Microsoft cloud and virtualisation licensing changes


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Microsoft first announced these changes in May 2022 and, after an update in September, we’ve now got the majority of the info in the October 2022 Product Terms document. Let’s take a look at what’s changed and what it means for us all.

First things first, the Listed Providers:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon AWS
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Alibaba Cloud

are not included in any of these changes.

Outsourcing Software Management clause

This is in the “Universal license terms for all Software” which means it applies to all products under this category. There are 3 new elements within this clause:

Flexible Virtualisation Benefit

The Microsoft wording:

Customers with subscription licenses or Licenses with active Software Assurance (including CALs) may use licensed copies of the software on devices, including shared Servers, that are under the day-to-day management and control of Authorized Outsourcers.”

This is similar to the existing “License Mobility through Software Assurance” benefit but doesn’t have the requirement to use an “Authorized Mobility Partner” -rather, you can use any “Authorized Outsourcer” partner…which is any partner that isn’t a Listed Provider.

While much of the focus here is on Windows Server, this new benefit applies to other products such as SQL Server too.

CSP Hoster

The Microsoft wording:

Customers with subscription licenses or Licenses with active Software Assurance (including CALs) may access their licensed copies of software that is provided by a Cloud Solution Provider-Hoster and installed on that partner’s devices.”

Dedicated device outsourcing

The Microsoft wording:

Customers may use licensed copies of the software on devices that are under the day-to-day management and control of Authorized Outsourcers, provided all such devices are and remain fully dedicated to Customer’s use.”

As I say, these apply to all Microsoft Software products and, as we’ll see, individual products may have their own additional terms.

Windows Server – license individual VMs

You are now able to license individual Windows Server virtual machines rather than licensing the underlying physical hardware. As expected, there are a few rules you need to follow:

  • Minimum of 8 core licenses per VM
  • Minimum of 16 core licenses per customer
  • Licenses must have active SA or be active subscriptions – this includes CALs used to access the Windows Server instances
  • Licenses can be re-assigned with the same server farm as often as needed.
  • 90-day rule applies if moving to another server farm/cloud provider

Windows 11

Customers with per-user licenses for Windows 11:

  • Enterprise
  • Education
  • VDA

install Windows 10 Creators Update or later in an Azure VM or a server that meets the requirements in the “Outsourcing Software Management” clause. The QMTH language has been removed from this section too, opening this up to the wider pool of Authorized Outsourcers.

Reading the terms, it appears that the restriction on local virtualisation with CSP licenses has been removed too – bringing them even closer to parity with volume licenses. The language now states that customers can install Windows in a VM running on their Azure or “a server” – which I read as including their own servers as well as those of an authorized outsourcer.

Desktop Applications

For Office/Project/Visio, the word “dedicated” has been removed from the terms which means hosting on shared servers is now possible:

Remote use of the software running on a Server is permitted for any user from a Licensed Device

Microsoft 365

There have been changes to the use rights for the Windows component of Microsoft 365 too. The previous language was:

rights to access and use remote virtualized instances of Windows only apply to Licensed Users that are the Primary User of a device licensed with a Qualifying Operating System.

While it now says:

Licensed Users may only run Windows Enterprise locally on devices with a Qualifying Operating System.”

Removing the primary user requirement to access remote virtual instances. Microsoft say:

Essentially, when licensed as part of Microsoft 365, the requirement to use VDA rights for remote access from desktops without Qualifying Operating Systems no longer applies

There is also a change for Microsoft 365 F3 to loosen the remote virtualisation restriction. The previous clause:

rights to access and use virtualized instances of Windows only apply to Licensed Users of a shared device with a Qualifying Operating System

has been removed.

Microsoft 365 Apps

There is definitely some further clarification needed here. Microsoft released a new licensing guide “Using software products under the Flexible Virtualization Benefit” this month and that document states that the Flexible Virtualisation Benefit applies to Microsoft 365 Apps (formerly Office 365 Pro Plus).

With the introduction of the Flexible Virtualization Benefit, customers’ options for using Microsoft 365 Apps…outside their own data centers are expanded to include any Authorized Outsourcer’s shared servers

However, I can’t find language which clearly states this in the current Product Terms, so for now I’d advise not to get too carried away! I expect we’ll see an update to the Product Terms soon to add that language in – but I’ll update either way once we see something from Microsoft.

Thoughts

This is all pretty exciting for a licensing fan like myself – lots of new language and terms and things to check and understand. Also lots of training presentations to update!

For customers though, I’m not sure how much impact this will really have. Yes, it enables organisations to work with a much larger pool of potential hosting providers…but, in my experience at least, most orgs that are struggling want to work with Amazon AWS…and they’re not included in these changes as they’re a Listed Provider. I’m keen to see what real world impact these changes have and who wins (and loses) from it all.

PS: I’m still processing all this new info so will update with corrections as/if needed!

Further Reading

New Flexible Virtualisation Benefit licensing guide

Windows Server 2022 licensing guide

Product Terms

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop – free


Microsoft have announced that their Power Automate Desktop product is going to be free for Windows 10 users. Power Automate is Microsoft’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offering and, as the name suggests, the product in question here is the desktop variant.

RPA is a rapidly growing hot topic within businesses as people look to do “more with less” and to use their time to drive and deliver real business value – rather than “busy work”. Typically these will be things like compiling information and creating reports – it needs doing but it’s repetitive (read boring) and doesn’t really need human input…certain things need putting in certain places at certain times. The repetitive nature makes it perfect for RPA – thing of an Excel macro on steroids – replicating actions across a variety of desktop applications and websites…while you do more important things 😊

This is an example of what you can do from Microsoft:

Automate tasks with Power Automate Desktop for Windows 10—no additional cost | Power Automate Blog (microsoft.com)

Power Automate Desktop will eventually be built into Windows 10 – it will start to appear in Insider Builds shortly – but for those of you as impatient as me, you can download it here.

I wonder if this will cause any other RPA vendors (such as UIpath) to launch a case against Microsoft for unfair bundling – like Slack recently did re: Teams?

Further Reading

Microsoft announcement

Download here

Microsoft Product Terms: October 2017


Microsoft have introduced a number of changes in the October 2017 Product Terms document – let’s take a look.

SQL Server 2017

Linux

SQL Server 2017 has been released, and the big thing is its support for Linux.

Microsoft point out page 29 of the Product Terms that “SQL Server Licenses are platform agnostic” and can be used on “Windows or Linux platforms”.

Machine Learning Server

The Product Terms also states that only customers with SQL Server Enterprise + SA may use updates to “Machine Learning Server for Windows or Linux” that are released after October 2017.

Additionally, for each SQL Server Enterprise core license with active SA, customers may run “Machine Learning Server for Hadoop” on up to 5 (five) servers.

What is “Machine Learning Server” you ask? Good question! It was “Microsoft R Server” and now, with the 9.2 release, it becomes “Machine Learning Server”.

For more info – head to this Microsoft blog.

R Server

The various flavours of “R Server” are being retired and so there are transition plans in place for those organisations with Software Assurance.

R Server for Hadoop

For each 1 (one) R Server for Hadoop license with active SA, you may renew SA for 2 (two) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

R Server for Linux

For each 2 (two) R Server for Linux licenses with active SA, you may renew SA for 2 (two) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

R Server for Teradata DB

For each 1 (one) R Server for Teradata license, you may renew SA for 6 (six) x SQL Server Enterprise Core Licenses.

SQL Server for Linux Promotion

On page 95, we see there is a promo running from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 where:

“Microsoft will offer a Linux-specific subscription license for SQL Server 2017”

and, unlike the regular license this promo offering will:

“allow use of SQL Server on the Linux platform only”.

I can currently only assume that this promo offering will be cheaper than the license that offers dual platform rights, but let’s see!

Microsoft 365 F1

This is a new offering, aimed at those “Firstline” (formerly Kiosk) workers, for whom Office 365 F1 (formerly K1) was intended. Microsoft are now looking to extended the features and benefits of Windows 10 and EMS to these workers too – hence an F1 version of the recently renamed Microsoft 365 bundle license.

There are a couple of key things to note:

“The Windows component of Microsoft 365 F1 operates as an Online Service” and does NOT have rights to:

  • Prior versions
  • Different language versions
  • Different platform versions
  • Lower editions of Windows (including LTSB)

Nor does it grant rights to access or use “virtualized instances of Windows”.

A Microsoft 365 F1 USL DOES grant access to Windows Servers, but is not a “CAL Equivalent License” for any other product.

A “step-up” from Office 365 F1 to Microsoft 365 F1 is available.

 

Visio Online licensing

There have been changes to the licensing here. We can see on page 5 of the Product Terms that:

Visio Pro for Office 365

has been removed and replaced by:

Visio Online Plan 1 & Plan 2

There doesn’t appear to be any further public info on what the plans contain etc. but, as it appears, I’ll be sure to post.

Exchange Online Inactive Mailboxes

A new license has been added to the Exchange Online product line – the “Exchange Online Inactive Mailbox” SKU.

The product name is fairly self-explanatory as this license is required when licensing inactive mailboxes. Again, when there is more public information, I will update with the ins & outs.

UPDATE: Microsoft have confirmed that this change WILL NOT be taking place currently. Although the SKU has been added to the Product Terms, it is not active.

Skype for Business Online Renaming

We get confirmation this month of the Skype for Business Online name changes:

Skype for Business Online PSTN Calling = Calling Plan

Skype for Business Online PSTN Conferencing = Audio Conferencing

Skype for Business Online PSTN Consumption = Communication Credits

Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX = Phone System

Education

We see that Microsoft 365 (the bundle of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 & Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)) A3 & A5 have been added to the product line-up.

There have also been changes to the Student Use Benefits:

Student Use Benefit

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