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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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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 info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in SPLA General

 

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Hybrid Use Benefit – HUB

Our friend Azure is at it again.  He’s offering Windows license mobility without calling it license mobility.  It’s called HUB – Hybrid Use Benefit.  And yes, it’s only available in Azure.

What is it exactly?  Well let’s say an organization purchased Windows Datacenter with Software Assurance.  Because they purchased the server with Software Assurance, Microsoft will allow them to run a separate instance in Azure and only pay the Linux VM rate.

This same customer can now deploy an image in Azure, pay a non Windows rate (in Azure), and still run an on premise server in their own datacenter to make a true hybrid scenario.  They can do this with Datacenter edition only, since Datacenter allows unlimited virtual instances.  They cannot run a true hybrid with Standard.  They must either run on premise or in Azure with Standard edition.  If you are on the fence about which version to purchase, Datacenter might just win out.

A couple of things to consider.  1) You have to pay attention to the number of licenses you purchased for you on premise servers.  If you purchased Datacenter that has two processor licenses, this will all you to run two instances up to 8 cores or 1 instance up to 16 cores in Azure.  In other words, you cannot exceed the number of licenses you purchased. 2) If you do decide to run Datacenter on premise as well as in Azure, you must maintain CALs for your on premise solution.  Azure does not require CALs, but that doesn’t mean your on premise CAL requirement goes away.

So there you have it.  Confused yet?  If not, wait until I write more about Office 365!  Questions?  Email me at info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Azure

 

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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,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in IaaS

 

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How I saved a company over $100K a year in reporting

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  This is a story about knowing what you are reporting and the reasoning behind it. Windows 2012 was launched a couple of years ago (give or take).  At that time there were several service providers reporting Windows Enterprise.  Their customers had applications that needed the functionality of Windows Enterprise, and since it wasn’t virtualized, Windows Datacenter was not an option. The service provider continued to report/license Windows Enterprise after the launch of 2012.  There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact, the terms of the SPLA agreement state you can continue licensing 2008 use rights up until your agreement expires.  What most providers don’t know is you can do the opposite.  You can run 2008 versions but report 2012.  Why would they do that?

In this case, they had Windows Enterprise installed; but since Windows Enterprise was discontinued with the release of 2012, they could downgrade to Windows Standard edition. Sounds funny doesn’t it?  DOWNGRADE to Windows Standard from Enterprise?  Yes, I said that correct.  Enterprise is discontinued. Again, nothing was virtual, and that is very important. If it was virtual, they would continue to report Enterprise up until the agreement expired and report Windows Datacenter moving forward.   Not only did he save on their monthly usage report, I’m guessing he had added margin since he was already contracted with his customer.

Quick note – not all products discontinued have the same outcome.  In most cases (such as SQL 2012 switch to cores) their costs actually went up

Ahh…but where is this written in the SPUR?  I’ll save you time, it’s not.  That’s why you need to read “Why Timing is Everything” You are bound by the SPUR (i.e.products/versions/use rights) available at the time of signing your SPLA agreement.  Those reporting SQL by processor better pay attention.

I receive 100’s of SPLA questions from the SPLA community about licensing and the cost associated with it. From the largest of the large providers down to a guy hosting Windows Web Server out of his parents basement (which is discontinued by the way), there’s always way you can reconsider your strategy. Moral of the story?  Pay attention to how you report and don’t report out of convenience…It can cost you.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in In My Opinion, Windows Virtualization

 

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Licensing options in a virtual world

I thought I would update a post I wrote previously regarding virtualization.  In this article, I want to touch on three specific products (Windows, Core Infrastructure Suite, and the new Cloud Platform Suite).  Pay attention, this could save you money!

Windows

Windows must be reported, but oddly enough it is the most under licensed product during an audit.  (along with SQL). You have to license every processor on the host machine that will allow you to run 1 virtual instance (either Linux or Windows) for Windows Standard edition.  If you spin up another instance, you have to license every processor again!  In other words, to run two instances licensing Windows STD on a 2 processor machine would need 4 licenses!  Datacenter- you must license every processor on the host machine that will allow you to run unlimited VM’s.  Great bargain if you are highly virtualized!  Only caveat, it is going up in price in January.

Core Infrastructure Suite

CIS is a bundled SKU that includes Windows Server and System Center.  There are two editions, Standard and Datacenter.  They both come with the same technology, the only difference is virtualization.  Standard will allow 1 instance, Datacenter will allow unlimited. This SKU is licensed by physical processor and follows the same logic as Windows virtualization mentioned above.  Pay attention to the number of instances running on each host!

Cloud Platform Suite (CPS)

This is the baby of the SPLA family.  (actually hasn’t been born if your reading this prior to January, 2014).  I wrote about the basics in a earlier blog.  I think this could be a HUGE plus for service providers who report SPLA licenses and run Hyper V.  Why?  Mobility rights.  CPS is a bundled SKU of Windows and System Center.  The differences between CPS and the Core Infrastructure suite is the way you license the guests.  CPS you have to license the virtual guests, Core Infrastructure you don’t (as long as you license datacenter edition).  What will make CPS attractive is the cost.  The cost per host processor is a lot less than the cost of the Core infrastructure processor license.  Secondly, because you also license the guest (not that cheap but pretty valuable), the guest OS can move as long as you license both the guest and host.  This reduces your compliance risk tenfold.  If VM’s can migrate and you cannot track that virtual instance, this is the way to go.  Why wouldn’t you use CPS?  If you are not running Windows 2012, System Center 2012, and Hyper V (a requirement) you should stick with Windows Standard or Datacenter.  If you are heavily virtualized in Microsoft technology and running System Center, stick with Core Infrastructure Suite Datacenter.  You will need to sit down with your reseller and review  your options.  That’s why you need to work with someone who understands SPLA and has your best interest.  I always say “Make sure your compliant, but make sure you are licensing the most cost effective way.”

Good news is you have options, just make sure you pick the right one!

Thanks for reading.

SPLA Man

 

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