In most articles I reviewed best practices, updates, and licensing guidance as it pertains to the SPLA program. As cloud solutions evolve, the licensing becomes more complex. That’s why I thought we should take a step back and take a moment to review the basics of the program. I am a big believer in order to fully understand a licensing program, you really should start at the beginning. Too many times we jump headfirst and start worrying about “how do we license SQL in a virtual environment” or “why no VDI darn it!” So let’s all take a deep breath, relax, and let’s understand what it is we are actually trying to accomplish.
What is a license?
I think we can all make a reasonable assumption to the answer to this question. Again, we are starting at the basics and moving up from there. The SPLA Man definition of a license is essentially your right to use something. You buy a book, you need to purchase the right to consume the author’s material. You buy a software license, this gives you the right to install it and use it. In the case of Microsoft, you did not write the code for Microsoft Exchange, so you need a license to use Exchange/email. There’s all sort of examples of a license, but I think you get my point.
So if you buy a license, who get’s to use it? In most instances, it’s you. Why buy something and give someone else the right to use it? If you buy a computer from HP and the PC comes with a copy of Office and Windows 8, the Office and Windows 8 gives that device a license. Those license come preinstalled live and die with the machine – this is called Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM for those taking notes). If you read the little booklet that comes with your computer it will define this not so clearly. That booklet is called a EULA (End user licensing agreement).
Now let’s say you’re an owner of a company and have 50 employees. You set up a CRM server to deploy to your 50 employees. In this model, they would need a server (CRM Server License) plus 50 client access license to access that server. Since it’s for internal employees, you would use volume licensing. (greater discount than going to a retail shop and purchasing the licenses one at a time)
Let’s say you lost the instruction booklet on ‘how to deploy CRM” and frustrated because you already purchased the licenses. You need help. Not only did you lose the instructional booklet you don’t have the budget to purchase the hardware to run CRM nor the bandwidth to manage anymore. You look at third party options. You call Brett’s Hosting who can deploy CRM on your behalf while leveraging your license purchases. If you purchased the licenses with software assurance those licenses could potentially qualify for license mobility (CRM does). The service provider can dedicate a VM for CRM and host the VM on shared hardware. Windows would still need to be reported under SPLA (since Windows is not part of license mobility) This can be more cost effective for both parties. If you did not purchase those licenses with software assurance, you can still bring those licenses into your datacenter BUT Brett’s Hosting would have to dedicate the hardware and the VM to one customer. What’s dedicated? Microsoft defines dedicated as “Any hardware running an instance of Microsoft software (OS or application) must be dedicated to a single customer. For example, a SAN device that is not running any Microsoft software may be shared by more than one customer; whereas, a server or SAN device that runs Microsoft software may only be used by one customer.” (source: Microsoft Desktop Virtualization Guide – Check it out here)
Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA)
This leads to the last option and the entire point of this blog – SPLA. Why would a service provider use or need SPLA licenses? You know those 50 CRM licenses you purchased for your internal employees? You guessed it, those can only be used for internal employees. Why? There’s a little blurb in the Product Use Rights (PUR) that states “No Commercial Hosting” If you have a customer that does not own the licenses, but they want to access your server – That’s SPLA. Anytime your hosting Microsoft software on BEHALF of a third party, that’s SPLA. Let’s say you have a website in which you sell products out to the entire world; Would you need SPLA? Short answer…no. Why? You have a website that you deploy in your own datacenter that you use to run your business, not someone else’s. If you went to a third party and asked them to host a website for you that will allow your customers to access, the service provider would use SPLA. Clear as mud? Exchange might be a better example. If you don’t have the bandwidth to manage Exchange in house anymore, you can go to companies such as Rackspace to provide email for you. They will charge you “X” amount of dollars for email per month. To access Rackspace’s Exchange server you would need a license. That license is called SPLA. All service providers that host Exchange, would require SPLA (unless you bring your own licenses such as the outsourcing example above).
That’s licensing 101 in a nutshell. Stay tuned for licensing 200. Ugh.