain loyal.

Thanks for reading,

 

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2017 in In My Opinion

 

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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 to those not already a Surface Authorized Distributor, or make Surface authorization available to every CSP Direct partner.

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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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 QMTH 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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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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