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Microsoft SPLA Audit Notifications…

Tis’ the season to be merry!  To bring a little holiday cheer, Microsoft is gifting you an audit!  In this article, I will break down some of the tricks to stay ahead of the game when Mr. Audit comes knocking.  If you need help, please email us at info@splalicensing.com We have the resources and the expertise to help navigate through the process.

Do’s of an audit:

  1. Do a pre audit yourself.  This is best to engage a third-party to know what is in your environment and what the auditors will look for.  I like to think of it this way, if you pay your reseller 20k dollars a month (as an example) don’t you want to make sure you get it right?
  2. Use your own tool or method to collect the information.  We know (and so does Microsoft) that you may not be collecting everything that auditor’s will  look for but that’s one of the reasons why you should engage a third-party.  We can use your data but we will compare it against the licensing rights so we know the risk before it becomes a risk.
  3. Know and understand customer owned licenses.  Auditors will look at everything that is installed in your hosted environment.  You need to know what you should be reporting and what you can get away with not reporting.
  4. Engage with the publisher, not disengage.  Avoiding the notification will not solve anything and put you in a tricky situation.
  5. Keep calm.  Overreacting doesn’t help your cause.

Don’t’s of an audit:

  1. Similar to 4-5 mentioned above, don’t be a jerk.  Kind of like getting mad at another driver at a stoplight, it never solves anything.
  2. Hire a law firm to work with Microsoft on your behalf.  If that happens, the publisher will engage their legal and it becomes very black and white.  In this case, my bet is on the company with the billions of dollars in their bank account.  If you engage in a third-party, it’s best to work with the third-party directly with your organization, not the third-party work with the publisher.
  3. Give the auditors everything they ask.  Sometimes they ask for things that are not relevant to the situation.
  4. Throw in the towel.  Even organizations who never report SPLA but are hosting can find a way to negotiate.
  5. Rush to close it.  There are strategies that work out to your benefit if you hold off.  Another benefit is it may give you better financial options.

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

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Posted by on November 27, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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Answers to Your Cloud Licensing Questions

Will Azure be part of the SPLA program?

I wouldn’t think so and wouldn’t know how they could incorporate the two.  Azure is Microsoft hosted and SPLA is partnered.   Microsoft will want to keep SPLA and Azure separate.

Is Azure Stack part of SPLA?

Azure Stack by itself is not part of SPLA.  What’s part of SPLA is the Windows licenses.  As a service provider, you could deploy Azure Stack, pay the base consumption rate, and use Windows licensing with SPLA.  In fact, I think it’s less expensive to do it this way.

If my customer wants to use their own Windows license on Azure Stack, do they also require CAL’s?

Yes.  You need to pay attention to the Product Terms to ensure compliance.  As an example, volume licensing prohibits hosting.  You cannot install your own Windows licenses through volume licensing and host using Azure Stack.

Does Office 365 qualify for the SAL for SA product in SPLA?

The only Office 365 product that is eligible for SAL for SA is Skype.

Is SPLA pricing going up?

Yes and will not be decreasing anytime soon.

Since AWS offers dedicated hardware, could I transfer my customer’s license to their datacenter without Software Assurance?

Yes.  If its dedicated hardware Software Assurance is not required.

What about Azure?

No, you would need Software Assurance.

Will Microsoft finally allow MSDN to be licensed in my datacenter?

Probably not.  Although if you use Azure, MSDN is eligible to be transferred.

If I sell CSP through 2-Tier distributor, can I sign the QMTH addendum?

No.  You must be CSP 1 – Tier to qualify for QMTH.

Can I outsource support for certain software through CSP?

Yes.  You an resell the solutions you can support and leverage another partner for support for other products.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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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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SPLA Audit Season…

The air is getting colder (at least on this side of the hemisphere), the leaves are changing, and the aroma of burning firewood fills the night time air.  That’s right, audit season is upon us!

Why audit season?  Microsoft is concluding their first half of the fiscal year in December, which means revenue demand is a high priority.  It happens at the end of the year and in June when the fiscal year closes.  There’s no easier way to achieve revenue targets than going after organizations in the form of an audit.  Don’t be left in the dark.  If you are going through an audit, we have the resources to help support you.  Our team consists of:

Ex Microsoft auditors who know the game and negotiation tactics.

Licensing experts (who else has a blog dedicated to the nuances of licensing)

Cost optimization professionals

Audit tools and license management as a service

If you are going through a SPLA audit, don’t do it alone. You don’t want to pay more money than you have to just to please a vendor.  If you have questions on the process or need a recommendation, you can email blaforge@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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Slaying the dragon and saving the princess – audit style

We all love stories.  All of us. We love to hear about good overcoming evil – the prince saving the princess, the bad guy that's captured by the good guy.  In short, what we love are fairy tales.  The reality is we do not live in a world of fairy tales and sometimes, yeah, the bad guys do win. The prince, admired by many, is not such a good prince after all.  We trust without knowing they can be trusted.  So, what does this have to do with audits?

Businesses are built based on one concept – to solve a customer's problem.  You are their hero to save whatever pain they have or problem they can't seem to overcome.  You, are (as the story goes) their knight in shining armour.  Your customer needs someone to deliver a solution, you are just the good guy to do it.

Fast forward a couple years, your business is booming, your customers are happy, and in walks every IT nightmare…the auditor.  Eye glasses the size of saucers, a necktie tied just a shade too short, and a laugh that is about as annoying as a nail on a chalkboard; you are succumbed to a software audit.

How do you defend such evil?  The biggest mistake a hosting partner (or enterprise's in general) often makes is being fearful.  They give the auditors everything they ask.  That's not always bad, but if you don't understand why they are asking for certain things or feel they are painting you in a corner, take a step back.  Don't give in without understanding what they are asking and why.  Why do they want to know who your customers are?  Why do they ask about customer owned licenses?  Software Assurance? Historical information?  If you can't answer "why" maybe you need help.  In walks SPLA Man.  Nah, in walks Mrs. SPLA Man, every auditor's worst nightmare.  She put together the following list on how to better prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Mrs. SPLA Man's List

  1. Don't be fearful – no matter what, it's your business and YOUR customers.
  2. Have a plan.  Know what's in your customer agreements.  If you need to refresh your agreement language, do it.  Software licensing rules change daily, if you have not updated your contracts on license mobility or datacenter outsourcing, update it now.
  3. Don't bring unwanted attention to your organization.  Always report usage on time and pay on time.  80% of all delinquent reporting has nothing to do with the reseller or Microsoft.  It has everything to do with a SPLA partner's account payable dept.
  4. Don't have one person manage your usage reporting.  In a lot of cases, a person leaves a company who was the only one who worked with the reseller directly.  When that person leaves, who is responsible for reporting?
  5. Don't be pressured.  Audits can take up a lot of resources.  Don't give up customer engagements to satisfy an auditor.  Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, don't delay meetings with your clients.
  6. The publisher needs you.  You are their sales arm.  You bring the hybrid cloud to life.
  7. Find out from the publisher who manages your account.  When was the last time you spoke to them about strategy or best practices?
  8. Relax.  It's not the IRS auditing you (yet)
  9. Don't settle just to settle.  You didn't grow your business to the magnitude you've grown it without having negotiating skills (and guts).
  10. Don't be scared to ask for help.   Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

Mrs. SPLA Man

PS – Slay that dragon!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Compliance

 

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Top 5 Licensing Questions….Answered

You have questions…We have answers.  Another month, and another list of licensing questions asked by the hosting community.

  1. I have a small hosting company that runs primarily Linux machines with a few Windows VM’s mixed in.  The only thing we do customer facing with Windows systems is a small number of users access our application via a published app over RDP Web.  Do I need SPLA?

Yes.  You have Windows running in your cloud environment.  It does not matter how small or large the environment is.  One thing you might want to check out is the Cloud Platform Suite.  You must run Hyper-V and System Center but it could lower your costs. 

  1. I get CSP from one reseller and SPLA from another.  Do I qualify for the new QMTH addendum or do I need to get it all from one source?  Totally confused.

In QMTH, you are the CSP partner, not someone else.  I am guessing you are using the CSP reseller to go indirect.  If that is the case, you must become CSP Direct authorized.  Purchasing CSP from a third-party does not qualify you for QMH.  That being said, your customer can purchase CSP from any organization and you can host it for them (if you are QMH authorized).

  1. The audit bug got me. I think it’s because my reseller refuses to submit my usage report even though I sent it to them several times.  Any advice?

Microsoft can audit any partner they choose.  There’s not one factor that triggers an audit.  More eyes will be watching if you are continually delinquent on your monthly report.  The biggest reason why a reseller does not submit a usage report is because the provider is delinquent on their payments. Are you up to date? All payments paid to the reseller?

  1. Can I rent a PC using the QMTH addendum? I know in the past I could rent a Windows desktop license in SPLA.  Can I do it now?

I think it makes sense to do so but unfortunately it is not part of the addendum.  I would love feedback here.  Section C of the QMTH addendum states” “This Amendment does not authorize Customer to resell, distribute, or otherwise provide End User or CSP Licensees direct access to Windows 10 Software” In order to lease a PC to a third-party you need to follow the Microsoft Leasing Agreement. 

  1. I report Office, Exchange, SharePoint and Skype. I heard rumors of a price increase coming in the pipeline from various resellers that I reached out to.  Any truth?

Let me put it to you this way – The products you just mentioned happen to be part of Office 365.  I don’t foresee Microsoft lowering pricing in SPLA for the same products offered by Microsoft.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

PS – What was the SPLA partner’s response to my answer for question 5?  “That’s BS Mate!”  My response?  “Don’t shoot the messenger.”  Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

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

 

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Yikes…how to move from one cloud to the next.

The latest buzz word in this crazy IT world in which we live is not “Cloud” it’s “Hybrid Cloud”.   Even the definition of hybrid cloud has evolved throughout its short existence. Having a mix of on premise workloads and cloud workloads has transformed into having workloads spread throughout different cloud vendors as well.  “Cloud Sprawl” is born and guessing is here to stay.

In this article, we will review how the licensing works to move a customer’s workload from one cloud to another; customer’s owned licenses back to on premise; and customers on premise licenses back to your cloud.  As the title of this article states..Yikes!

Moving away from your cloud to another cloud

So, your sales rep “accidentally” promised the world to your customer that he/she could not deliver.  Unfortunately, they now want to move to another provider.  First thing to do is fire the sales rep.  Second thing to do is read your SPLA agreement.

When you sign a SPLA agreement (or any Microsoft agreement) your license keys are your license keys.   The data is not yours, but the keys are (at least while you have an active agreement – remember, SPLA is non-perpetual license). License keys are not to be transferred, resold, etc. over to another datacenter provider.   Where does it say that?

In section 6C, page 5, of the 2017 SPLA Indirect Agreement “Copying and distribution of Products and Software documentation” states: “customer may distribute original media or software contains products only to outsourcing company and affiliates.”  Another cloud provider is not your affiliate or outsourcing company, they are your competitor.  The section continues: “Customer may distribute original media or software containing client software and/or redistribution software to its end users.”

What that statement is saying is the service provider can provide the image to their client but not to another service provider.  If they do this, Microsoft requires the license keys to be removed first.  Remember, your keys are your keys, not theirs. As mentioned, the data is not yours either.  An end customer has the right to transfer their data from your datacenter to another provider.  You can also transfer the media to your customer, but not to another service provider as the statement suggests.

Over the years, the transfer of data, transferring images, and using outsourcing companies has made it difficult to track which media/keys belong to which company.  My recommendation is to have language in your agreement that is like the one in your SPLA to protect you.  Is this a gray area?  Absolutely.  My other recommendation is that no matter which keys belong to which organization – be sure to license the environment correctly; in the end, that’s the most important part.

Customer’s owned licenses back to on premise 

The same sales rep screwed up again.  They promised the customer that by moving to your cloud environment they would never be audited again.  Guess what?   They got audited.  Now they are upset and want to move back to on premise.  How does the licensing work?

In this situation, let’s assume the customer is moving workloads that have software assurance (SA) and are using license mobility. (even if they didn’t, same rules would apply.  I just like using license mobility because it’s more common).   Whenever an end customer transfers their own licenses (not SPLA) it’s important to read the Product Terms, not just the SPUR.  The Product Terms is for volume licensing, which applies to customer owned licenses.  The SPUR, as we all know is for SPLA.  Two different programs, two different use rights.

Page 84 (good Lord this is a massive document) of the 2017 Product Terms states “Customer (your end customer) may move its licensed software from shared servers (license mobility) back to its Licensed Servers or to another party’s shared servers, but not on a short-term basis (not within 90 days of the last assignment).

When you buy a license through volume licensing (VL), you assign that license to a server.  That’s one of the reasons you cannot mix SPLA and VL on the same server (different use rights).  When you assign that server to a different server farm (another datacenter provider) that server license cannot move within 90 days of assignment.  If your end customer gets upset and demands you transfer their licenses back to their premise, you can pull out this little blurb in the Product Terms.  I would recommend having language in your agreement that states the same.

You might be wondering – “isn’t the benefit of Software Assurance the ability to move workloads freely without worrying about the 90-day rule?”  That’s true and I’m glad you brought that up.  If it’s within the same server farm, workloads can move freely.  Pay attention to page 84 of the Product Terms as well as the definition of a server farm.

One of the best lines in the Product Terms happens to be on the same page (84).  “Customer (again, customer in this example is your end customer) agrees that it will be responsible for third-parties’ actions about software deployed and managed on its behalf” I would definitely include that statement with your customers.

Moving back to your cloud

You gave your sales rep an ultimatum, win the customer back or lose your job!  Your sales rep won the customer back.  Now your customer can move back to your cloud, but make sure you follow the license mobility use rights as mentioned above.  Remember the 90 day rule.  Once a customer assigns a license back to their premise, they have to wait 90 days to move it back.  Secondly, if they do not have SA, you must dedicate the entire infrastructure for your customer.  Dedicated means the hardware used to support the solution.

The moral of this story?  Make sure you have a good sales rep!  Secondly, read the SPUR, Product Terms, SPLALicensing.com, and have language written in your agreement to protect yourself.  Lots of talk about moving to the cloud, moving away from it is just as important.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Compliance

 

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