Tag Archives: SQL Enterprise

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  I just helped over 30 hosters this week alone in this analysis.

Company Name: 

Hosting Delight


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 or check out (SPLA Man sister website).  Let’s optimize your SPLA Reporting transformation. Ugh. There I go again!

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on October 26, 2021 in Uncategorized


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Core Licensing for Windows and SQL

Article update (April, 2018 ) This article can be found at  We review best practices in reducing audit exposure, use rights and guidelines for SPLA licensing.




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If you could change ONE thing in SPLA…What would it be?

If you were THE Microsoft SPLA MGR in charge of the entire program, what would you change to help grow the SPLA business? (more importantly, YOUR SPLA business)  If you have multiple that’s ok.

Here’s a list from a colleague to get you started:

  • Allow Windows Desktop OS to be included in the unlimited virtualization rights of Windows Server DC
  • Allow MSDN to have License Mobility Rights.
  • Remove the SharePoint Enterprise SALs additive requirement.  Just make Enterprise more expensive.
  • Create cores for Excel and Access for ISV’s.
  • Expand the Productivity Suite and have O365 equivalents to align with O365 pricing.
  • Bring back SQL Enterprise SALs.
  • Add Power BI as a product
  • Reduce Office SPLA pricing!
  • Have the resellers require an End Customer Enrollment for deploying customer owned hardware, and open it up to include Windows PC’s.
  • Bring better clarity to RDS licensing.
  • Create a better way for Microsoft field reps to get credit for SPLA consumption.

You can tweet me at @SPLA_man or send me an email

Thanks for reading,


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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in SPLA General


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IaaS Gotchas…

In this post I will highlight new (and not so new) compliance gotchas as it pertains to providing infrastructure as a service.

Let’s start with a common example and go from there.  You provide the infrastructure such as Windows/SQL, your customer provides the applications.  Sound familiar?  You license Windows Datacenter, SQL Enterprise in a shared (aka public cloud) environment under SPLA. You have no idea or really care what applications your customer’s are installing right?  You just provide the support of the infrastructure.  That’s not your concern.  It’s their application, why should you care?  Ahhh…but maybe you should.

Have you ever wondered how they’re accessing the applications?  Are all applications web-based?  I will answer that question for you…no.  So how are they accessing the applications?  Do they use Citrix?  Do they remote into the application somehow?  There’s that word…remote.

If you enable the Remote Desktop Services role within Windows Server – you guessed it…you need to report RDS licenses.  The number of IaaS providers who just report Windows and SQL is astronomical. The number of IaaS providers now reporting RDS is also rapidly growing.  Did they wake up one day and decide they should start reporting RDS?  Unfortunately no.  They were audited.  Shoot me over an email and I will forward the guide that explains RDS and when it applies. Remember when you license RDS, you need to license each user that HAS access to RDS – not who does access.

Let me provide an example of how easily you could be underreporting RDS.   Let’s say your customer has an application from another vendor (outside Microsoft) that’s hosted in your datacenter.  That same vendor provides support to the application.  You are not hosting the application for the vendor but for your customer, you just provide the vendor access to support the application via remote connection.  SPLA allows 20 users to provide support and administration per datacenter.  If you exceed that limit, you are going to have to report those additional users.  Yes, even if you are not charging them.

Other IaaS Gotchas –

While we’re on the topic of customer owned applications, do you have it written in your agreement with the customer that you are not responsible for the applications they install?  What would happen if they install applications that you are not aware of and they don’t have the appropriate licenses…who’s responsible you or the end customer?  Kind of a trick question, it’s both.  You will get audited, it’s installed in your datacenter, you are ultimately responsible.  You need to ensure you have it written in your agreement that you’re not responsible so you can have a nice chat with your customer.  All the big boys do it…you should too.

What about SQL?  Are you virtualizing?  Why aren’t you reporting SQL Enterprise?  Are you utilizing all the use rights that come with SQL Enterprise – unlimited virtualization, DR, mobility within server farms, etc?  What about smaller environments?  Have you considered licensing by user instead of by core for SQL Standard edition?

SQL Web is tempting isn’t it?  Less expensive option but no one really understands what it is.   Here’s a quick synopsis – if you do not host public facing websites, SQL Web is not an option.

How are you managing your datacenter? Do you have System Center installed?  You should report the Core Infrastructure Suite.  Running Hyper V with few VM’s, license CPS. Both products include Windows.  You need Windows to run System Center, so you kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

Ask your customers if they have Software Assurance.  It’s no longer about latest version rights and annual payments.  It’s about moving to the cloud.  Let’s make sure it’s your cloud and not someone else’s.

Conclusion –

I’ve been around this game of SPLA for a long time.  The best advice I can give is to listen to your customers and don’t be afraid to change.  Cloud is evolving, you should evolve too.  Don’t report out of convenience, look into ways you can optimize what you are reporting.  It’s competitive out there, let’s make sure you are getting the most value out of your agreement.

Thanks for reading,





Posted by on January 31, 2015 in IaaS


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A Fireside Chat with a Microsoft SQL Technical Specialist…What’s new and how you can profit from Microsoft SQL Enterprise

I had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Barela, SQL Server Technical Specialist at Microsoft. She’s very passionate in her role and without question a great resource. In this interview, it’s all about SQL. More importantly, it’s about SQL for the service provider community. Although this blog is about licensing, I focused more on the features of SQL.

Special thanks to Sarah and the US Microsoft Hosting team for accommodating!

SPLA Man – Hi Sarah, thank you for spending some time with me this morning to chat about one of your favorite topics…SQL.

Sarah – My pleasure!

SPLA Man – So tell me a little bit about yourself, where did this passion for SQL start?

Sarah – (Chuckles) I started working with SQL over 17 years ago; back in the day with SQL 6.5. (I might be dating myself here) I worked for (who at the time) a service provider called Maximum ASP. Our primary focus was working with the Microsoft developer community and my role was database management. My responsibilities grew to the point I was managing over 1k databases by myself! Needless to say I became a specialists in managing larger deployments which ultimately led me to Microsoft in 2013. Now my role is to help service providers deploy new SQL Server offers.

SPLA Man – What are some cool new features of 2014 that service providers can take advantage of?

Sarah – Biggest new feature is called in memory OLTP – stands for online transactional processing. From the most basic level it allows to you to put your tables in your database into RAM memory to make it very fast.   There’s also a lot of new hybrid features to move from on premise to public cloud to make the transition easier.

SPLA Man – So I talk to service provider’s all day long. One thing that always surprises me is although they have the right to use the latest version under SPLA, for one reason or another they still are running SQL 2008 and in some cases 2005. Why would now be a good time to upgrade?

Sarah – For one thing, it’s support. Both 2005 and 2008 is in extended support. I’ve found that cloud technologies and customers want more features more rapidly. Waiting to deploy newer versions is becoming less of an option, as your customers will be out of data. There are also more features added that applications want to take advantage of including the in memory feature within SQL 2014. There’s also minimal effort in deployment, but the impact in performance could significant.

SPLA Man – There’s a lot of talk about SQL Enterprise, what type of service provider’s do you see deploying Enterprise? Is there anything special they should consider?

Sarah – I think it really boils down to database needs over a specific market profile. Think of social media companies (as an example). They may have fewer employees, but consume parabyte’s of data. By any other standard, they would be considered a small business. I think that’s the biggest thing. All service providers use Enterprise on some level but I would say those service provider’s that consume a large amount of data and have high availability requirements would be a starting point.

SPLA Man – So speaking of data, one of the features in SQL Enterprise is something called data compression. Which is available in Enterprise, but not available in Standard. What is data compression?

Sarah – So what data compression does is it’s an algorithm used to compress data as it is stored on discs. So let’s take an example of a database that stores a consumer’s address. A person’s street address is fairly unique. But city, state, and zip code are more common; (there are only 50 states as an example), so what data compression does is it finds data and shrinks it down so it does not store duplicate information. So ultimately, this reduces the amount of disc space needed; especially in very large environments. If you are spending a large amount of money on storage and you can reduce that by (whatever amount that equates) than that saves actual money on hardware. That’s why it is so important.

SPLA Man –So data compression aside…what are other areas a service provider become more profitable by switching to SQL Enterprise over Standard? As an example, are tasks better performed with 1 instance of SQL Enterprise v. several instances of SQL Standard?

Sarah – One of the things that SQL Enterprise allows you to do is it has features in there that support multi-tenancy. The more customers you can have running on a single server, you can spread that cost over more customers; which can lower your cost as well as the overall cost per individual customer. Those features like the resource governor, allows a service provider to divide up resources within the SQL server. It prevents things such as (what we call) “the noisy neighbor” in other words, one customer can’t impact the processing of another. There are also features within Enterprise that allows for isolation; so one customer has no access to another customer’s database. So it is secure. From a licensing perspective, Enterprise does allow unlimited virtualization if you license by the physical core. This allows for more consolidation (including hardware). Although the price per core is higher than Standard, when you look at spinning up multiple VM’s it becomes much more cost-effective. So it all goes back to the idea of multi-tenancy. The more customers you can run on a single physical hardware or by using virtualization, you can spread the cost of Enterprise across different customers.

SPLA Man – What about SQL BI? I rarely see this being reported. Are service providers missing something? What’s a good differentiation between SQL Standard and SQL BI?

Sarah – Service providers are hosting applications that are used by multiple people. What I have found in BI Edition (which is SQL Standard plus additional data warehousing and Business Intelligence technologies in the SQL server stack) is that often times the number of users that are using those features conflicts with the way it’s licensed. SQL BI is licensed by SAL only (not by core), and it is often more cost-effective to use Enterprise in a hosted environment. (Large amount of end users) I also think there’s familiarity with Enterprise and/or Standard, so they stick with what they know. If you have smaller environments where users are connecting to that database, than BI is a good option.

SPLA Man – A ton of service providers license SQL Web because it’s cheap. Although SQL Web is less expensive, from a licensing perspective there are some limitations. Can you elaborate?

Sarah – When I started at Microsoft, I did not know that SQL Web Edition was just for public websites. When you read it you think it could be used for any website. One trick is it has to be public website and certainly cannot be used to support a line of business applications. One thing to consider, if a website has a log in; then it’s not public.

Side Note – from the SPUR page 26. Notice it states: “support public AND Internet accessible” Not public OR Internet accessible” There’s a big difference between “and” and “or”

The software may be used only to support public and Internet accessible

Web pages

Web sites

Web applications

Web services

It may not be used to support line of business applications (e.g., Customer Relationship Management, Enterprise Resource Management and other similar applications).

SPLA Man – One service provider told me that Oracle was better, simply because it wasn’t dependent on the platform that it runs on. How would you respond to that?

Sarah – Although true, Windows is universal and is highly available as well.

SPLA Man – Are there any promotions service providers can take advantage of?

Sarah – SPLA partners may want to check with their SPLA reseller from time to time to see if there are any upcoming promotions, new products, or licensing changes.

Side Note –  although there’s not a special promotion tied to SQL at this time, service providers can always offer free trials and product demonstrations to your end customers. This is part of the SPLA agreement.

SPLA Man – Where’s a good resource for more information?

Sarah – One of the resources I used the most when I was working at a service provider was the feature matrix, which shows what features are in each edition of SQL server. This is found at you can also check out

SPLA Man – Well I think that covers it. Thank you again for taking the time.

Sarah – No problem! Great catching up with you.

So what are your thoughts?  How do you leverage SQL in a hosted environment?  Need help with licensing? Reach out to us and let’s review your options.

Thanks for reading,



Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Interviews, SQL 2014


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SQL Enterprise – it’s more than virtualization

I sat in on a webinar this afternoon and was really impressed with the different capabilities within SQL Enterprise.  I always sold SQL based off virtualization needs.  What a goof. Although important, there are several other factors that go into licensing SQL Enterprise as to Standard or Web.

Let’s first break the different components down to better understand the differences.

SQL Web – Basic SKU.  Designed for hosting web apps and websites.  Many hosting providers try to license SQL Web to support line of business applications. (which you cannot do by the way) Think of line of business applications as applications to run your business.  (very poetic by the way).

SQL Standard – The most common reported SKU in SPLA but also the one that gets service providers in trouble; especially as it pertains to virtualization and mobility within server farms.  Offers some high availability, although not as complete as Enterprise.  Database size is also an issue as it only supports up to 64GB.  Sounds like a lot, but ask a SQL admin how much that really is.  Newer editions offer mobility rights, and can be licensed on a per VM basis.  Not a bad thing.

SQL Enterprise – Ahh…SQL Enterprise.  This cost a lot doesn’t it?  Man, how can someone afford this month end and month out?  Ask your reseller what’s the difference between Enterprise and Standard and the first thing they will say is virtualization. (that’s what I did too for the record) Although true, there’s more to this than just virtualization.  For starters, the size alone is more than Standard.  (See chart below).  High availability with Enterprise is truly high availability.  It’s always on (Failover cluster instances and availability groups).  Although costs seem high, if data is lost, how much will that cost you?

SQL BI – The in between SKU, meaning its similar to Standard, but not as robust as Enterprise. In the SPLA world, it is licensed by user only.  This “Jan Brady” of SQL has… guessed it….BI features.  This SKU is very rarely reported.  If I had to guess, she will be merged or have licensing changes with future releases. No basis or knowledge, just an educated guess.

So back to SQL Enterprise.  I think the service provider community should listen to what other hosters have to say about SQL. Let’s look at the real IT wizards  (also known as ISV’s – those that develop applications) do with SQL Enterprise.  If you look at the chart below, this illustrates the features they use within Enterprise the most (Source: Microsoft)


You can see (kind of unclearly) that scale and performance outweighs everything else. “Scale and Performance” means data compression, table partitioning, etc.  Over 23% say HA/DR is the most important feature. (always on).  I like to listen to these guys (ISV’s) since their business (their application) is only as good as the technology it resides on.  If they rely on a certain product over the other, I would like to better understand…why?  From the chart, it’s no surprise that performance ranks #1.  Imagine if performance was bad?  How good will their application look then?  So if they trust SQL Enterprise based off performance and HA…maybe you should give it a second glance.

From Microsoft, here’s the top 10 reasons hoster’s should consider Enterprise.  Oddly enough, virtualization wasn’t one of them.

1.More than 64GB memory

2.Online Re-Indexing

3.In-Memory OLTP

4.Always On Availability Groups

5.Partition Switching

6.Columnstore Indexes

7.Resource Governor

8.Change Data Capture

9.Transparent Database Encryption

10.Data Compression

Here are some good links on the topic below.  Feel free to check out.

SQL 2014 Overview

SQL under SPLA

SQL throughout the years – downloadable documents

Thanks for reading,





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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in SQL 2012


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