Versions, Editions, Downgrades Are Key to Microsoft License Compliance

Horwitz_Candid_2

This is a Part 1 of 2 by Rob Horwitz, Directions on Microsoft

Customers who acquire a license for a particular product version and edition may deploy an earlier version or different edition in its place under certain circumstances. These licensing rules, called downgrade rights vary not only by sales channel where the license was purchased but also by the particular product line, including which specific version and edition was licensed. Organizations that understand downgrade rights as well as other rules associated with product versions and editions can minimize risk by avoiding common license compliance issues and save money by averting unnecessary license purchases.

How Offerings Are Categorized into Version and Edition

Generally, when a customer licenses Microsoft software, the license is for a specific version and edition of the product.

Version

  • A version is a major release of a software product, denoted by one of the following:
  • A year (for example, Windows Server Standard 2012)
  • A release number appended to an existing version (Windows Server 2008 R2)
  • A sequential number (Windows 7, Windows 8)
  • A new naming designation (Windows XP).

In addition to new features and various technical enhancements, a new product version is often accompanied by changes to the product’s use rights, licensing model, pricing, or packaging (edition lineup).

Minor updates to a particular product version—typically delivered in the form of patches, security updates, and service packs—are usually provided for free. However, the right to use new versions, regardless of whether they are acquired via perpetual or subscription licenses, involves a fee.

Perpetual licenses, the most common license type, grant the purchaser the right to use a specific product version in perpetuity. The latest version of a perpetual license can be acquired through purchase of a new license or by virtue of having active Software Assurance (SA) on a preexisting license as of the date a new version becomes available to volume licensing customers. (SA is an add-on to perpetual licenses that offers version-upgrade rights and other benefits in exchange for an annual fee based on the underlying license.) If a new product version is licensed via a subscription rather than through a perpetual license, the subscription always includes rights to use the most recent version available, as long as the subscription is active.

Edition

Microsoft commonly offers several variations of a product (or product suite), called editions. Each edition offers a different collection of product features or use rights and is sold at various price points. When a new version of a product ships, all associated editions are usually released at the same time. Some editions of a product may be specific to a particular sales channel; for example, an edition might be available through volume licensing programs only.

Common names used for editions of client-side (desktop) applications or application suites are Standard, Professional, and Professional Plus. In the case of Office suites, the main differences between editions are which individual applications, such as Access and Outlook, are included and the presence of a few specialized server integration features, such as the ability to automatically archive Outlook data to Exchange Server. Common names used for editions of server software are Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter. What differentiates various editions of server products can vary widely depending on the particular product and product version, but common differences include technical features of interest to IT professionals rather than end users (such as scalability, high-availability, and security capabilities), use rights associated with virtualization, and, occasionally, the licensing model. Sporadically, Microsoft literature misuses the term “edition” to distinguish between the various Client Access Licenses (CALs) associated with a server product, such as the Standard CAL and Enterprise CAL for Exchange Server. (Directions considers this a misuse of terms because edition-related concepts, such as step-ups and edition downgrades, discussed below, aren’t applicable to CALs.)

Customers with active SA coverage on a lower-level edition license can exchange it for a higher-level edition license through the purchase of a Step-up License. The Step-up License fee is equal to the difference in edition license prices plus the difference in SA fees for the period remaining on the current, lower-edition SA term. (In the absence of a step-up option, a new higher-edition license would have to be purchased in full.)

Version Downgrade Rights

Version downgrade rights entitle the owner of a product license to install and run an earlier version and equivalent edition of the same product in its place; for example, allowing a customer with a Windows 8 Pro license to use Windows 7 Professional instead. By downgrading, a customer does not forfeit the right to switch to the licensed (more recent) version at some point in the future.

Version downgrade rights are important because Microsoft typically stops selling a product version once a newer version becomes available; therefore, buying the latest license and exercising version downgrade rights is often the only option for licensing an expansion in deployment of a noncurrent version. This is often important for maintaining standardized configurations. For example, today, a customer wanting to deploy a new server running Windows Server 2008 Standard edition would purchase Windows Server 2012 Standard edition (the current version) and exercise version downgrade rights. (Note that for products licensed under the CAL licensing model, if a customer downgrades the version of the server software, the CAL version need only match (or exceed) the running version, not the version of the server license. For example, if a customer with a Windows Server 2012 Standard edition server license exercises downgrade rights to run Windows Server 2008 Standard edition instead, clients need only Windows Server 2008 CALs to access this server, not Windows Server 2012 CALs.)

When downgrading, customers are responsible for finding installation media, although Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) site generally provides at least the two prior versions of each business-related product.

Volume Licensing Offers Greatest Flexibility

The degree to which version downgrades are allowed depends on the distribution channel used to acquire the license.

Volume licensing. For licenses acquired through volume licensing programs, version downgrade rights generally provide the ability to substitute any previous version. This applies to CALs as well—for example, a SQL Server 2012 CAL may be used to license access to SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008, or any previous version.

OEM and retail. OEM licenses for Windows Professional (and Windows Vista Business) generally confer downgrade rights to the two prior versions. For example, Windows 8 Pro licenses supplied by OEMs include the right to downgrade to Windows 7 Professional and Windows Vista Business, but not Windows XP Professional. Organizations that purchase PCs with Windows 8 Pro licenses and deploy Windows XP Professional in its place are at risk of license noncompliance. To remain compliant, the customer has a few options, including enhancing version downgrade rights by adding SA to new Windows 8 Pro PCs or purchasing new computers with Windows 7 Professional OEM licenses instead of Windows 8 Pro (an option that should be available until at least mid-2014).

Rules for other OEM licenses as well as retail licenses vary, with licenses for server software generally providing permissive version downgrade rights and licenses for client-side applications, such as Office Home and Business edition, providing no version downgrade rights at all. However, volume licensing rules allow SA to be added to many types of OEM and retail licenses within 90 days from the date the licenses are acquired (for example, to Windows Professional and Windows Server OEM licenses). If SA is added to such licenses, volume licensing’s more liberal version downgrade use rights apply.

Edition Downgrade Rights

The edition downgrade use rights, sometimes referred to as down-edition rights or cross-edition rights, allow a customer to install and run a different (generally lower-level) edition than the one purchased. Edition downgrade rights are provided for only a few Microsoft products—the most prominent being Windows Server and SQL Server. They are commonly used in conjunction with version downgrade rights to allow a customer to deploy an earlier version of a different edition of the product. One example is running a SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard edition instance on a computer that is assigned a SQL Server 2012 Enterprise edition license. There are two major reasons why edition downgrade rights are occasionally provided.

Edition eliminated. Sometimes Microsoft removes an edition from a product’s edition lineup. Since the company typically ceases sales of all editions of a product version once a newer version becomes available, buying the latest license and exercising edition downgrade rights (combined with version downgrade rights) is often the only option for licensing expanded use of an old edition. For example, with the introduction of Windows Server 2012, there is no longer an Enterprise edition; customers can run past versions of Enterprise edition (such as Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise) by acquiring Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter edition licenses and exercising edition downgrade rights.

Simplify virtualization. The second major reason for providing edition downgrade rights is to simplify licensing for virtualization scenarios. Often customers want to consolidate new as well as legacy server workloads by running multiple instances of a product on the same physical hardware, with each instance in its own virtual machine (VM). Higher-edition Windows Server and SQL Server product licenses (or sets of licenses) combine the right to run multiple instances of the software within VMs on the licensed hardware with edition downgrade rights so that customers do not need to be concerned with which particular edition is running within each VM. For example, a server licensed for Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and SQL Server 2012 Enterprise can be used to run VMs that are a mix of new and old Windows Server and SQL Server versions and editions.

Part 2 of Versions, Editions, Downgrades Are Key to Microsoft License Compliance will be out on Tueasday of next week.

Thanks to Rob Horwitz and Directions on Microsoft

Advertisements

Other Enterprise Agreement Choices

by: John Cullen

A traditional Enterprise Agreement (EA), commonly called a “desktop EA,” was designed to license a wide selection of products for on-premises use—especially desktop software and Client Access Licenses (CALs) for server software. This remains the main use of the EA program. However, to meet competitive threats and foster new forms of software delivery, Microsoft has, over the past few years, augmented the EA program to support alternative licensing models for some select products as well as to incorporate new online services. These three extensions to the EA program leverage all or part of the traditional desktop EA contract structure, with two implemented as separate EA Enrollments and one (hosted online services) leveraging the same Enrollment as is used for a desktop EA. (See the illustration “Enterprise Agreement Contract Structure” on page XX.)

Enrollment for Application Platform

As a separate enrollment under an EA, Enrollment for Application Platform (EAP) is another way to license server applications and developer tools, specifically SQL Server, SharePoint Server, BizTalk Server, and Visual Studio.

There are two major reasons to consider using an EAP rather than purchase the same licenses as Additional Products under the desktop EA. First, the EAP provides a way to add Software Assurance (SA) to an old server license. SA grants the customer the right to use the latest version of software and confers other benefits. Customers must normally purchase SA at the time of the original license purchase; the EAP is a noteworthy exception. The EAP allows a customer who previously skipped SA to upgrade server software without buying a new license. The second reason to consider the EAP is license cost savings. If a customer foresees a growing need for these EAP products, license acquisitions under EAP can provide savings of 15% to 40% on new licenses.

The EAP has minimum initial purchase requirements. For instance, purchases of SQL Server require a minimum of five SQL Server processor licenses, or five SQL Server server licenses and 250 SQL Server CALs.

When a customer starts a new EAP, the customer may choose between annual true-up payments (payment made at the enrollment anniversary for software deployed in previous year) and a one-time true up after three years. The annual true-up option works just as it does in a desktop EA. With the three-year true-up option, the customer makes payments at the time of initial order and at the end of the three-year initial term only. However, this option requires the customer to commit to a minimum 20% year-over-year growth in EAP license purchases and a commitment that at least 35% of purchases will be from the EAP premium offerings, which are high-end editions of SQL Server, BizTalk Server, SharePoint Server, or Visual Studio. To date, most enterprises have selected the annual true-up option.

Enrollment for Core Infrastructure

As another separate enrollment under an EA, Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) is an alternate way of licensing a server machine to run the Windows Server OS, be managed by System Center products, and be protected against viruses and other malware by Forefront Endpoint Protection. All three ECI options include Forefront Endpoint Protection plus the following other products:

  • The Standard ECI Suite includes Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, System Center System Operations Manager Standard Management License (ML) for monitoring, System Center Configuration Manager Standard ML for software configuration and inventory, and System Center Data Protection Manager Standard ML for backup
  • The Enterprise ECI Suite includes Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise, which offers a superset of the System Center licenses in the Standard ECI suite
  • The Datacenter ECI Suite includes Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter and System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter, which offers a superset of the System Center licenses in the Enterprise ECI suite.

The ECI Suites are sometimes referred to as “Core Infrastructure Server” suites, and they are licensed with a per-processor model. This is an oddity considering that some of the included products in the suites, when licensed separately, are under a per-server model. There is a minimum initial purchase requirement of 50 ECI processor licenses of any suite, and if a customer already owns Windows Server licenses with active SA, there are means to transition those licenses into an ECI enrollment. ECI Suites may also be purchased on a subscription basis.

The primary reason to consider purchasing ECI suites is the license cost savings: ECI purchases cost up to 20% less than individual product licenses purchased separately. An added benefit is that the server suites provide some compliance convenience for those customers requiring Windows Server, System Center, and Forefront security technology for their server infrastructure.

Online Services

Some Microsoft-hosted online services for businesses are available under a desktop EA, including Office 365 (which includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, and subscription rights to Office Professional Plus 2010 for customers’ local PCs), Dynamics CRM Online (Microsoft’s customer relationship management service), and Windows Intune (Microsoft’s PC management and malware protection subscription service).

These Online Services can be purchased as subscriptions under a customer’s existing desktop EA enrollment, or a new desktop EA enrollment can be started for the express purpose of licensing Online Services. Microsoft allows customers to either start new users with Online Services or transition existing on-premises users to and from Online Services. A customer may order Online Services through the desktop EA without the purchase of any Enterprise Product (Windows OS upgrade, Office Professional Plus, or the Enterprise CAL or CAL Suites); however, in this case the customer must initially purchase a minimum of 250 subscriptions for users or devices. Different program rules and requirements apply to purchasing Online Services, but these terms are now incorporated into the EA. For instance, customers can convert on-premises CAL suites into Online Services licenses per the license transition rules of the EA.

About the Author:

John Cullen is a Research VP at Directions on Microsoft, an independent analyst company and ICN partner that provides detailed research about Microsoft technologies and licensing policies. Prior to joining Directions on Microsoft, John spent nine years at Microsoft and was a senior product manager for Windows Server.

Did you know?…. Microsoft Licensing Gotcha’s

by Lisa Schick

Educating your architects and IT personnel on the proper use of licenses could help you avoid costly compliance issues.  For example on most server products it is within the license agreement to have an active back up server that is used only in case of a primary server failure but if you allow just one read only instance on that back up server you are required to pay a full server license for the back up server.

Servers and virtualization – Architects often think that when they virtualize servers they are saving money on the hardware but this can become very costly with software licensing.  For example, if you are using SQL server, you can run several instances of SQL on a single server but the minute you turn the server into a virtual machine, you are now are obligated to pay for a server license for each VM you are using.  So if you have 4 VMs running on a server you will need 4 SQL server licenses.  Sometimes it is more cost effective to “beef up” your hardware using higher powered processor, more RAM and faster buses to reduce the number of SQL licenses required. Here is an example: 

Single Server Example: License to allow 16 Windows Server VM’s to simultaneously run on a 2 processor server

            Buy 16 Standard edition licenses for the server

            Buy 4 Enterprise edition licenses for the server

            Buy 2 Datacenter licenses for the server (unlimited VM’s)

Multiple Server example: 16 VM’s that are moved between 4 servers (2 processors each)

            For maximum flexibility, buy one of the three options above TIMES FOUR

            Anything less will limit the number of VM’s that can be simultaneously run on one or more servers

Any Windows server touched by an external source needs to have an “external connector” license.  So if you have a web server running windows that accesses a SQL database, you will need to purchase an EC license for the SQL server and the web server.

When using the Sharepoint application, it is import to really evaluate all of the necessary functionality.  The Sharepoint foundations product is FREE when you purchase a windows server license.  You can often use the free version of this application and build the additional functionality using available tools or possibly purchase whatever added functionality you may need from another vendor at much lower costs.

You need to pay attention to scenarios where you have an application between the end user and the MS servers.  For example, if you are running an application that uses SQL server as the backend database, any person or device that access the initial application is required to have a CAL for SQL.

Lisa Schick is a Senior Consultant for ICN (www.dobetterdeals.com), a Winter Park, Fla., consultancy that educates Professionals on IT Procurement, Sourcing, and Vendor Management. ICN sponsors CAUCUS: The Association of Technology Procurement Professionals. Contact her at lschick@dobetterdeals.com