Versions, Editions, Downgrades Are Key to Microsoft License Compliance

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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

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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.

Enterprise Cloud Licensing Rules Clarified

Newly-published licensing rules clarify how organizations can reassign licenses to multitenant servers hosted by a service provider, an important option for putting Microsoft-based systems into the cloud.

Organizations that move licenses to cloud hosting providers should note important differences in the rules, because they will remain responsible for license compliance

By John Cullen, Directions on Microsoft

Use rights published in July 2011 clarify how customers can move licenses bought in volume licensing to cloud hosting providers. This “license mobility through Software Assurance” licensing option, a benefit of Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA) program, provides one way for customers to move Microsoft server-based applications into off-premises data centers hosted by Microsoft service provider hosters, who in turn can reduce infrastructure and management costs. The new use rights reveal important differences between licensing products on-premises, and licensing them off-premises with license mobility through SA. Customers and service provider hosters will need to study these differences, because the new use rights could mean that an on-premises software architecture would require additional licenses when moved to the cloud.

Moving Licenses to Cloud Service Provider Hosters

The new use rights were published in the July 2011 Product Use Rights (PUR) document, which repeats and supplements the software license terms of products with additional rights and restrictions affecting volume licensing customers. The use rights concern movement of licenses bought in Microsoft volume licensing programs from on-premises servers to servers at service provider hosters. Longstanding Microsoft policy allows volume licensing customers to move licenses for server applications from on-premises servers to servers located at a third-party service provider hosters, as long as the servers at the hoster are dedicated to (i.e., used exclusively by) the customer owning the license. In July 2011 Microsoft added license mobility under SA, which allows customers with active SA to move many types of server licenses to a service provider hoster’s multitenant servers, which are shared with other hosting customers.

Movement of on-premises licenses to a service provider hoster’s dedicated or multitenant servers are valuable options for customers who want to outsource management of Microsoft-based systems. When customers move existing licenses to servers at a service provider hoster (the cloud), this frees the service provider hoster from having to pay Microsoft Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) rental fees for those licenses.

Differences between On-Premises and the Cloud

Licenses moved to service provider hosters under license mobility through SA do not always grant the same rights that those licenses do on-premises. Some of the differences benefit customers and service provider hosters by simplifying compliance, but others limit the types of workloads that can be handled by the licensed systems off-premises. (See the chart “How On-premises and Cloud Virtualization Use Rights Differ” below.)

The most important differences concern the use rights for licensing multiple operating system environments (OSEs) on a server. An OSE refers to an OS instance running on either a physical or virtual server. In the vast majority of cases, a server will have multiple OSEs because it is hosting multiple virtual machines (VMs), each with its own OSE. Consequently, the license mobility through SA use rights for OSEs affect how service provider hosters may use VMs and virtualization to run software for customers.

The three major ways use rights can differ under license mobility through SA are as follows:

Fewer operating system environments (OSE) may be covered by a single license. If a license covers use of a product within multiple OSEs when applied to an on-premises server, in most cases it will cover only one OSE when applied to a multitenant server at a service provider hoster. For example, SQL Server Enterprise edition per-server and per-processor licenses with active SA subscriptions attached cover an unlimited number of OSEs on a licensed on-premises server (in most circumstances, under current rules). This difference can be significant for certain scenarios because, depending on architecture, the license(s) a customer uses to cover a set of on-premises workloads might be insufficient to cover the same workloads when reassigned to a service provider hoster.

Note that the right for SA customers to run SQL Server Enterprise in an unlimited number of OSEs on the licensed server will end when the next version of SQL Server ships,; thereafter each license will cover four OSEs.

If a single license covers more than one OSE when reassigned to a service provider hoster, the OSEs are not required to run on the same physical server. In the case of System Center Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) and System Center Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD), four OSEs are covered by a single license, but the OSEs don’t have to run on the same physical server as is the case with on-premises licensing. This could work in the service provider hoster’s and customer’s favor by easing one aspect of license compliance.

Processor resources an OSE can access under a single license may increase. A Standard edition processor license for SQL Server, BizTalk Server, or Forefront Threat Management Gateway covers only one OSE in both on-premises and cloud scenarios. However, when the license is applied to an on-premises server, the OSE requires more than one processor license if it is configured to use more than one “virtual processor”, where Microsoft defines a virtual processor for licensing purposes as one physical processor’s worth of computational power (which is a very different definition than the industry-accepted technical definition of virtual processor). For example, an OSE configured to use three cores-worth of computational power on a server with two dual-core processors has access to 1.5 virtual processors and Microsoft requires customers to round up and have two processor licenses. When assigned to the cloud, the same processor license allows an OSE to utilize up to four virtual processors. Assuming a service provider hoster uses servers with four or fewer physical processors, it wouldn’t be technically possible for an OSE to utilize more than four virtual processors and thus any OSE running the Standard edition of these server applications would always be covered by moving one processor license from on-premises to the cloud.

Customer Still Responsible for License Compliance

According to Microsoft’s PUR document, customers who use license mobility through SA “will be responsible for third parties’ actions with regard to software deployed and managed on your behalf.” So contracting with a qualified “License Mobility through SA Partner” and submitting a “License Mobility Validation form” detailing the licenses being reassigned does not absolve customers of compliance responsibilities or risks. For starters, a customer’s existing on-premises asset management tools and processes will likely require augmentation or modification to track license compliance by a service provider. Furthermore, in the event Microsoft audits a service provider hoster, the audit could possibly also involve any customer who moved licenses to the service provider hoster.

Resources

Options and rules for reassigning server licenses with SA to the cloud are detailed in “Changes Reduce License Costs for Hosting” on page 20 of the June 2011 Update.

Microsoft’s quarterly PUR document is available via a link at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/product-licensing.aspx. The July 2011 edition of the PUR details the expansion of license mobility rights for SA customers in “Appendix 1 – Software Assurance Benefits”.

Microsoft’s monthly Product List document, which details the license mobility through SA benefit (see the section “License Mobility through Software Assurance”), is available via a link at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/product-licensing.aspx#tab=2.

The SPLA home page, is at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/licensing-options/spla-program.aspx.

CHART: How On-premises and Cloud Virtualization Use Rights Differ

Details the server application licenses that have key differences between their on-premises licensing use rights and corresponding use rights when reassigned to multitenant servers hosted by a service provider.

Virtualization rights conferred by some Microsoft server application licenses can differ depending on whether the licenses are applied to on-premises servers or multitenant servers hosted by a service provider.

License mobility through Software Assurance (SA), a new SA benefit that applies to most server application licenses as of July 2011, allows customers with SA on server application licenses to reassign these licenses to multitenant servers at a third party service provider hoster. However, virtualization use rights are not necessarily the same when licenses are moved to the cloud. Among other things, the number of operating system environments (OSE) covered by a single license and the amount of processor resources an OSE can use under the context of a single license, can differ. (An OSE refers to an OS instance running on either a physical or virtual server; in the context of this discussion, OSE is usually synonymous with “virtual machine”.)

This chart lists server application licenses and key differences between their on-premises licensing use rights and corresponding licensing use rights when moved to multitenant servers hosted by a service provider hoster. Depending on the product, the results of moving a license to the cloud can vary significantly.

Note that the term “virtual processor” used in the chart has a specific meaning for purposes of licensing. A “virtual processor”, for purposes of licensing, is the equivalent of one physical processor’s worth of computational power (with a physical processor defined as a chip occupying a socket on the motherboard) which is a very different definition than the industry-accepted technical definition of virtual processor. As stated in Microsoft’s quarterly Product Use Rights (PUR) document, “Solely for licensing purposes, a virtual processor is considered to have the same number of threads and cores as each physical processor on the underlying physical hardware system”.

Products License On-premises Servers Hosted Multitenant Servers
SQL Server Processor license, Standard edition Each processor license covers one OSE; OSE requires more than one processor license if it is configured to use more than one virtual processor. Each processor license covers one OSE, but the OSE can use up to four virtual processors.
  Server license,Enterpriseedition SQL Server can be run in an unlimited number of OSEs on the licensed server, with no restrictions on the number of virtual processors used by any OSE. Each server license covers only one OSE, with no restrictions on the number of virtual processors used by the OSE.
  Processor license,Enterpriseedition If all the physical processors in the server are assigned a processor license, SQL Server can be run in an unlimited number of OSEs on the licensed server, with no restrictions on the number of virtual processors used by any OSE. Each processor license covers only one OSE, but the OSE can use up to four virtual processors.
  Processor license, Datacenter edition (Datacenter edition requires all the physical processors in the server to be assigned a processor license). SQL Server can be run in an unlimited number of OSEs on the licensed server, with no restrictions on the number of virtual processors used by any OSE. Each processor license covers only one OSE, and the OSE can use up to four virtual processors.
Dynamics CRMExchange ServerLync ServerForefront Identity Manager

Forefront Unified Access Gateway

 

External Connector (EC) Each EC covers an unlimited number of OSEs on a licensed server. Each EC license covers only one OSE per licensed server.
BizTalk ServerForefront Threat Management Gateway Processor license, Standard edition Each processor license covers one OSE; OSE requires more than one processor license if it is configured to use more than one virtual processor. Each processor license covers one OSE, but the OSE can utilize up to four virtual processors.
  Processor licenses,Enterpriseedition If all the physical processors in the server are assigned a processor license, product can be run in an unlimited number of OSEs on the licensed server, with no restrictions on the number of virtual processors used by any OSE. Each processor license covers only one OSE, and the OSE can utilize up to four virtual processors.
SystemCenterServer Management Suites Enterpriselicense (SMSE) Requires one SMSE server license per physical server. The license allows four managed OSEs on the licensed server. Allows four managed OSEs per license; however, it is not required that the OSEs run on the same physical server.
  Datacenter license (SMSD) Requires all the physical processors in the server to be assigned an SMSD processor license. The licenses allow an unlimited number of managed OSEs on the licensed server. Allows four managed OSEs per license; however, it is not required that the OSEs run on the same physical server.

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.

Microsoft makes changes to Select Plus – Improves Discount and Software Assurance Rules

This is the 2nd of a two-part series (the first part was out on April 1st) :    The Select Plus volume licensing program received two updates that preserve discount levels and ease license tracking and management.

Two changes to Select Plus will benefit customers by helping to preserve discount levels and making license and Software Assurance purchases easier to manage

Part 2,  By John Cullen

Initial License and SA Purchase Term Alignment

The second Mar. 2011 change alters the rules for initial purchase of licenses with SA so that the SA renewal dates of multiple purchases fall on a single affiliate anniversary date. This helps organizations to keep track of their renewal dates.

In Select Plus, purchases are made by the affiliate, a business unit or department within the organization that signed the agreement and that is allowed to make independent purchases. An affiliate designates its affiliate anniversary as either the date that it first registered under a Select Plus Agreement or the date it began using a licensed product. Until now, for orders of licenses with SA (called L & SA purchases) in Select Plus, Microsoft ignored an affiliate’s anniversary date when setting the initial term for SA. Specifically, every order for L & SA was required to include a full 36 months of SA coverage. This resulted in multiple orders of L & SA purchases that ended on different dates, giving the affiliate a large number of renewal dates to track. Microsoft mitigated the problem by aligning all SA renewals after the initial 36 months to the affiliate anniversary. This meant that the term of the first SA renewal could be between 25 and 36 months. As a result, initial orders of L & SA had staggered end dates, but their corresponding renewals made within the same year were aligned.

Under the new policy, L & SA orders will be aligned to the next third-year affiliate anniversary from the date of purchase. Therefore, L & SA orders made at any point during a year will terminate simultaneously at the next third-year affiliate anniversary date, and thus they will run from 25 months (for purchases made just before the anniversary date) to 36 months (for purchases made just after). SA renewals are then aligned for a three-year period.

This change improves and simplifies the SA purchase process by avoiding L & SA orders with different end dates for renewal. L & SA orders will align at purchase instead of waiting for alignment upon SA renewal. Customers will still need to consider timing when buying SA for a particular product; however, internal recordkeeping and renewal date tracking should be simplified.

More Like Old Select

With these two incremental changes to how Select Plus operates, customers will have greater ability to retain their discount levels as well as simpler L & SA and SA renewal asset management and tracking. These changes also make Select Plus work more like the Select program that it replaces, which will give organizations currently on Select more reason to consider the newer program. Microsoft’s announcement of the changes is at https://partner.microsoft.com/US/licensing/licensingprograms/ltvolumelicensing/vlselectplus.

 

About the Author: John Cullen is a Research VP at Directions on Microsoft, an independent publisher of information about Microsoft technologies, product roadmaps and licensing rules and programs. For more information, visit www.DirectionsOnMicrosoft.com

Microsoft makes changes to Select Plus – Improves Discount and Software Assurance Rules

This is a 2 Part Series:    The Select Plus volume licensing program received two updates that preserve discount levels and ease license tracking and management.

Two changes to Select Plus will benefit customers by helping to preserve discount levels and making license and Software Assurance purchases easier to manage

Part 1,  By John Cullen

The Select Plus volume licensing program has improved incrementally with two updates effective in Mar. 2011. One enables more companies to carry over earned discounts from year to year, and another provides more favorable terms for purchases of licenses with Software Assurance (SA) coverage, which offers version upgrade rights and other benefits. The updates make Select Plus more similar to the Select “classic” program that it replaces, and they will offer most customers better discounts that are less sensitive to purchase timing and that provide easier SA tracking and management.

What Is Select Plus?

Under the Select Plus program, customers license products at discount pricing based on the number and type of licenses purchased. License purchases yield points that determine price levels for each of three product pools: systems (mainly Windows), applications (Office and similar PC products), and servers. Of the four discount levels, A through D, level D offers the greatest discount.

Select Plus is aimed at midsize and large organizations with 250 or more PCs that want transactional, pay-as-you-go license purchasing. Select Plus offers the widest spectrum of business software of Microsoft’s volume licensing programs. Furthermore, the purchase of SA is not required with Select Plus license purchases, compared to other programs such as the Enterprise Agreement. (SA is Microsoft’s subscription-based software maintenance plan that provides version upgrades and other subscription services.)

Rollover Points for Discount Levels

The Select Plus rules for accumulating points from purchases have changed to enable customers to roll over points from year to year, which will lead to more favorable discounts and make customers less dependent on purchase timing.

At each Select Plus agreement anniversary, a compliance check is done by Microsoft to determine whether the annual points earned for each product pool still qualify the customer for their current price discount level. If the points are not sufficient, the discount level is adjusted downward by a maximum of one level (for instance, from Level B to Level A pricing).

Until now, points have not been carried over to the following year. Each customer’s agreement year began with zero points earned. For example, a Select Plus Level A customer who earned 600 points in year one (100 points more than the minimum threshold for Level A) would stay at Level A for year two and would need to earn another 500 points in year two to maintain Level A for year three. The excess 100 points earned in year one do not carry over to year two and are not applied against the 500-point minimum requirement for Level A pricing in that year.

Under the policy introduced in Mar. 2011, after an annual compliance check, points in excess of the minimum threshold for a specific price level (for example, Level A requires 500 annual points) are considered “rollover” points. These are carried over to the next agreement year. At each anniversary, the compliance check will account for any rollover points to determine whether the minimum threshold for the current price level of each product pool has been met. The Select Plus Level A customer cited above would need to earn only 400 points in the second year to maintain that price level, not 500, because the customer would benefit from 100 rollover points earned in the first year.

Unlike frequent flyer points, rollover points cannot be used whenever the customer chooses. Rollover points are always applied to the following year. Rollover points do not expire: If a customer does not select a year to use them, the points can carry over for a number of years. They will assist customers in retaining their current discount levels, thereby saving them money on license costs. This will also make discounts less sensitive to purchase timing. A customer who has already met a given discount level for the year will have no incentive to postpone additional purchases until the following year to help maintain the discount level for that year.

  Part 2 will be out early next week.

About the Author: John Cullen is a Research VP at Directions on Microsoft, an independent publisher of information about Microsoft technologies, product roadmaps and licensing rules and programs. For more information, visit www.DirectionsOnMicrosoft.com