As well as the Azure Stack HCI news, Microsoft have also added Azure Hybrid Benefit (AHB) for AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service).
How it works
This benefit is available for Windows Server Standard and Datacenter (both with SA) and also CSP server subscriptions. Hosts must be Windows Server 2019 (and later) or Azure Stack HCI
Each Windows Server core license w/SA allows use of 1 virtual core of AKS. The AKS AHB is additive, meaning the licenses can be used to cover on-prem/Azure workloads AND to use AKS. You can see more info here.
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:
Google Cloud Platform
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.
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
Customers with per-user licenses for Windows 11:
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.
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”
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.
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!
Microsoft have announced a new way for Azure Stack HCI customers to license their Windows Server guest VMs. The snappily titled “Windows Server subscription for Azure Stack HCI” (WSSASHCI) allows organisations to purchase Windows Server licenses via their Azure subscription.
Currently the versions available are:
Windows Server 2022 Datacenter: Azure Edition
Windows Server 2022 Datacenter
Windows Server 2019
Windows Server 2016
Windows Server 2012 R2
WSSASHCI is currently free in public preview but once it hits General Availability (GA) it will be $23.6 per physical core (in your Azure Stack HCI cluster) per month.
Microsoft have updated the release model for Windows Server 2022. There will no longer be a Semi-Annual Channel, instead there will only be the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). A new version of the LTSC will be released every 2-3 years, and each release will receive 10 years of support – 5 mainstream + 5 extended.
They state the focus of the Semi-Annual Channel was innovation around containers and microservices and that this work will continue within Azure Stack HCI instead.
Extended Security Updates (ESUs), available for Windows Server 2008/R2 and SQL Server 2008/R2, were introduced in 2019 to extend available security support for 3 more years beyond the end of the products’ extended support periods.
It’s now less than 12 months until the end of the ESU period for SQL Server 2008/R2 and Microsoft have announced they will be providing 12 additional months of cover – but only for workloads running in Azure. This will also apply to Windows Server 2008/R2 – the end of ESU dates are:
SQL Server 2008/R2 – July 12, 2022
Windows Server 2008/R2 – January 10, 2023
End of support for 2012 Server versions
They have announced the availability of ESUs for the 2012/R2 releases of SQL Server and Windows Server. Extended Support for these ends:
SQL Server 2012 – July 12, 2022
Windows Server 2012/R2 – October 10, 2023
It’s now less than 12 months until SQL Server 2012 goes out of support so if you’re using that within your organisation, you need to come up with a plan to:
Microsoft have announced that Windows Server 2022 is in preview and will be available “later” in 2021.
According to this Microsoft page, new security features include “Secured-core server” and Credential Guard while it also brings interoperability with Azure Arc – the service that allows Azure policies to manage on-premises and multi-cloud resources – and Storage Migration Service, which helps connect on-prem file servers to those in Azure.
There are also several updates relating to Containers – all of which show Microsoft’s focus. Although this is a new on-premises server OS, it’s all about connecting to the cloud and enabling a smooth, hybrid infrastructure.
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s no sign of any changes to the licensing model at this stage 😁
Microsoft have been on a cloud push for 12 years now, since the launch of BPOS in 2008. They’ve been slowly “turning the ship” in various ways over the last decade, with the ultimate aim that as much of Microsoft is pointing at the cloud as possible. This is also a case of “trickle down (cloud) economics” – Microsoft are making their new direction reflect as much as possible within their partner base…and that change will then happen within Microsoft’s customers too.
Microsoft have made various changes to partner incentives, changed a few Software Assurance benefits related to training resources, and changed the Home Use Program – all aimed to drive cloud awareness in different ways. Their latest move is to retire all their on-premises server certification paths and exams related to the MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE qualifications that have been a staple of the Microsoft server world for years. The retirement date is June 30, 2020.
As you can see in this image from Microsoft, the recommended paths are now all cloud focused:
While not surprising given the focus on cloud, not just from Microsoft but across the industry, I do wonder if this is a little short sighted? There are still a LOT of on-premises servers in use and, with hybrid cloud being the de-facto way forward for most organisations, they will remain for a long time to come. Rightly or wrongly, this feels like Microsoft saying that they don’t care about on-premises anymore. I’ve seen MS people saying they’re still hiring lots of on-premises server engineers etc. and that may be the case, but this announcement will definitely be taken as a sign of their overall focus.
I’m often asked if Microsoft will continue to make on-premises versions of their software and, following this announcement, I can’t help but wonder if I need to rethink my answer…
Windows Web Server can only run web facing workloads but does not require any CALs (Client Access Licenses) which makes it perfect for hosting external sites. However Web Server is being discontinued in the next release but before tales of astronomical rises in costs as companies are forced to buy CALs for every single user of their service:
“Despite the removal of Web Server edition, web workloads running on a Windows Server 2012 edition will continue to receive the “CAL waiver” that is in effect for these workloads today. Windows Server CALs will not be required to access the licensed server if it is only being used to run web workloads”
Software Assurance Transition
If you have active Software Assurance (SA) on Windows Server licenses at the time of release for 2012, you will receive rights to the new versions as per the below:
What about SBS?
Small Business Server has been around for years, combines Windows Server & Exchange Server and is aimed at networks with less than 75 users. Now however it’s time has come to an end…
SBS has quite a thriving community built around it with many passionate advocates, most of whom are sad/angered to see it go. I on the other hand am really rather happy about it! I’ve always found it to be an extra, unnecessary complication when new sales staff/customers get involved with licensing. I realise I’m not going to be popular with that opinion and I’m equally sure that if I worked more in that area I’d have a different opinion but as it is, from the Mid-market & Enterprise space, this is a welcome move.
Microsoft SPLA, Service Provider Licence Agreement is, as the name suggests, a licensing program aimed at Service Providers. It gives them a very cost effective subscription based licensing model, allowing them to offer monthly pricing to their users.
Come January 1st 2011, there are going to be some changes to the Windows Server pricing:
Windows Web Svr
Windows Svr Std
Windows Svr Ent
Windows Svr Datacenter
Why is Windows DataCenter going up? Well, it’s actually going DOWN, as the current price is technically a promo that’s been going on for about 2 years