Microsoft’s new licensing rules for Cloud Providers

Microsoft have just announced a range of changes to their rules around using their software in SOME cloud environments, aimed at reducing some of the heat they’ve been receiving from European cloud providers – including complaints to the European Commission – and also heading off potential issues with the EU Digital Markets Act.

The changes include CSP access, more support for providers from Microsoft, and some changes to Software Assurance licensing rules too.


Microsoft have been under fire from various angles due to their licensing rules that restrict which products can be used within 3rd-party datacentres…particularly when compared to Microsoft Azure. It recently came to light that ‘OVHCloud’ lodged a complaint with the European Commission in 2021 and many of the “Fair Software Licensing Principles” were seen to be aimed at Microsoft too.

The current BYOL (Bring Your Own Licensing) rules of Microsoft restrict certain on-premises licenses from being used in cloud environments (apart from Azure) which, for some customers, causes frustration and higher costs…and in some cases it means a project cannot be completed.

What’s changing?

Microsoft have announced a big new focus on ‘European Cloud Providers’ (ECP) – giving them expanded access to CSP (Cloud Solution Program) as well as creating a new internal team to focus on supporting them and their customers.

Cloud providers can host more products

The ECPs will be able to offer hosted desktop solutions containing Windows desktop and Office – including Office 365 Apps for Business/Enterprise. They will offer this via their own “unified solutions” and also by hosting customer-owned licenses – hugely expanding the available options for customers.

Microsoft are also expanding the availability of long-term fixed pricing for these providers, removing some of the pricing volatility from them and their customers.

Software Assurance changes

This is a pretty big one – Microsoft are adding ‘License Mobility’ rights to Software Assurance for Windows Server, Windows desktop, and Office. This means customers can use their on-premises licenses in 3rd-party ECP datacentres (but not AWS, GCP, or Alibaba), something that wasn’t possible before.

New Windows Server licensing option

Windows Server is licensed based on the physical CPUs and cores within the server. Microsoft are now introducing the ability to license just the virtual capacity you need, regardless of the underlying hardware. Whether this will be available globally and across all licensing programs, or restricted to just ECP datacentres, is something we are yet to discover.

European Cloud Providers – and more?

Although Microsoft’s announcement was careful to keep referring to ‘European Cloud Providers’ – it seems a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that the CSP and Software Assurance changes apply globally (via Mary Jo Foley). This means the vast majority of cloud providers are now able to offer something to their customers that they couldn’t previously.

On the flipside of that though, the main takeaway is that this doesn’t help customers looking to run software on AWS, Google, and Alibaba (the Listed Providers) and, in all honesty, that’s where I see most of the customer issues in this area. However, perhaps Microsoft hope that not only will these changes placate the EU but that they will also divert business away from the Listed Providers to smaller partners instead. In the new world, Microsoft may see that as a win…sure, they’re not on Azure…but they’re not on AWS either.


Microsoft have confirmed here that these changes do NOT apply to the Listed Providers – Amazon, Google, and Ali-Baba.

Other changes

Microsoft have outlined their 5 “European Cloud Principles”:

and also discussed their plans to further partnerships around providing sovereign clouds for various European governments.

Microsoft’s full announcement is here.

Microsoft Product Terms, February 2021

Photo by Markus Winkler on

Microsoft have stopped producing the standalone Product Terms document and have officially launched the Product Terms website as a replacement.

I’ve been a big fan of the Product Terms document for a long time and I’m not 100% happy about this change tbh! The ability to filter the site by program (EA, MPSA etc.) and product (M365, SQL etc.) will probably make it less confusing for many people – showing only the info that’s relevant to their search.

However, being able to see everything altogether was great for spotting any changes, missing bits etc. that Microsoft hadn’t highlighted and that isn’t as easy on the new site.

My initial concern was that not having a point in time downloadable copy would put customers and partners at a disadvantage, giving them nothing to reference in future conversations. However, having played with the site a little bit it turns out you can download a document from the site. It’s quite similar to the previous document although you have to filter by program, so you don’t get a document that allows comparison across the different licensing options.

The changes in February 2021 are:

  • Addition of Microsoft 365 F5 SKUs (more info here)
  • Planning Services & Training Vouchers SA Benefits have been removed
  • The free Audio Conferencing promos for EA/EES/CSP have been extended to June 30, 2021
  • Clarification that the Microsoft 365 E3/A3 Unattended license doesn’t require a Qualifying Operating System
  • Updates to terms for Azure Maps and Cognitive Services

Changes to Microsoft SA e-learning

Microsoft Software Assurance offers a range of benefits, one of which is e-learning.

For those of you currently using this within your organisation, be aware that it is migrating to a new site from July 1, 2018. The current site:

will be shut down and become inaccessible.

No courses, transcripts, certificates or reporting will be available via the existing site, so anything you wish to retain will need to be downloaded prior to July 1, 2018. This also means that any courses currently being taken will need to be completed before that date, otherwise all progress will be lost.

The new site is said to offer a much better user experience with faster access to content as well as interactive learning plans, customizable cheat sheets, and quick start guides. Microsoft have said they will release more information on the new portal soon.


The new site is and it covers a range of Microsoft training across:

  • Azure
  • Dynamics
  • PowerApps
  • Flow
  • PowerBI

with more planned over time.

Windows 8 Editions

Microsoft have announced the editions of Windows 8 that will be available:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Pro
  • Windows 8 Enterprise
  • Windows RT

Let’s take a look at each edition and what you get.

Windows 8

This is the new incarnation of “Home Premium” as it cannot join a domain or be managed via group policy. New/updated features include:

  • Updated Windows Explorer
  • Updated Task Manager
  • Better multi-monitor support
  • Ability to switch languages on the fly (previously ENt/Ultimate edt only!)


Windows 8 Pro

This is, as the name suggests, the new “Professional” offering of Windows and it brings with it a few new things:

  • Boot from VHD
  • Client Hyper – V
  • Bit Locker & Bitlocker to Go

Now the first 2 are pretty cool and will come in very handy but in my opinion, that 3rd one is the biggie:

Hard Drive and USB encryption built in as part of the OS!

Previously Bitlocker was available only as an Enterprise feature which required SA to be purchased on top of the Windows 7 Pro SKU, and for the last almost 3 years we’ve had customers asking:

“Why isn’t this in the Pro version?”

so it’s great that it now is Smile

Windows RT

This has previously been known as “Windows on ARM” or “WOA” and is exclusively for devices powered by ARM processors. These devices will typically be thinner, lighter and have better battery life than regular devices so it’s aimed very much at the tablet market.

One of the interesting features is that Windows RT is listed as including Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote). No more solid information has been given on this, leading to some speculation. Over on LinkedIn, Paul DeGroot has said:


I imagine it will be something akin to what is built into Windows Phone, certainly not equivalent to the full desktop version but more than capable of handling what users need to do when they’re out and about – perfect for tablets once again and a great USP against Apple & Android devices.

One of the big differences with Windows RT is that X86/X64 software and desktop software cannot be installed on it, again keeping it focused on the tablet market…just like the iPad iOS and responding to people’s claims of Windows being too “bloated” to run on a tablet.

There is also a lot of noise being made about the name “Windows RT” and how it’s rubbish and no-one will know what it means etc. but I genuinely feel that’s people just complaining for the sake of it.

  • What does iOS mean?
  • What does Ice Cream Sandwich mean?

Nothing yet devices with those OS’s are still selling pretty well so I really don’t see it being a problem Winking smile

The Windows Team Blog post has got a great, although not exhaustive, comparison chart between the 3 above versions here:


Windows 8 Enterprise & enhanced Software Assurance

Microsoft have kept the Enterprise edition of Windows going, reserved as always for customers purchasing Windows 8 Pro with Software Assurance.

As you’ve seen above, 2 features previously restricted to Enterprise have been moved into the Pro SKU (BitLocker and Multi-User Interface) but the other key differentiators from Windows 7 are there including:

  • Direct Access
  • Branch Cache
  • AppLocker
  • VDI Enhancement

as well as a couple of new ones:

  • Windows 8 App Deployment – “Domain joined PCs and tablets running Windows 8 Enterprise will automatically be enabled to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps”
  • Windows To Go – “a fully manageable corporate Windows 8 desktop on a bootable external USB stick.”

That second addition aims to ease the pain around BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which going to be a huge thing over these coming months and years.

Microsoft are also adding new benefits to Software Assurance on Windows 8 Pro, which will include:

  • Windows To Go Use Rights: Windows To Go will allow companies to support Bring Your Own PC scenarios and will give employees who need to work from home more secure access to their full corporate environment. With Windows To Go use rights under Software Assurance, an employee will be able to use Windows To Go on any company PC licensed with Windows SA as well as from their home PC. Additionally, through a new companion device license for SA, employees will be able to use WTG on their personal devices at work.
  • Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights: When used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance licensed PC, Windows RT will automatically receive extended VDA rights. These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers.
  • Companion Device License: For customers who want to provide full flexibility for how employees access their corporate desktop across devices, we are introducing a new Companion Device License for Windows SA customers. For users of Windows Software Assurance licensed PCs this optional add-on will provide rights to access a corporate desktop either through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices.

These again make strides towards addressing the changes being brought about through BYOD and remote working.

You can see more info on the Windows Team Blog here:

That said, it will be interesting to see what changes (if any) are made to Office licensing (most probably through SA again) to bring it into line with BYOD needs…but that’s a separate topic Winking smile

Microsoft Cloud Mobility Licensing Changes

Microsoft are making a big push with their hosted application offerings (BPOS & Office 365) but are also aware that many customers and partners base their businesses on 3rd party hosted solutions. In an effort to make that easier and more cost effective, the Redmond based company recently announced some changes to their licensing rule, referred to as “Licence Mobility”.

Essentially, these changes will allow customer organizations to deploy their licences in-house or hosted in a 3rd party datacenter. Not all products are covered with these changes, in fact, here are the products that are:

  • SQL Server
  • Exchange Server
  • Sharepoint Server
  • Lync Server
  • System Center Servers (note the plural – this seems to be any and all SC products)
  • Dynamics CRM

If these products are licensed with Software Assurance they

“can be run in service providers’ datacenters on shared hardware for that customer’s dedicated use”

Products that are NOT included are:

  • Windows Server Operating Systems
  • Windows Client Operating Systems
  • Desktop Applications
  • Developer Tools

Other Changes

Also, Microsoft are expanding the Subscriber Access Licences (SALs) for SA SKUs to cover Enterprise licences for

  • Exchange
  • Lync
  • Sharepoint

For more information, see here:

Microsoft Windows Intune: Online Systems Management

Microsoft Windows InTune is the new Cloud based systems management tool from Microsoft, formerly known as “System Center Online” and has been long awaited. The ability to manage multiple locations/organizations from one central, online point is attractive to a lot of people for a lot of reasons…so let’s take a look @ InTune.

There are at least 10 sections inside InTune so I’m going to cover them in a number of posts, we’ll start with – System Overview:



This is the first screen you see when you log in to the Windows InTune Admin Console and it immediately gives you a great overview of yours systems. It shows:

  • If Machines are infected/unprotected
  • If there are updates for your machines
  • A number of other alerts

Malware Protection:

From here you can see which machines have Malware protection turned off completely and also if they have overdue scans or specific parts of the protection, such as USB device scanning, turned off.

1 click takes you to a list of machines, from where you can turn on protection.


This, not surprisingly, gives you a list of all the updates that are available for you machines be they for the OS or applications.

One issue with this is that, as default, it shows you ALL possible updates:


however, these can easily be filtered:



Another problem I have noticed is that it wants to give my laptop updates for Office 2007, as well as Office 2010; oddly, this doesn’t happen with my other 2010 machines. I had a number of issues when upgrading Office versions and I’m inclined to believe that there are some Office 2007 remnants on the machine that are being picked up by Intune.

Should you choose to approve an update for a machine/machines, you then reach this screen:


Choose the groups on which you want to install the updates, click approve and job done!

I feel it would be a smoother experience and require less clicks, if you could see the machine names on the same screen as all the updates. Currently, you must:

  • Select the update
  • click on “x computers need this update”
  • Check the groups/machines
  • Go back to the previous screen
  • Approve Update

Showing the machines names/groups on the initial screen would remove a lot of that.

You can also access the updates via the individual machine screen, I’ll cover that in a later post.

Alerts by Type:

This section, as well as the above, also includes other types of alerts…not just updates and malware. This is where InTune starts to differentiate itself from other products, for example:


If I click through, it tell me:


That is pretty cool, and something that is very useful for System Admins. I didn’t expect InTune to cover things like this, certainly not in the beta, so I’m pleasantly surprised Smile However, you can’t initiate the defrag from InTune.

The 2 options on the right hand side “Create Computer Group” and “View a Report” will be covered in later posts.


This is a brief look at just the first screen of Microsoft Windows InTune but I’m sure you will agree that it already looks very interesting. So stay tuned for the remaining posts in this series (at least 9!) and ask any questions you may have in the comments Smile



Microsoft Windows Intune: Second Beta

Microsoft Windows Intune is a new product aimed at managing pcs in a new way. My original post can be found here:

Read Windows Intune

The initial beta was restricted to the US, Canada, Mexico & Puerto Rico and 1000 participants. Microsoft have now opened that up to another 10,000 users in the following countries:


To be eligible you need to deploy it to at least 5 machines and start within 1 week.

If you’re interested, go and sign up here:


The pricing of Windows InTune has now been confirmed for the States and it is:

$11 per user per month

That gets you:

  • Cloud based Desktop Management service
  • Anti Virus and Anti-Spyware
  • Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Upgrades

and, for an extra $1 per user per month, you can get the whole MDOP suite too. More MDOP info here:

Read Microsoft MDOP

Partner Features

Many partners will be looking to InTune to provide them with a new way of generating revenue, through the ability to remotely manage their customers machines. This will reduce the need to travel thus saving money on hotels and petrol and increasing profit margins. Microsoft have quickly, and cleverly, added in a new feature aimed at making this as easy as possible…the “Multi – Account Console”:

This will allow partners to quickly and easily see a top level view of all the customers they manage and, through filtering, spot those needing urgent assistance immediately.


There is already a lot of positive feedback on Windows InTune from the first beta, such as:

“I save about 40% of the time I used to spend managing PC updates, thanks to Windows Intune. It frees me up to focus on developing more custom applications—and bring on more customers”

“I think we could expand our customer base by at least 10-15 percent immediately”

“It accelerates their (customers) decision to make the move (to Windows 7)”

The Future:

Early 2011 will see the general availability of Windows Intune in the countries listed in the 1st screenshot above. It will then move to more European & Latin countries as well as “select” Asian locations.

I’ve signed up to the beta and will hopefully have some post following up on that experience soon.

The MS Blog post can be found here.

Microsoft VDI Licensing changes

Microsoft have made some changes to their licensing, specifically aimed at making VDI adoption easier and more cost effective.

VDI with Microsoft is done via VECD (Virtual Enterprise Centralised Desktop) and there are 2 types of VECD licence available, one for machines without Software Assurance and one for machines with SA, priced at:

  • VECD (for users without SA) = $110 per device per year
  • VECD for SA (for users with SA) = $23 per device per year
  • So, although greatly reduced, there is still an extra cost on top of a customer’s investment in Software Assurance.

    However, from July 1st 2010, Software Assurance for Windows Client will include the VECD licence at no extra charge; simultaneously reducing the barriers to VDI adoption and increasing the amazing benefits and ROI that Software Assurance offers…good work Redmond!

    Also from that date, machines without SA will be covered by a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licence, priced at $100.

    July 1st also gives customers licensed with the above the rights to access their virtual desktop from secondary, non-corporate machines such as home PC’s, hotel machines etc.

    Microsoft Licensing – Rental Rights

    Blockbuster And Microsoft ...

    Microsoft Rental Rights are aimed at customers who

    “rent, lease, or outsource PCs to third parties with qualifying Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Office software”

    and are designed to make this previously tricky situation much easier by helping ensure all parties involved are compliant with MS licensing rules

    “Rental Rights” are sold with, or on top of, existing volume licences and assigned per device. The rights exist for the life of the licensed device and cannot be re-assigned.

    They have been available in a limited number of countries for a few months but, as of January 2010, they will be part of the Worldwide pricelist. The will be available on:

    • Open
    • Select
    • Select Plus

    (so not available on Open Value, Enterprise Agreements or Campus/Schools)

    for the following products:

    • Windows 7 Professional
    • Office Professional Plus 2007
    • Office Std 2007

    Rules for Office

    There are a couple of rules changes once Rental Rights are assigned.

    Portable Copy:

    “You may not use or permit use of additional copies of the qualifying software on a separate portable device or a network device. This prohibition overrides any right you have under the license terms that came with your qualifying software

    Office gives you “Portable Installation Rights” which allows users to install their copy of Office on both a desktop AND a laptop. This is very useful for business users but, as you can see above, it is NOT permitted with Rental Rights.

    Rules for Windows

    Downgrade Rights:

    Always a hot topic when it comes to the desktop OS, the ability to use previous versions.

    “You may use a prior version of the software in place of the qualifying software only if the qualifying software was licensed under your volume licensing agreement, except for Windows XP Professional licensed from an original equipment manufacturer”

    So downgrade rights are available where the original software was purchased via Volume Licensing. The exception to that is OEM XP Pro (so that came pre-installed on the machine).

    Rules for both:

    Remote Access:

    “You may not permit remote access to the qualifying software. This prohibition overrides any right for the primary user of the licensed device or any user of a separately licensed device to access that software under the license terms that came with the qualifying software.”

    Virtual Machines:

    Rental Rights don’t apply in virtual environments…

    “In other words, the primary customer may not create and rent virtual machines.”

    How Rental Rights Work:

    Here are a couple of diagrams to illustrate the whole thing:

    Acquiring Software Assurance:

    Software Assurance (SA) gives users many benefits including version upgrades, e-learning, training vouchers and access to MDOP among others. It is becoming more and more useful to more and more organizations in more and more ways…and businesses that lease their machines can take advantage too.

    SA isn’t available to the “Primary Customer” acquiring the Rental Rights (i.e. the leasing company) but it CAN be purchased by the end user. So an organization that leases it’s machines on a long term contract can purchase SA on their own Volume Licensing agreement.

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