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Tag Archives: Microsoft SPLA

SPLA Pricing Going Up (again)

I recently wrote a summary on SPLA pricing and the reasons behind the increases. Still, I thought today I would share a real example of reducing SPLA reporting for a specific service provider, so the increase was not as impactful.  If you would like a summary of your particular scenario, feel free to email me at info@splalicensing.com.  I just helped over 30 hosters this week alone in this analysis.

Company Name: 

Hosting Delight

Summary: 

They are providing IaaS (primarily Windows Datacenter, RDS, SQL Enterprise).  Has license mobility for end customer dedicated VM environments.  He dabbles a bit in VDI but is so frustrated because it is NEVER allowed in SPLA the way they want to provide it. 

Current Price Structure

Hosting Delight reports over 30,000 (USD) a month in licensing reported to their Reseller.  Hosting Delight earns roughly 20% in the margin (including licensing costs and support).

2021 Price Structure

Without doing anything, his cost is going up on all Windows Server and RDS deployments, making up over half of their reported revenue.  Ultimately this is DECREASING his margin between 5-10% for each customer.

2022 Price Structure with SPLA Man

I sat down with Hosting Delight and did a quick summary.  It turned out they were paying more for his licenses than other providers.  Not all providers charge the same, which had some impact but did not paint the entire picture. 

 I also analyzed what they are reporting on a product-by-product basis.  I was able to save them 10% on their licensing.  This was great news; the price increase had little to no impact on their business. 

How was I able to save them?

First, I worked in the SPLA Reseller space for over 20 years and know how the pricing model works in SPLA and other programs.  Secondly, this provider (Hosting Delight) kept reporting the same thing month in and month out.  They had an Excel file, the engineer submitted what they thought was accurate to an office manager, and the office manager reported to the Reseller.   Sound familiar?  I thought so.

The problem with this strategy wasn’t necessarily compliance; the issue was no one was considering licensing optimization.  I hate the word “optimization,” but it is true.  (I also hate the word “transformation” for the record, but it is what it is).  Here is a brief of what we did.

  • We set up security rules for SAL-based RDS licensing – restricting user access to server workloads.  Remember, it is not who accesses but who HAS access.  So frustrating.
  • For SQL workloads, we noticed many servers were passive, yet they were paying for those passive instances.  We changed the server’s name to “passive” for easy trackability and to take advantage of active/passive use rights.
  • We consolidated VMs and Host machines and advised them to report SQL Enterprise instead.  Yes, SQL Enterprise is super expensive, but it allows unlimited VMs and is one of the few products NOT going up in price next year.
  • For Windows Server, we offered VDI through the Windows Server GUI instead of Windows 10.  This provided a VDI type offering, something they had been considering for a very long time.

It is easy for an organization to say, “we will save you money,” but NO ONE has a website dedicated specifically to SPLA Licensing.  I know how SPLA pricing works, how Resellers work, and how your competitors price their hosting environment. 

Please don’t wait for the price increase; let’s start having the conversation now.  You can email me at info@splalicensing.com or check out www.mscloudlicensing.com (SPLA Man sister website).  Let’s optimize your SPLA Reporting transformation. Ugh. There I go again!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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New SPLA Price Announcements Coming! Are you ready?

Ahhh…..Microsoft. If you haven’t heard the news, there is an update coming for SPLA regarding pricing and new announcements to the program. Some of these changes include Windows Server, CIS, and the Office Suite. Suppose you want an opportunity to review these changes and how it directly affects your business. In that case, we can certainly set up a time to review and how other service providers are handling this impact. You can reach us at info@splalicensing.com Why the changes, and what precisely are they? The change has a lot to do with the direction Microsoft is going with its programs. SPLA is a mature program, with other solutions such as CSP, an emerging program for Microsoft.  That doesn’t mean SPLA is going away, but it does mean there will be changes, updates, and pricing increases.  If you would like to learn more, we can assist.  Do not keep licensing the same each month, expecting different results.  If you are frustrated and want an opportunity to optimize and, in some cases, reduce your costs, let SPLA Man come to the rescue! Let’s set up some time and review what these updates mean for you!  Please email us at info@splalicensing.com Thanks for reading, SPLA Man
 
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Posted by on October 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Why a SAM Practice is Important

I recently took some time off to spend with Mrs. SPLA Man and the kids when my 13 y/o son asked me, “Dad, why do service providers only have one person reporting SPLA usage to their reseller? Why would they report anything if they didn’t know it was right? After all, you wouldn’t even drive away from a fast-food drive-thru or pay for a new pair of shoes unless the order was right or the shoes fit! So why would an SPLA provider spend thousands (if not millions) of dollars each month when they don’t know if what they are ordering is right! And then Dad, they get audited and have to pay even more!”

I was never so proud of my son. Me and Mrs. SPLA Man certainly raised him right. That story about my son was a bit silly, but the moral of the story is accurate. Why do service providers spend so much money reporting usage if they do not know it’s right?

I think they know it’s not right, but they also think it’s not that far off either. How many of you who have gone through an audit said this prior; “We might be off a SAL or two, but in the end, we won’t owe much. After the audit, they find themselves owing millions of dollars. So much for being off a SAL or two! Here’s where I think service providers do themselves a disservice in not having a SAM practice/plan in place.

  1. They only have one person reporting usage. In most cases, a procurement person or office manager will email an engineer, and the engineer will send an excel report with what he/she believes should be reported. The office manager reports it to the reseller. The problem with this scenario is what happens if the office manager leaves? What happens to the relationship with the reseller? Does the engineer know they should license what is installed? A great example is Office Pro Plus/Std. Most engineers will install Office Pro Plus, forget about it, and report Office Standard. Don’t be that guy!
  2. You are reporting simply because it’s a requirement by Microsoft. Yes, reporting is a requirement, but reporting SPLA should be used as a tool to gain information inside your data center. What is installed? What do users HAVE access to? Are we reporting SQL Standard when we installed SQL Enterprise? We report SQL Web, but is it a public website we are hosting? Reporting SPLA usage should provide you with insight into how profitable you are per individual customer. If you get audited and find out you should be reporting SQL Enterprise (that’s what is installed), but you report SQL Standard; how easy is it to go back to your customer and ask for more money? You just lost the customer and lost out on all that additional revenue. Reporting is about business intelligence.
  3. Not have a tool in place or SAM practice. The two go hand in hand (SPLA tool and SAM practice). You can have a tool, but what good is it if you only use it to scan a small portion of your data center? Are you saying the other parts of your data center are licensed 100% accurately? You NEED a SAM practice – document licensing rights, document contracts with your customer, have a paper trail with your reseller, know pricing changes, and use the tool to collect the actual data. Don’t know a SPLA tool provider? Use Octopus Cloud They are the only tool provider designed specifically for multi-tenant environements with licensing intelligence built in specific to the SPUR. Yes, I do marketing for Octopus 🙂

In summary, I know spending money to invest in an SPLA tool or SAM practice doesn’t seem appealing (it’s kind of like buying new windows for your house. Wow! I spent a thousand dollars on a new window, but no one would ever know it besides you). The same can be true about a SAM practice. A SAM practice will not win you new customers, but here’s one thing I will promise, it won’t lose you customers either.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Can SPLA go towards the 300k CSP requirement?

Many CSP Direct partners who also have an SPLA agreement have asked if their SPLA usage reporting will go towards the 300k requirement to remain CSP Direct authorized.  Unfortunately, they are two separate programs, and one does not affect the other. 

The other question we get asked is: Can CSP replace SPLA for Windows, RDS, and SQL?  The answer again is no.  You are not allowed to host CSP products from your datacenter.  You can; however, license CSP products on-premise for your customers or in Azure. 

Whenever you license CSP for on-premise deployments, the software will follow the Product Terms, which (A) Prohibits hosting, and (B) Requires CALs.   When you deploy in Azure, you can host to third-parties, and there’s no CAL requirement.     

What is a service provider to do?  If you already invested in a platform, services, and billing systems to enable CSP Direct sales and still feel nervous about achieving the 300k requirement, here’s a quick list of things you may want to consider.

  • Microsoft recently discontinued the Open licensing program.  In doing so, they added perpetual licensing to the CSP program.  Do not think of CSP as a cloud-only solution, rather an opportunity to maybe expand your sales to include on-premise licensing sales.  On-premise CSP sales will go towards your 300k number.
  • If you are only CSP Direct authorized to have the QMTH addendum, make a cost comparison of running the same solution in Azure versus investing in sales and other activities to reach the 300k mark.  Is it worth it, or can you forgo the CSP authorization and use Azure?
  • Lower your cost for certain CSP products.  You do not make money from the sale of CSP licensing anyway.  Stop thinking your Exchange Online price increase is going to grow your bottom line.  Lower your cost to win customers and raise it later.  You can add services such as migration and cloud support to increase margins.  The 300k will not be based on your margin; it is based on Microsoft’s revenue billed.

Those are only suggestions, and a lot of this requires a change in business strategy, not just licensing.  Many service providers have asked about the future of SPLA.  I recently wrote an article regarding the future of the SPLA program.  You can download it here https://mscloudlicensing.com/product/whitepaper/  Some of the proceeds will go towards our charity, Mow Down Cancer, Inc. 

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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More ESU fun

A question came up the other day regarding installing ESU licenses on a shared platform if the service provider (under a SPLA agreement) is licensed for Windows Datacenter but installed Windows STD VM.   That’s pretty common and though I would address it today.

One should not be confused over what is installed v what is actually licensed.  As the SPLA Provider is licensed for Windows Server Datacenter, the server should be covered with ESU Datacenter.  Running a Windows Standard VM when licensed for Windows Server Datacenter does not change the license requirement.

It is also important to note that ESU is not available in SPLA, but is available through CSP, EA, and SCE agreements.  The Service Provider will not be licensing ESU, but the end customer.  Think of it as license mobility without the need for Software Assurance.

I would recommend checking out the Product Terms page 93. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/licensing/product-licensing/products

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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SQL Developer Edition: Be very…very…careful

Article update: We created a new website called MSCloudlicensing to help SPLA and CSP partners understand the different program options and use rights available to them. The site is designed to be a collaborative platform,  which includes a forum to ask and answer licensing questions, document library, and licensing articles.  It’s more in depth than a simple blog. Check it out, it’s free!  www.mscloudlicensing.com 

 

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,

SPLA Man

 

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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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Licensing Office Online for External Users

What happens if you have end customers who want to use Office Online for external users (non-employees of your organization).  Is that SPLA?  In this article, we will break down Office Online through three programs – SPLA, Volume Licensing, and CSP.

SPLA

If you are hosting Office for another organization SPLA definitely fits.  As an example, if you provide DaaS to your customers who are also licensed for Office, they can access Office Online.  In this model, you license SharePoint (requirement for Office Online) Office by user, RDS per user, and Windows + SQL Server.   Very expensive to simply offer a customer the ability to view and edit documents online.

Volume Licensing and Office 365

Office Online was added as a Software Assurance benefit for Office in 2016.  End customer’s who simply want to view documents can download it directly from the Volume Licensing Services Center (VLSC).  End customers that require document creation, edit/save functionality will be required to have an on-premises Office license with Software Assurance or an Office 365 ProPlus subscription. Any customer that purchased an Office 2016 suite through Volume Licensing before August 1, 2016 will not require SA through August 1, 2019.   After August 1, 2019 they must buy SA for any on-premise Office licenses.

According to the Product Terms (May 2016) “If Customer has a License for Office 365 Pro Plus, then Customer may use Office Online services.  Each of Customer’s Licensed Users of Office 365 Pro Plus may access Office Online services for viewing and editing documents, as long as they are also licensed for SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business.”  It’s the last sentence that stings.  In other words, you want Office Online?  Better buy Office 365 E3.

Office Online for CSP

The same rules apply.  In this scenario, the hosting company could sell Office 365 E3 through CSP program to their end users.  In CSP, the end customer is paying month – month and paying for support.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Office 365

 

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Details of the Qualified Multitenant Addendum

There’s been a lot of talk as of late about the new QMTH addendum.  I’ve written a couple of articles on the topic here  In this article, we will summarize what is written in the addendum so there’s no surprises.  I listed some (not all) of terms and conditions to ensure you are up to speed on the latest developments.

  • CSP Membership – You (or affiliates) must be a Direct CSP partner.  This means you cannot leverage an Indirect CSP partner for this program.  In other words, if you receive CSP licensing from Ingram Micro or SherWeb (as an example) your partnership with those distributors/partner does not qualify for QMTH.  Your organization must be CSP Direct authorized, not your partner.
  • Must meet the system requirements – System Requirements can be found here
  • Have an active SPLA agreement.
  • Reporting Requirements – You will always need to report underlying licenses in SPLA.  Those underlying licenses could be any software to deploy a VDI solution – (Windows Server and RDS).   In addition, you must report (by the last calendar day of each month) the Windows 10/O365 licenses deployed.  This is manual, meaning you will send an email to the QMTH alias for submission.  Once automated reporting is available, you must enable Microsoft’s automated reporting tool.  Microsoft will use the tool to collect your customer’s organization ID and tenant ID as well as the total number of users accessing the software.
  • As the provider, you must report to your SPLA Reseller the program administrative fee.  If you are currently in the SCA program, you will be familiar with this SKU.
  • As the provider, you must make all education materials publicly available.  You cannot just sign up for CSP, the education material should be like what’s on the QMH website.
  • For each per user subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise, the end-user can only access up to four (4) instances of Windows 10 either on Azure or you, the QMTH hoster.  This is like the SCA program in which the end user has five (5) instances of Office Pro Plus, Windows 10 works the same way.

Listed above is a summary.  I encourage you to reach out to your Microsoft rep for additional information.  I am happy to review it further, it’s a new program with pluses and minuses.  Be sure to understand the minuses first 🙂

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Office 365

 

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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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