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More SPLA Questions…More Answers.

Here is a list of some of the questions we received this month.  Enjoy!

Why does Microsoft not allow a SPLA SQL VM to be installed in a public cloud?  I understand if you were licensing the physical layer, but if you want to install on a VM, you can easily allocate the number of cores and report accordingly.  Any ideas?

No.  Honestly there is no reason outside of it’s just prohibited.  You cannot license SPLA cores/processors in public clouds even if the VM is dedicated.

What can be installed in Azure through SPLA licensing?

Anything that is licensed by SAL can be moved to Azure.  For your end customers, anything that has Software Assurance and is license mobility eligible can be transferred including: Windows 10 E3  (QMTH), Office 365 Pro Plus (QMTH) and MSDN.  Your end customers can also leverage Azure HUB to get discounted pricing for the Windows Servers they purchased with SA.   Check out the Azure FAQ site https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/licensing-faq/

Is Microsoft going to discontinue SPLA?

Nah.  I bet it will be merged into a new program though.  Just a hunch.

I received a compliance notification the other day.  Am I in trouble?

Depends on the type of notification and if you are out of compliant :).  If you have questions, we can review it with you.  Just email info@splalicensing.com

Can I report Windows 2016 but run Windows 2012?

Yes.  No problem there.  What you cannot do is license Windows 2012 and run 2016.  Don’t do that.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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What is a Service Provider?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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

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

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

License Reassignment 

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

What does this mean?

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

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

What does this mean?

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

Azure Services Limitations

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

What does this mean?

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

Security

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

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

Online Service ISO 27001 ISO 27002

Code of Practice

ISO 27018

Code of Practice

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

 

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

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Do you have SA? Why this question really matters.

Brett’s Hosting’s sales director is consistently looking on the web to see what competition is advertising.  It drives him nuts to see other “hoster’s” advertise SharePoint for less than what he can get directly from his reseller.  He’s upset..big time.   How can this be?  Then he stumbles upon the Microsoft Office 365 website.  He blew a gasket.  “There is no way I can compete!  I am going to go out of business!”

So the sales director decided to get creative.  “I will forgo SPLA and just have my customers purchase SharePoint.  They bring it into my datacenter, I won’t report SPLA anymore.”  So that’s what he did.  He started selling SharePoint by the truckload.  Their reseller kept placing orders for him as they’d joyfully ask  “how many CAL’s do you need?” and they would order it; never once asking what it was for.

Brett’s Hosting did a tremendous job marketing their SharePoint offering.  “No SharePoint…No Problem!” It was marvelous.  The CEO of Brett’s Hosting vociferously announced at the World Partner Conference “We are hosting over 10,000 SharePoint sites!”  The celebration continued.  Then one foggy October morning, the office manager for Brett’s Hosting received a letter from Microsoft.  She excitedly opened it thinking they were being promoted as ‘SharePoint Partner of the Year’ but was severely disappointed.  It was an audit letter.  The story turns.

Brett’s Hosting CEO reviewed the letter and then called in their sales director (now sales VP).  The CEO threatened him with his job unless he fixed this mess.  The sales director/VP was at a loss.  “Where did I go wrong.”

To be continued….

Where do you think he went wrong?  Have you ever been given wrong licensing advice?  You don’t need to answer that, I already know.

Hosting industry has changed.  Competition has changed.  End users have changed.  In my experience, the conversation has changed from “how do I license Windows” to “what are ways I can optimize my licensing spend?”  I’ve written about license mobility; I also reviewed SAL for SA.  Those two programs have a common theme – Software Assurance (SA).  In the above fictitious story, the sales person should’ve asked his customer “do you have SA on these licenses”  That question is important because if they do not have SA, the entire environment (hardware/VM) must be dedicated.

I can’t stress this enough.  The hosting game is getting brutal.  Every service provider is looking for a way to cut/reduce costs.  Getting in compliance hot water is not a good way to do that.  If the customer does not have SA, you can certainly use SPLA in its place.  If you go this route, be sure to make it a bundled solution.  Telling customers they must pay for something they already own is not an easy conversation.

The customer can also purchase SA.  You just have to be ready to clearly explain their options. That’s why it’s important to work with a reseller that understand SA benefits to help educate and coach you through the process; not all products are eligible.  Be prepared.

Story continued…

The sales vp went back to his customers and asked them to purchase Software Assurance.  When the customer asked “why?” all the sales vp could say is “because Microsoft told me you needed it.” (he clearly couldn’t explain why…it only made the customer more upset).  The customer simultaneously yelled and slammed the door –  “I’m going to Joe’s Hosting! They advertise VDI too!”

The sales vp went back to his CEO and was forced to resign.  The customer went to Joe’s Hosting and was very happy for over a year. When out of the blue he received a call from his sale rep from Joe’s Hosting.  The sales rep frantically told him they could no longer offer VDI; it apparently is not available under SPLA.  The sales rep also asked him to buy SA for his SharePoint…”Microsoft told me you needed it!” The customer loses again!

Moral of the story – read the SPUR, read the PUR, and don’t be afraid to ask “Do you want SA with that?”

Thanks for reading

SPLA Man

 

 

 

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SPLA Audit start to finish

Your business is doing great, your sellers and customers are happy, you are making money instead of spending money, when out of the blue….BAM…you receive an audit letter.  Sound familiar?

So what do you do?  Your first reaction is panic.  Your second reaction is to call a lawyer.  Your third reaction is to blame your reseller.  I think that about sums it up.  If you disagree, I’m not 100% sure you are being truthful with yourself.  If you do agree, I also think you are making a HUGE mistake.  Sounds a little odd doesn’t it?

First thing you need to understand is it’s not your fault.  It’s not as if you are purposely trying to be out of compliant.  Microsoft knows this as well.  SPLA is a difficult program and very hard to understand. As I pointed out in the “About” section of this blog, there is little information written about the SPLA program leaving service providers vulnerable.  The SPUR?  Forget about it. That’s why I created this blog in the first place.

I think that is why SPLA customers call a lawyer to help guide them.  This may help you sleep at night, but is it REALLY helping?  I will let you determine that after the dust settles.

What does happen during an audit? I don’t care if this is the first step or fourth step but at some point you will have to collect data.  Data that PROVES the reason you reported the way you did.  One of the biggest mistakes a SPLA provider can make is not reporting indirect access.  Again, not your fault.  Who has any idea of what “indirect” really means?  Think of indirect as Microsoft software that is used to run your other applications that you market to your customers.  You have an application that you developed that reports back to SQL using Excel.  Users have no idea they are using SQL, all they know is the application they use.  But since SQL is part of your hosted solution…it must be reported.  Make sense?  That’s also why Windows will always need to be reported.  Try running Exchange without a Windows OS.  Not going to happen.

Data can also mean the licenses that your customers own that they bring over to your environment.  How do you know who owns what?  Are there enough CAL’s?  One of the arguments service providers make is they can go after their customers if being audited.  There’s an easy conversation right?  Remember, you want to keep customers not lose them.

Some service providers have learned that their end customers install software on VM’s without informing them.  How do you know what is actually being installed?  So take a look at your datacenter; are your customers installing software you don’t know about?  Collecting this information after the fact is a difficult process.  This leaves auditors with no choice but to make a best guess.  Best guesses can cost you significantly.

So after all this data is analyzed by the audit team, it is then delivered to Microsoft.  That’s when you present your case.  They will take things into consideration, but understand that if you are missing information, it makes your argument that much more difficult.  Don’t blame your reseller, that doesn’t work.  Don’t rely on a lawyer, that doesn’t always work either.  Educate yourself.  That’s the best advice I can provide.  Just by taking the time to read this I think you are on the right path.

Happy to walk you through the process in greater detail.  I am one of the few that actually gets it. My email is at the top righthand side of this page.

Thanks,

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Compliance

 

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Hosting CRM

For anyone that has ever worked with CRM understands it is not the easiest technology to deploy. It integrates with other applications and is becoming a must-have for sales organizations. Where there’s difficulty, comes opportunity for SPLA providers.

CRM for Microsoft SPLA has a few new flavors to align with CRM Online. Similar to Lync, SharePoint, and Exchange, each one comes with different functionality. The flavors under SPLA are the following: CRM Service Provider Edition (it’s the Professional Edition for hosted environments), CRM Essentials (formerly ESS), and CRM Basic (Formerly CRM limited). The actual SKU’s are listed below. For a complete summary of the differences, please check the SPUR, I also found this article on the CRM Online website (CRM Online)

QHH-00028 Dynamics CRM Service Provider Edition
QHH-00089 Dynamics Basic
QHH-00090 Dynamics CRM Essentials

From a licensing perspective, it is licensed by user (SAL) and does require SQL and Windows. Check out my other posts around those offerings and licensing guidance. What’s interesting about CRM is it does not require the service provider to be Dynamics authorized as is the case with Great Plains and other Dynamics offerings. As indicated at the beginning, CRM does require expertise (especially hosting it) but can be very profitable. Once you deploy CRM, you can add other solutions such as Exchange and SharePoint to be a one stop shop for hosted solutions. To install CRM, the license key code will be embedded in the software. Download the media from the VLSC website (see “License Keys and Media” post). It’s a pretty thick file, be patient.

If you have a CRM offering, would love to learn more about it. Hit me up on LinkedIn at the top right of this screen.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in CRM

 

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How SAL Licenses Really Work

SAL (subscriber access licenses) can be complex and without question the number one underreported licenses under SPLA.  Why all the confusion stems from misinterpretation of the SPUR and/or bad advice.

When you report by user, you have to take in account each user that HAS access to the software, not who does.   Microsoft is not based on concurrent licensing.  I wrote about this prior, but thought it was worth repeating.  If you have 5 users that use the software, but 15 users can access at any given time, you must report all 15.  Seems ridiculous, but is 100% true.  Consider licensing by processor if user licenses become too difficult to track.

Read this section of the SPUR (use rights).  “You must acquire and assign a SAL to each user that is authorized to access your instances of the server software directly or indirectly, regardless of actual access of the server software.”  It’s the last part of that sentence that can get you in trouble “regardless of actual access of the server software” For a copy of the SPUR check out http://spur.microsoft.com/products.aspx

Thanks,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Compliance

 

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