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Steps to take to limit SPLA audit exposure

It’s the fourth quarter at Microsoft, this means audits are in full swing.  One of the easiest ways to collect large upfront payments are through SPLA audits.  Knowing this, what steps can you take to limit your audit exposure?

  1. Inventory – Although you submit a SPLA usage report each month, licenses are missed inadvertently.  When collecting inventory of what you should and should not report, be sure to include customer owned licenses.  If ANY customers are bringing licenses into your datacenter, they must have software assurance if it’s a shared environment.  Secondly, make sure to take a hard look at SQL.  To no one’s surprise, SQL is very expensive.  If you miss license SQL, it can add up really quickly.
  2. Agreements – Which MBSA agreement did you sign?  Don’t know what a MBSA agreement is?  Please ask your reseller for a copy.  Every SPLA customer has a signed Master Agreement.  This is the umbrella that ties all your Microsoft agreements together including SPLA.  There’s specific language in the agreement that goes over audits and the timeframe in which they are able to audit historically. Look closely at your agreements with your customer.  Did you mention they are responsible for licenses they bring into your datacenter?  Did you send them a license verification form for license mobility?  Do you have language that states they are responsible for anything under their Microsoft agreement but you are only responsible for yours?  Do you make the end user license terms (part of your signed SPLA) available to all customers?  Don’t know what an end user license terms agreement is?  Ask your reseller.
  3. Check AD closely.  Do you have administrative accounts that you are reporting?  What about test accounts?  Read your Microsoft SPLA agreement around testing, developing, and administrative access.
  4. Label server names appropriately – Label if a server is “passive” and label a server if it’s “development”.  This can save you time with the auditors.
  5. Check server install dates – If a server was active June, 2013 but nothing was reported on that server until June, 2015; Microsoft is going to ask A) what that server is doing and B) Why haven’t you reported it.  If it’s doing nothing, than shut it down before the audit.
  6. Check SAL licenses –  Do all users who potentially HAVE access are being reported?
  7. Check Office licenses – Do all users need access to Office Pro Plus?  Can they get away with Standard?  Did your engineers inadvertently publish Visio to every user when it only needs to go to a handful of end users?
  8. Double check server versions – Did your engineers accidentally install SQL Enterprise when it should be Standard?
  9. Are you taking advantage of all the use rights available?  As a SPLA, are you aware you can provide demonstrations to your customers at no charge?  Are you aware of the admin rights?  Are you aware you can run 50% of what you are hosting externally – internally?  (must actually report it all under SPLA – they are not free).
  10. Virtualization rights – Are you reporting SQL Enterprise to run unlimited VM’s? Are you running Windows Datacenter?  Remember, you do not license the individual VMs for Windows Server.  (You count physical cores which allows 1 VM for Standard or unlimited for Datacenter).
  11. MSDN, VDI, and other restrictions – No, you cannot host VDI and MSDN in a shared environment.  If you are, dedicate the servers immediately.  If you are hosting from the same hardware you are running internally, this also must be separated.
  12. Hiring Experts – Are they really experts or just advertise as such?

Hope this helps.  Any questions email info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

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Posted by on April 25, 2017 in Compliance

 

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The Cloud Insider Times

In this edition of The Cloud Insider Times, you will find articles on the likes of Google, Amazon, IBM, Veeam, and the infamous Shared Computer Activation (among others) If your company would like to be included in future articles, please email info@splalicensing.com
Computer Business Review – Three Private Cloud Myths Busted!
 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in The Cloud Insider Times

 

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Top 5 SPLA Licensing Questions in March 2017

There’s March madness in college basketball and March madness in licensing.  College basketball is over, but licensing is just getting started.  In this post, I completed a list of the top 5 questions in SPLA.  Enjoy!

1.  Can we offer a customer dedicated VMs where they can have Windows-admin access? We want to offer the OS-plattform and let the customer handle applications etc themselves

No.  You can offer dedicated VMs, but unless a customer is transferring their licenses over to your datacenter, they should not have admin access.  Amazon does a good job of explaining this.  Check it out here

2.   I am looking at licensing SQL in Azure.  My question is can we run multiple     instances on a single VM or is it 1 instance per VM?  How can we reduce our consumption?

Yes. You can run multiple instances on a single VM to reduce the number of VM’s deployed.  This works with Azure, AWS, or even your own datacenter.

3.   If we have a hypervisor running 2012r2 datacenter edition. Can I install server 2016 on a VM or does the hyper visor also have to be 2016?

You can install the VM with 2016 but the entire host must be licensed by core if you do. (even if you are also running 2012) Remember with 2016, there is an 8- core minimum per physical processor and is sold in packs of 2 cores.

4. I have a production SQL server fully licenced. We will be introducing a second server that will only receive SQL transaction logs throughout the day. It’s not a hot standby, not even a warm standby.  Does it require a license?

As long as that server is passive, log shipping is allowed.  

5. We are a cloud hosting provider and find it very frustrating in regard to Office 365 and not being able to use SCA.  Any help?

There are specific requirements to become CSP Tier 1.  I will say Microsoft has made the requirements easier as it pertains to support.  If you are having difficulty becoming CSP Tier 1, it may help to look at partnering.  Let us know.  info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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Office 365 and SPLA – It’s all about Office

The #1 post (by volume) on this blog site is “Office 365 Under SPLA.”  (It’s probably what brought you to this article in the first place). For those that read this blog regularly, can you guess #2?  Ok…you give up.  If you would’ve guessed  “Office Needs Mobility Rights” you would have been correct.  Can I conclude in my scientific analysis that Office is at the top of everyone’s mind in the hosting industry?

Who remember’s BPOS?  Remember that beauty?  I used to manage BPOS several years ago. BPOS consisted of Exchange Online, OCS (that’s right…OCS not Lync) and SharePoint online.  It was bundled as a package and sold to smaller companies (originally).  It was a big deal.  For “x” amount of dollars you would get a 5GB mailbox!  Google caught on, raised the bar to 10GB mailbox, than 20 and the cloud race still continues today.  Mailbox size and price was what everyone talked about.  I remember it well. Than Microsoft threw the cloud world a curve ball.  “What would happen if we offer Office as a subscription model and call it Office 365”  Things started to change pretty quickly.  Office as a subscription?  “But wait…let’s allow Office to be installed on not one device, but 5!  Now the cloud world is really spinning.”  What’s next?

Let’s don’t forget about our friend Azure.  Who could forget about him?  Azure is growing rapidly (talk about a generality but remember I am SPLA Man, not Gartner) and adding new features such as Linux VM’s, ability to purchase using your Enterprise Agreement, and the biggest news of all….ability to install a copy of Office from Office 365.  Wait! What?!!!

Let’s take a step back and look at what Office means for the SPLA community.  You want to host Office? Here’s what you need.  Windows + RDS+Office.  There you have it.

Here’s what you can’t do – Under no circumstance can you have your end customer purchase Office under Office 365 and install it in your shared cloud.  Don’t argue with me here…you can’t do it.  You are probably thinking…well, that’s ok, i will dedicate a VM.  Ahhhh….there we go again.  Dedicated a customer owned license on a VM.  What did I just describe?

Dedicate a VM +shared hardware = License Mobility.  What does not have license mobility rights?  Office.

Now back to Azure.  You might be thinking that Azure is a shared cloud. It is. How can they do it but I can’t?  Well, they developed Office and they developed Azure.  They can make up the rules to their own game.  Check out the online services terms page 22

What happens if you purchase your own Azure agreement to host your SaaS offering for your clients?  It doesn’t matter.  A hoster leveraging Azure for their offering would not be able to accept end-user Office 365 Office licenses.

So is it all doom and gloom?  Not by a long shot.  When there’s confusion, when your competitors spend more time worrying about what they can’t do instead of focusing on growing their business, consider that an opportunity. I’ve written 70+ articles on SPLA.  It’s not going away and neither are you.  I just think you (the service provider) need to get creative. Price is always an issue.  Office is an issue today, but it will be something else tomorrow.  Again, don’t focus on what you can’t do, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do.

I am going to write another article in which I provide a real world example on how I was able to save a service provider money  It’s not revolutionary, but it proves that if your not working with someone who looks at your usage report regularly and makes suggestions to reduce costs, you are missing out.  Sounds kind of like a salesman, but I think you will find the article helpful.  I can’t change the rules of SPLA, but I can make recommendations in the way you think about your business.  It’s time to reconsider our licensing strategy.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, here’s a cool glimpse into the future.

Future of Office 

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Azure, Office 365

 

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200 Level SPLA Licensing Questions – Answered

Starting a new series on this blog “top licensing questions” Here’s a list of some often unanswered questions…answered!  In many instances it’s tough to go into great detail or specific customer scenarios via a blog.  Please email me at blaforge@splalicensing.com for specific scenarios.  Keep in mind, blogging is my hobby and I am relaying information from experience.  You should refer to the SPUR for specific/audit questions. (It’s a great read).  Microsoft has the final say. I am interested in feedback and/or ideas for new posts; let me have it!

1. Does a service provider need to report an extra Exchange SAL for non-authorized users, such as a conference room?

A mailbox that represents a room is defined as a resource mailbox and does not require a SAL.

2.  Can I use the same server I use internally to host software via SPLA?

No. Regardless of the licensing program, the license is always assigned to the hardware/VM.  If you choose to assign two licenses from two different programs to one hardware, some of the use rights will contradict each other.  SPLA is designed for external consumption whereas internal licensing is designed for your own employees.  Good news – SPLA allows 50% of what you are hosting externally to be used internally.  Let’s say you host 50 exchange licenses, you can use up to 25 internally.  These are not free, just reported under your SPLA. (Instead of reporting just 50 licenses, you would report 75).  Check SPUR for more details.

3.  Can I install Office on a device without reporting Windows desktop?

No.  This would fall under the managed PC use case.  There is an addendum that would allow you to rent out a desktop to third parties; to do this via SPLA, there is a “managed PC” addendum.  This would require you to license the desktop OS via an OEM license and report Windows 7/8 via SPLA (as well as Office if Office is installed).  Ugh.  Only other option would be to report Exchange “plus” Skus which includes Outlook.  (no other Office components) or install Office on a server and report Windows, RDS, and Office. (RDS & Office by user- Windows by processor)

4.  What are the rules of licensing additional users under License Mobility for Software Assurance? Can a service provider license additional users with SALs?

No. In License Mobility for SA scenario, the end customer has to maintain CALs in their perpetual licensing program to access the application servers. It is not possible to license additional users with SALs, because that would mean mixing/matching licensing for one Product.  Keep in mind that under license mobility – end customer’s are in essence transferring those licenses into your data center.  They can only transfer back after 90 days. To quote the mobility brief (download a copy here ) You may move your licensed software from a third party’s shared servers back to your servers or to another third party’s shared servers, but not within 90 days of the last assignment. Check mobility addendum.

6. What happens if my customer claims to have SA on these licenses but in actuality…they don’t.  Am I on the hook?

Yes. You are responsible for your own hosted offering.  I would ensure you have documentation of all customer owned licenses AND make sure this is part of your agreement with your customer.  You may get audited, but that does not stop you from auditing your customer.

7. Where do I report my SPLA licenses?

Contact the SoftwareONE SPLA team 1-800-444-9890 or SPLA.US@softwareone.com

Stay tuned for more questions but more importantly – answers to these questions!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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VDI for SPLA?

If I received a dollar for every time I’m asked this question you and I can both retire!  Things are changing in the world of data center outsourcing, but for some reason this is still stuck in the mud.  Why no VDI today?

1) I have no idea

2) See answer 1

I wrote about this topic earlier, but my hunch is it has something to do with the OEM manufactures.  OEM is a big piece of Microsoft business, and they protect it.  (Although Surface kind of muddies that theory).  As an example of this, if you were to “lease” a desktop to an end customer, you would first need a OEM license pre-installed and use SPLA and/or volume licensing as an upgrade license.  So even under a rented desktop model, OEM is still a requirement.  If everyone used VDI and dummy terminals – OEM manufactures would be left out of the game.  (at least in volume)

The only thing that would change this model is if they received a very high number of requests to offer this through Azure.  Look at what happened with Remote Desktop Services (RDS).  RDS was never part of license mobility.  Azure comes along and before you know it- RDS has mobility rights! Check it out here

That being said, Microsoft can make the rules of their own game, and even know Microsoft can do it does not mean the service provider/partner community can do it.  Office 365 is a prime example of this.  Under O365, you can take Office and install it on up to 5 PCs. Try that under SPLA and you have to license every PC with a separate Office license, use Windows 7/8 upgrade license, have a OEM on the machine that you own, and sign a rental addendum.  That’s why I wrote “office needs mobility rights”

One new capability in the latest SPLA agreement is you can install software on customer owned hardware.  BUT guess what?  That does not apply to PCs.

I’m not sure if this will ever change.  Every conference that I’ve attended the past 10 years partners ask the same question – “Can I provide VDI under SPLA?” I don’t like the word “no” but unfortunately, the answer is “no.”

Would love to hear about your thoughts on the topic.  Have you tried Windows server and RDS as an alternative?  What about dedicated environments for VDI?

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in VDI

 

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Self Hosted Rights and Office

The other day I was on a call with a customer who developed a financial application that takes a customer’s information and then reports it back from Excel.  The goal would be to have it deployed via a web browser, possibly using SharePoint.  Immediately I thought of Office Web App.  Browser based, users could not only read it but edit it as well, sounds like a perfect fit  What about the licensing?  Since this is their own Intellectual Property (IP) I thought of the self hosted rights for volume licensing.  SPLA might be too expensive since users could not be tracked. This is where we got stuck. 

Self hosted is a software assurance benefit. It allows volume licensing customers to host their application that runs on Microsoft technology to third parties. I included the terms and conditions directly from the Product Use Rights (PUR) at the bottom of this post (in case you are really bored) but in my opinion this will allow developers to continue to build their applications and utilize volume licensing that offers the greater discount.

As a SAM manager, I was engaged by the customer to review both past and current licensing.  Since this was a new offering, nothing was licensed or even deployed yet.   Whew…Rule #1 – before building a datacenter make sure the solution fits the licensing. Secondly, this is being provided as a service, not simply allowing external users to access.

What did we advise? In order for a solution to qualify as “self-hosted” all applications must be self hosted eligible. Unfortunately, Office does not qualify. Ugh. There goes that option. Now we must look at SPLA for everything (one unified solution as defined in the PUR). The problem with SPLA is you must license Office STD or PRO to enable Office Web Apps. To add more complexity, Office in a server environment is licensed by user (SPLA) Since user count is expected to be very high, this does not seem to be an economical solution. What I proposed was to get rid of Office. That’s right, I recommended they remove it from the solution and use Open Office. The solution worked and met the compliance guidelines set forth by Microsoft.

In conclusion, I hated my recommendation but went with it in order to be compliant. Microsoft Office is a superior product to “Open Office” If only Microsoft would allow Office to be self hosted eligible, I think it would benefit the service provider, Microsoft, and more importantly the end customer.

Bottom line- make sure if you have your OWN application (not license someone else’s) and you decide to use volume licensing to host, make sure all software is eligible or risk BIG compliance risk.

Thanks for reading.

SPLA Man

From the PUR
You must have the required Microsoft licenses and maintain Software Assurance coverage for:
• the Self-Hosted Applications run as part of the Unified Solution; and
• all access licenses used to make the Unified Solution available to external users (See Universal License Terms, Definitions).
All Microsoft software used to create and deliver the Unified Solution must:
• be licensed through a Volume Licensing program that is subject to these license terms (e.g., Enterprise Agreement, Select Plus Agreement, Open License Agreement) and not any other (e.g., Services Provider License Agreement, Independent Software Vendor Royalty License and Distribution Agreement); and
• be marked as ‘Yes’ for ‘Self Hosting of Applications Allowed’ in these license terms
Your software must:
• add significant and primary functionality to the Self-Hosted Applications that are part of the Unified Solution (dashboards, HTML editors, utilities, and similar technologies are not a primary service and/or application of a Unified Solution);
• be the principal service and/or application, and sole point of access, to the Unified Solution;
• be delivered over the Internet or a private network from your datacenter to end users. The Self-Hosted Applications component may not be loaded onto the end user’s device; and
• be owned, not licensed, by you, except that your software may include non-substantive third party software that is embedded in, and operates in support of, your software.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Compliance, Self Hosted

 

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