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How Does Premium Assurance Differ From CSA?

How Does Premium Assurance Differ from Custom Support Agreements?

We detailed the new Premium Assurance in a previous blog post.  At a high level it looks similar to an existing Microsoft service called Custom Support Agreements.

They are very different beasts though.  Custom Support Agreements are where organisations cannot move off an older software version and take out a support contract with Microsoft.  They are typically expensive, not off-the-shelf and thus taken by larger organisations with complex needs.  They cover different products, are sold and supported by different Microsoft teams, have different objectives, business rules and pricing.

Premium Assurance is a standard add-on to Software Assurance and is listed in the price list.  It’s easy for customers to purchase, for partners to sell and for everyone to understand.

Will Premium Assurance spell the end of Custom Support Agreements?  Microsoft hasn’t elaborated at this stage but so far it looks like all existing CSA products in the market today will continue unchanged.

Premium Assurance

  • Software Assurance Add-on (requires SA)
  • Only for Windows Server and SQL Server starting with 2008 versions
  • All eligible servers must be included
  • Up to 6 extra years of support
  • Includes ‘critical’ and ‘important’ security updates
  • Available through certain volume licensing programs
  • Published prices
  • Sold via Worldwide Licensing with commissions paid to sellers
  • Discounts and price-protection for signing up early

Custom Support Agreements

  • Premier Support Add-on (requires Premier)
  • Software Assurance not required
  • Covers multiple products including Windows and Office but does not cover Windows Server or SQL Server
  • Typically last 1-3 years, not 6
  • Customer can cover just a subset of affected licences and pricing is tiered according to numbers
  • Only includes ‘critical’ updates but ‘important’ can be included sometimes for a fee
  • Bought when a product goes end-of-support; no discounts for buying early
  • Sold through Microsoft Premier and Services staff
  • Faster support through Premier-level support services and Technical Account Managers

Premium Assurance for Windows and SQL Server

Extend the Life of Line-of-Business Applications with Premium Assurance

I used to own an old laser printer which came with Windows 7 drivers.  It wasn’t the best printer in the world but I relied on it.  Try as I might I could not get updated drivers for it so with Windows 10 I was faced with two choices, keep it running on inefficient and possibly insecure Windows 7 drivers, or buy a new printer.  If I had the option to subscribe to updated Windows 10 drivers from the manufacturer, would I have taken that choice?  Probably; although shopping for new technology is so much fun.

On a larger scale, organisations often face compelling events that force an upgrade of machinery or software that they rely on.  Perhaps the business or product becomes more advanced and existing hardware or software is not capable of the required changes.  Perhaps it’s no longer possible to obtain replacement parts for machinery or support for a software package, meaning if it goes wrong and stops working, the very operation of the company could be at risk.

With software, it may not just be the line of business application that needs to be supported, but also the associated systems including the operating system and data platform.  If your application only runs on Windows Server 2008, you are faced with the choice of upgrading the application along with the business changes that would bring, or remaining on an unsupported operating system and risk exposure to new security threats or falling out of compliance with regulations.

 

Premium Assurance adds an Extra Six Years of Support

Premium Assurance (PA) is a subscription service from Microsoft that extends the product support for Windows Server and/or SQL Server versions by six years.

Under our current model, every application is supported for at least 10 years: five years of mainstream which includes feature updates and support calls; and five years of extended support for just security and critical updates but no hotfixes unless you have software assurance or a support contract.

Adding premium assurance increases that total lifecycle period to sixteen years.

 

Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle

 

Figure 1: Microsoft Product Lifecycle
You can always check the support dates for your products on the product lifecycle page at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search.

One thing to bear in mind here is the ten years is at the latest service pack level for most software.  When a new service pack is released, SP1, SP2, etc., Microsoft will provide either 12 or 24 months of support for the previous service pack depending on the product family.  When this period ends, that service pack or initial product release won’t get new updates.  So there’s already pressure on customers to keep up to the latest service pack.

If this all sounds harsh, it might be fair to realise how much additional engineering and support resources would be required to support every service pack of every version of every product.

Microsoft are not promising to support third-party line-of-business applications here, but the attraction of Premium Assurance is to provide additional breathing space to plan how to migrate off these older workloads.  Having the option for Windows Server and SQL Server means you’ll be covered on most key applications.

 

How to Obtain Premium Assurance

To see which servers a customer could cover with Premium Assurance, let’s look at an example server estate.

Example Server estate

Figure 2: example server estate of Windows and SQL Server

We have 9 licences of Windows Server 2008/2012/2016 and 9 licences of SQL Server 2008/2012/2014/2016.  We obtained these via three licensing programs: an Enterprise Agreement, an Enterprise Agreement Subscription and an Open agreement.  Some of our servers are covered with Software Assurance and some aren’t.

Rule 1: Only Enterprise Licensing Programs are Eligible for Premium Assurance

As of March 2017 when Premium Assurance arrived on the price list, licences obtained through an Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Agreement Subscription, Enrollment for Education Solutions or Server and Cloud Enrollment are the only ones eligible.

In our example estate above, we have six Windows Servers and six SQL Servers through these programs.  We can disregard the licences obtained through Open.

Rule 2: Only Servers Covered with SA are Eligible

Premium Assurance is sold as an Add-on to Software Assurance so a server licence must have active Software Assurance to be covered by Premium Assurance.  This narrows down our eligible servers to four Windows Servers and three SQL Servers.

Rule 3: All Eligible Servers Must be Covered by Premium Assurance

Once you have established the eligible servers, you must add Premium Assurance to all of them.  It is not possible to add PA to just a selection.  You can subscribe to either Windows Server Premium Assurance or SQL Server Premium Assurance or both.

Example Server estate coverage

Figure 3: Servers that would require Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance coverage

What do you notice missing from this example?  That’s right; any detail around versions.  Let me explain why that is important.

 

What Product Versions are Eligible for Premium Assurance?

Premium Assurance is not by version, it’s by product.  Our example server estate included a mix of SQL 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016.  We want Premium Assurance for the SQL 2008 specifically.  If the 2012 and 2014 versions are also eligible for PA then they must be included.  The earliest version of SQL Server and Windows Server that can be covered is 2008.

To cover a product version, Premium Assurance needs to be purchased before the extended support period for that version ends.  The figure below details the extended support and premium assurance purchase periods.  To ensure we have Premium Assurance support for SQL Server 2008, we must purchase PA before extended support ends in June 2019.

Premium assurance timelines

Figure 4: Support timeline by product and version.

 

Buy Early, They Pay Less

If Premium Assurance doesn’t start until the extended support period ends, why would a customer want to pay for it now?  It’s true that we’d charge customers straight away for a benefit they’re not going to get until 2019.  Doesn’t sound fair does it?  But it allows the customer to lock a low price for all future purchases if they maintain Premium Assurance and Software Assurance.  Once customers enroll in Premium Assurance, they are entitled to the original purchase price even across Software Assurance renewal cycles and even if the underlying base licence price changes.

There are four levels of pricing, expressed here as a percentage of the base licence cost.  The example shown below is for Windows Server Standard edition (2-core licence pack).  Prices are illustrative.

Premium assurance prices

 

Figure 5: Premium Assurance price levels by time of purchase.

As you can see there’s a 58% increase in price if customers wait until the last minute to buy Premium Assurance for Windows Server 2008.  Buying early represents 5% of the base licence cost and this rises to 12% from July 2019.

 

Removing Premium Assurance

You can stop Premium Assurance altogether if it’s no longer required (perhaps you have moved the workloads in question) and you can also reduce the number of Premium Assurance licenses as long as it aligns with your eligible server numbers.  Remember, all servers through the EA, EAS, EES and SCE that have active SA need to be covered; not just some of them.

 

What Product Editions are Eligible for Premium Assurance?

The Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Windows Server and SQL Server from 2008 onwards are covered.  SQL Server Business Intelligence Edition is not specifically covered.  Windows Server Enterprise editions are covered by purchasing two of the Windows Server Standard edition SKUs for each Enterprise edition server.

Specifically, the new price list titles for these offerings are:

SQL SERVER ENTERPRISE ED PREM ASSU
SQL SERVER STANDARD ED PREM ASSU
SQL SVR STANDARD CORE PREM ASSU
WINDOWS SERVER DC CORE PREMASSUR
WINDOWS SERVER STD CORE PREMASSUR
SQL SVR ENTERPRISE CORE PREM ASSU
WINDOWS SERVER STANDARD PREM ASSUR
WINDOWS SERVER DATACENTER PREMASSUR

 

How Will Premium Assurance Work Technically?

There will be a software package that customers install on eligible servers to enable the provisioning of updates to those servers.  What’s to stop customers installing that package on no-eligible servers?  Like much of Microsoft Volume Licensing, it will likely rely on customer trust and the occasional software audit.

 

To recap:

  • Premium Assurance adds an extra six years of support beyond the extended support of Windows Server and/or SQL Server.
  • Windows Server Premium Assurance and SQL Server Premium Assurance can be purchased independently and this applies to the 2008 or newer versions.
  • You need software assurance on these products to be eligible to purchase Premium Assurance.
  • The support offered by Premium Assurance is intended to keep the products secure and compliant.  It’s not going to involve features changes.
  • Premium Assurance became available from March 2017 through Enterprise Agreements and Enrolment for Education Solutions.
  • There is price-tiering to encourage customers to subscribe earlier.
  • You can add Premium Assurance at any time in your licensing agreement; mid-term or renewal but it must be for all eligible servers.

Per-Core Licensing FAQ

Windows ServerWindows Server 2016 (Standard and Datacenter Editions) and System Center 2016 will be changing to per-core + client access licence (CAL) when they are released towards the latter part of 2016.  We briefly blogged about the change earlier and we’re seeing a lot of the same questions so why not use that as an excuse for another post?

Why change?

The world is becoming cloudier and these licensing changes enable customers to operate more easily across on-premises servers and private and public clouds because we can just use a consistent currency of cores that simplifies licensing of hybrid use cases.  For example, a two-processor licence of Windows Server 2012 R2 on-premises today is translated into 16 cores of Microsoft Azure use right benefit.  If both of these environments are core-based it’s a nice easy transition.

Will I Still be Able to Virtualise with Standard Edition?

The case for licensing Datacenter Edition is for high-density virtualization, private clouds and hybrid cloud use.  The keys to making that successful are automation and being able to define networking, storage and the like with software rather than physically connecting network cables.  So Datacenter Edition will provide advanced software defined datacenter capabilities to make it the ideal for highly virtualized or private cloud environments.

Standard edition will not these features or will have them in more limited form.  Hyper-V is still included in both editions however and you can still virtualise in Standard Edition.  It will continue to be ideal for low density virtualized scenarios, including the use of containers and in some instances it makes financial sense over Datacenter Edition.

If you’re concerned that your solutions running on Windows Server 2012 Standard edition may not work after an upgrade, fear not; no pre-existing features are being moved from Standard to Datacenter.  Datacenter will be a superset and contain all the features of Standard edition.

Even though we’re writing about licensing in this post, we should cover a couple of Windows Server features just because they might affect how you licence.  Namely, Hyper-V containers, Windows Server containers and Nano Server.

Hyper-V Containers and Windows Server Containers

Historically, each server application would run on its own physical server; a 1:1 application to server ratio to ensure no conflicts with existing applications and workloads.  This resulted in a large number of physical servers, all typically with low utilisation.

Virtualisation of multiple applications onto a single physical server is now prevalent and we enjoy significantly higher consolidation ratios, greater utilisation and faster application deployment times measured in minutes rather than hours or days in a purely physical datacenter.  Plus all the benefits of virtualisation such as higher levels of redundancy and mobility.

There is however, a new and increasingly popular way to build, ship, deploy and instantiate applications: containers.

Whereas virtualisation is still 1:1 application to OS, albeit a virtual OS, containers can run multiple isolated applications on a single OS known as the control host.  And containers can run on a host OS which itself could be physical or virtual, so that’s fantastic flexibility.

That’s the difference between a Windows container and a Hyper-V container.  A Hyper-V container has a virtual host OS.   A Windows container uses the physical OS as the host.

With Windows Server 2016 Datacenter, you can run unlimited containers just as you can perform unlimited virtualisation.  With Standard Edition you are entitled to have unlimited Windows Containers, because they run with the physical OS as the control host.  Hyper-V containers follow the same rules as virtual operating system environments (VOSE) in that you are allowed two virtual control hosts every time you completely licence all physical cores on the server.

 

Virtualisation Licensing for Windows Server 2016

 

But why do we need containers?  What do containers provide that virtual machines can’t?

For the developers, containers unlock the ability to build an application, package within a container, and deploy, knowing that wherever you deploy that container, it will run without modification, whether that is on-premises, in a service provider’s datacenter or in the public cloud such as Azure.  You can also have complex multi-tier applications, with each tier packaged in a container.

Nano Server

So that’s containers in a nutshell.  What about Nano Server?  Is that a special edition for my granny?

If you are hosting lots of VOSEs, the last thing you want is for the host OS to reboot because that means everything I’m running on that host either needs to migrate to another server or also reboot.  You want to minimise what’s running to reduce the resources used and the surface area open to bugs and attacks. Yes, I used the B word.

Windows Server 2008 came up with Server Core which was a hugely reduced installation intended to just support specific workloads such as hosting VOSEs.  Windows server 2012 improved Server Core so it was more modular and you could install and configure the server and then switch into Server Core whereas in 2008 it was an either-or choice at installation.

 

Windows Server Core between 2003 and 2012

 

Windows Server 2016 goes further with Nano Server.  Just to give you an idea of the scale here, the charts below compare setup time, disk footprint and VHD size between the already trimmed Server Core installation and the new Nano Server.

 

Windows Server 2016 Nano Server

 

Now the big question here is how do you licence Nano Server?

Well, Nano Server is a deployment option within Windows Server 2016.  It’s included as part of the licensing of both Standard and Datacenter editions so there is no unique or separate licensing for Nano Server.  Good news.

Look Like an Expert with these Extra Facts

Q – Will the Core Infrastructure Suite SKU also be core based licensing?

A – Yes, Core Infrastructure Suite is a single SKU incorporating both Windows Server and System Center at a discount.  This will also be core based when Windows Server and System Center are released.

Q – Is the Windows Server External Connector available at the release of Windows Server 2016?

A – Yes, the Windows Server External Connector license will still be available for external users’ access to Windows Server.   Just like it is today, an external connector is required for each Windows Server the external user is accessing.

Q – How should I think about hyper-threading in the core based licensing?

A – Just count the physical cores.  Windows Server and System Center 2016 are licensed by physical cores, not virtual cores.  So you only need to inventory and license the physical cores on the processors.

Q – If processors (and therefore cores) are disabled from Windows use, do I still need to license the cores?

A – No, if the processor is disabled for use by Windows, the cores on that processor don’t need to be licensed.  For example, if 2 processors in a 4 processor server (with 8 cores per processor) were disabled and not available for Windows Server use, only 16 cores would need to be licensed.  However, disabling hyper threading or disabling cores for specific programs does not relieve the need for a Windows Server license on the physical cores.

 

Don’t Forget CALs

Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server (See the Product Use Rights for exceptions).

Some additional or advanced functionality will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL.  These are CALs that you need in addition to the Windows Server CAL to access functionality, such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions – we love to hear from you!


Windows Server 2016 Per-Core

Windows Server

Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2016 will be licenced in a per-core + CAL (client access licence) model.  This changes from Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 which were per-processor + CAL.

Whilst the main editions of Windows Server 2016 remain Standard and Datacenter (US spelling of course), another change is that Datacenter enjoys more features than Standard.  This was not the case with Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 when Standard and Datacenter had exactly the same set of technical features and capabilities.

The licensing rules in brief

  • All physical cores in the server must be licenced
  • Core licences are sold in packs of 2
  • A minimum of 8 cores per processor must be licenced, even if the processor has less than 8 cores
  • For a single-processor server, a minimum of 16 cores must be licenced
  • Only physical cores need be counted; hyper-threading has no effect on licensing
  • Processors that are disabled in the server do not need to be licenced
  • Licensing all cores in the physical server with Datacenter edition allows you to run Windows Server in an unlimited number of VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server
  • Licensing all cores in the physical server with Standard edition allows you to run Windows Server in two VOSEs (Virtual Operating System Environment) on that server.  You can apply extra licences to the physical server if you wish to run more than two.

Some examples

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Licensing

A bit of background

If you’re scratching your head about the minimum licensing requirement or even why Microsoft chose to change the licensing model at all, a little explanation may help.

The reason for requiring a minimum of 16 core licences per server is to keep the prices of Windows Server 2016 in line with the minimum licensing (2 processors) of Windows Server 2012 R2.  In turn, Windows 2012 required a minimum of 2 processors because it kept the price in line with the per-server + CAL model from Windows Server 2008 R2.

One reason for changing to per-core model is to align with a new benefit that will soon be in Microsoft Azure which will allow customers who have Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows Server licence to ‘lend’ that licence to the Azure datacentre.  So you would only need to rent an empty VM and upload your own Windows image instead of paying for an Azure VM which had Windows.  Azure compute units are based on cores so it makes sense for Windows licensing to match.

With Windows Server Datacenter edition, it gets even better because you don’t lose your on-premises rights and you can virtualise on-premises at the same time as on Microsoft Azure.  We’ll blog about that in more detail at a later date.

System Center 2016 and Core Infrastructure Suite 2016 (a single SKU combination of both Windows Server and System Center) will also be licensed in the new per-core model.

You can read this Microsoft datasheet for the official line.


Licensing Office 365 E5

December 1st marked two extraordinary launches: a brand new Office 365 plan called E5 and Microsoft becoming a Telco.

We described the key new features and capabilities in an earlier post and we’re going to concentrate on the licensing concepts in this blog post.

Some of the new features will be included via updates to the E1 and E3 plans.  Most of the new features will be included in the E5 plan with the exception of PSTN Calling which will be an add-on subscription.  All of the new features will be available as standalone subscriptions which will suit customers that don’t require all of the E5 functionality but do want one of two of the new capabilities.

This does mean that Office 365 E4 plan follows E2 in being discontinued.  E4 will remain on the pricelist until the end of Microsoft’s financial year, June 30th, 2016.  Customers on E4 will be able to renew it as E4 prior to that date but should look to transition into E5 or into E3 with the Cloud PBX add-on.  If customers want to maintain E4 functionality after June 30th, they can transition to the E3 plan and add the new Skype for Business Plus user subscription licence (USL) that was released on the 1st December.

Microsoft Office 365 Plan Features

Table 1: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange

 

How can customers licence Office 356 E5?

Office 365 E5 is available as a:

  • Full User Subscription Licence (USL) for new users
  • Step-up licence for existing Office 365 E3 and E4 customers
  • From SA USL for customers who currently own licences for and have active Software Assurance (SA) on Office and a Client Access licence (CAL) Suite
  • Add-on licence for customers who already subscribe to the Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS)

At launch, what you’ll see on the price list is Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing.  Office 365 E5 and Cloud PBX is available worldwide, however the PSTN conferencing feature is only available in fifteen countries from the 1st December.  Lucky UK; we’re one of those fifteen.  The remaining 191 countries (bonus points if you can name them all; I had to source from the United Nations) cannot enjoy PSTN conferencing yet so it‘s unfair to sell them full E5.

Where PSTN Conferencing is available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing and Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing
Where PSTN Conferencing is not available, customers will purchase Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing
At some point in the future, we’ll announce a single Office 365 E5 licence on the pricelist which is likely to be priced the same as the combination of E5 w/out PSTN Conferencing and the Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing licences.

 

What channels are the new plans available through?

Being a telco brings tax and regulatory responsibilities.  Microsoft needs to sell these PSTN features in the right way so whilst the Office 365 Enterprise E5 without PSTN Conferencing SKU is available worldwide and through all licensing channels, currently Office 365 Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing is only available through direct channels: the Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP) and direct Enterprise Agreements.

 

How can customers licence the new features as standalone subscriptions?

Table 2 lists the new standalone licences along with the relevant pre-requisite.

Office 365 E5 Standalones

 

Table 2: Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans with new or enhanced features highlighted in orange

 

How can customers licence the PSTN Calling Plans?

These are not available as of December in the UK.  In fact they are only available in the US but the UK should be able to enjoy this in the first half of 2016.

There are two PSTN Calling Plans: Domestic and International.  Domestic will have a set price per user/per month for 3,000 minutes of national calls.  The International Plan will include the domestic quota and add 600 minutes of international calls.  These quotas will be allocated to the organisation as a whole, rather than each user so a customer with 10 USLs for the International PSTN Calling Plan will have 30,000 national minutes and 6,000 international minutes.

 

What do the PSTN features include?

At launch, PSTN Conferencing includes the ability to advertise a national, non-freephone number (e.g. 0118 for Reading, 020 for London, etc.).  The person dialling into the conference will pay for the call charges.  Customers can also dial-out to a phone using a national phone number in order to bring someone into the Skype conference.

In 2016, there will be a consumption billing model, similar to Azure consumption billing, where customers can maintain a balance of monetary credit.  This can then be used to advertise Freephone numbers to conferences and dial-out to international phone numbers to bring people into the conference.  The call charges will be met using the consumption balance.

The same goes for the PSTN Calling plans.  If a customer exceeds their quota of minutes, or a customer subscribing to the Domestic plan wants to make international calls, the charges will be drawn from their consumption balance.

E5 and the PSTN features mark a very exciting chapter in Microsoft’s online capabilities.  Keep a close eye out for the release of UK PSTN Calling plans and the consumption billing in 2016.  We’ll continue to keep you up to date with blog posts.

 


Windows 10 – More Licensing FAQs

Microsoft Windows 10

Windows 10 was released on the 29th July and was made available in volume licensing on the 1st August.  The licence agreements are available on the Microsoft Volume Licensing documentation site (for software purchased through volume licensing) and the Microsoft Licence Terms site (for OEM and full packaged product, FPP).

So now is a good time to revisit some questions regarding the retail version.  For Windows 10 bought through Volume licensing, you can read the Windows 10 Volume Licensing Guide.

Q – Where can I download the ISO media for the free upgrade so I can upgrade several machines from a USB stick?

A – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10.  Of course this isn’t a free version of Windows to download and install but it allows you to upgrade several machines without requiring each of them to download the Windows 10 build from the internet.  You can also use it to perform a clean install if you have a Windows 10 product key.  Full instructions are given.

Q – When does a device cease being the same device?  If a faulty PC motherboard is replaced but the HDD remains unchanged will Windows 10 continue working?  We frequently re-install existing Windows operating systems to return to a clean test environment.  How many times will we be able to do this with a Windows 10 licence before the re-installs are blocked?

A – Typically, the motherboard is the critical mass here.  You can change the hard drive(s) and reinstall, change the video card, even upgrade the processor and Windows will still work on the device.  With the free upgrade offer, you must upgrade on a pc that has Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 already installed (except Enterprise and RT editions).  Once you have upgraded to Windows 10 on the PC and successfully activated it, you won’t have a Windows 10 product key but you will be able to perform a clean installation and select the Skip button on the product key page.  Your PC will activate online automatically so long as the same edition of Windows 10 was successfully activated on the PC by using the free Windows 10 upgrade offer.

You are also allowed to install Windows virtually on the device (but not off the device, e.g. on a network share as that becomes virtual desktop access and requires its own licensing).  Section 2d (iv) of the EULA (end user licence agreement):

(iv)    Use in a virtualized environment. This license allows you to install only one instance of the software for use on one device, whether that device is physical or virtual. If you want to use the software on more than one virtual device, you must obtain a separate license for each instance.

There are limits on how many times you can activate Windows over the Internet on the same device but if you ever hit that limit, you should be able to perform telephone activation instead.  There’s no activation limit enforced in the licence terms.  If you move a HDD containing a physical installation of Windows 10 or move a .VHD with Windows installed to another pc, it may work but you may also find that reactivation is triggered by the changes and unless the Windows licence is transferable you’ll be non-compliant.

Q – How will licensing work for people who build their own PC and would normally buy a retail version of Windows?  Is that licence going to be transferable to a subsequent build, or is the retail licence going to be limited to that particular PC [and if so, what’s the definition of “that particular PC”]?

A – You can still purchase the retail (FPP) licence of Windows 10, install that on a bare-metal pc and the licence will be transferable to another device (subject to only installing Windows on one device at a time).  Preinstalled Windows (OEM) remains non-transferable.  Now this does open up new territory for retail Windows; you can buy the retail version once, enjoy updates to Windows and when you want to upgrade your pc, simply transfer your Windows licence to your new pc without requiring an OEM licence.  It’s pretty tricky to buy a bare-metal pc from the major manufacturers however and OEM licences became a lot cheaper recently so that may not save much money.  Section 4b of the EULA details transfer rights:

b.      Stand-alone software. If you acquired the software as stand-alone software (and also if you upgraded from software you acquired as stand-alone software), you may transfer the software to another device that belongs to you. You may also transfer the software to a device owned by someone else if (i) you are the first licensed user of the software and (ii) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement. You may use the backup copy we allow you to make or the media that the software came on to transfer the software. Every time you transfer the software to a new device, you must remove the software from the prior device. You may not transfer the software to share licenses between devices.

If you are an OEM or System Builder, there remains the COEM (Commercial Original Equipment Manufacturer) product for just that purpose.  Windows 8.1 COEM licence removed the DIY (personal use rights) addendum so if you’re building your own pc for personal use, buying the retail product is the correct way to licence.

Q – How is the lifespan of a PC going to be determined?  If I have a PC with Windows now, will it still be supported as long as the hardware is still operational, or is there going to be a time limit?  Or just a drift towards bits of hardware no longer being supported which would result in being forced to upgrade to a newer PC [and a new Windows licence]?  Not everyone cares about the latest capabilities – plenty of people only use PCs to browse the web.

A – No time limit but you’ll find that certain components will become superseded and as such the minimum system requirements for Windows may change.  The Microsoft Product Lifecycle pages state:

• Updates are cumulative, with each update built upon all of the updates that preceded it.  A device needs to install the latest update to remain supported.
• Updates may include new features, fixes (security and/or non-security), or a combination of both.  Not all features in an update will work on all devices.
• A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (“OEM”) support period.
• Update availability may vary, for example by country, region, network connectivity, mobile operator (e.g., for cellular-capable devices), or hardware capabilities (including, e.g., free disk space). 

Q – How much will an OEM version of Win10 cost; a version to be incorporated into our instruments?  I cannot find any info on this.

A – There are new editions of Windows 10 called Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Core.  These are ideal for industry and embedded devices such as instruments.  They’re on the price list and you should be able to get this information from your Microsoft retailer.

Keep the questions coming!


Reimaging Windows 10

Confused people

A question on Microsoft’s UK TechNet blog: “Do Reimaging Rights also apply to Windows 10 Professional?  I’ve a customer using desktops licensed with both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.  Can I upgrade these machine and reimage them at a later time?”

The short answer is possibly.  As you can tell, we like to keep our advice helpful and in no way ambiguous.

So as I understand it, the scenario is that you have some devices licenced with Windows 7 and some with Windows 8.1.  You want to upgrade these machines to Windows 10 via the free upgrade offer.  In the future you may want to reimage these machines, for example to repurpose them or provide them to another employee.

There are some assumptions we need to make in order to answer this correctly as these subtleties make a difference to the rights and upgrade paths.  Firstly, which edition of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are currently installed?  We’ll assume they are Windows Pro.  We also need to know where you’re getting the Windows 10 media that you will use to reimage these machines.  Will it come from a Volume Licence (VL) agreement or will it be the media supplied via the Windows 10 upgrade offer?

 

Windows 10 reimage paths

 

Upgrading the Existing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Desktops to Windows 10

As we’ve discussed in How to Upgrade to Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (Home and Pro editions) are eligible to benefit from the 1-year free upgrade offer.  If your desktop machines are upgraded within that year they have a perpetual (but not transferable) licence for Windows 10 and they are able to be reimaged or reinstalled with Windows 10.

Using Windows 10 Media as the Initial Upgrade Image

The Windows 10 free upgrade offer is aimed at consumers and most people will initiate the upgrade from their own pc.  However organisations with Windows Pro are eligible to take advantage of the offer and are unlikely to want to sit in front of each pc to upgrade it so upgrade media will be provided as part of the free upgrade offer.  This media can be used on a machine (or multiple machines) to initiate the upgrade process.  The media image can be customised like any other Windows image, for example via DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) to include drivers, applications, etc..  During the upgrade process, a Windows 10 licence will be obtained from the Windows Store for the specific device.  The upgrade media is intended to be used to initiate the upgrade process from within a currently-activated, eligible Windows OS.  It shouldn’t be used as bootable media because the upgrade process validates the currently running OS to ensure it is eligible to be upgraded.

Using Windows 10 Free Upgrade Media to Reinstall or Reimage

As long as the specific device has been upgraded within the free offer year, Windows 10 can be reinstalled or reimaged on that device because the licence is tied to the motherboard, so even a hard drive upgrade is fine.  So in theory, reimaging using the Windows 10 upgrade offer media will be allowed but as stated earlier, the advice from Microsoft is that it can’t be used as bootable so that makes reimaging tricky.  Allowed: yes.  Technically possible: it’s not clear because the upgrade media isn’t available yet.

Using Windows 10 VL Media to Reimage

One key benefit of licensing Microsoft software under a Microsoft Volume Licensing program is the right for customers to use VL media to deploy a standard image of software across multiple licenced devices.  It doesn’t matter whether those devices are licenced under that particular VL program, an OEM or retail so long as certain eligibility rules are followed.  The main rule is VL media may be used to reimage devices as long those devices are already licensed for the edition and version being reimaged onto them.

As long as your devices have upgraded to Windows 10 Pro within the free upgrade period, you will be allowed to use VL media to reimage them.  If your VL licence is for Windows 10 Enterprise you must down-edition to Windows 10 Pro.

Get Proof

The Microsoft Product Terms document (a new document from July 2015 combining the Product List and Product Use Rights document) states “If a third party intends to re-image Windows on Customer’s separately licensed devices, Customer must first provide that third party with written documentation proving it has licenses for the software the third party will install.”  So to cover your backs in case of an audit, ensure you have proof that the current installations of Windows are valid.  With OEM, that should be easy as there’ll normally be a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on the device.

What if the Current Editions are Windows Home?

The Product Terms document states that down edition rights for Windows through Volume Licensing are from Enterprise edition to Pro (see the image below).  You cannot down-edition Windows in volume licensing to Home edition because they are different products and that’s against reimaging rules.  Therefore you won’t be able to use Windows 10 VL media to reimage devices if they are only licenced for Windows 10 Home (hence the big red block in the top right of our flowchart above).  Licensing is full of exception though and it is possible that rights to reimage by using a different version or edition may be granted in the EULA that came with your OEM version of Windows.

Windows Down Editon rights

One Last Point

The main points in this article are taken from the Product Terms document which hasn’t yet been updated for Windows 10 but as far as we’re aware the Windows 8.1 rules will apply, and the Licensing brief: Reimaging rights document from February 2015.  We’ve also included some information from Microsoft sources in the case of unreleased bits such as the Windows 10 media and as such, they must be viewed as unconfirmed.

We hope that’s clear but feel free to Tweet us or contact us if you have any questions.


Windows 10 FAQ and Licensing Video

Windows 10 screenshotThere’s lots of chatter about Windows 10 so we’ve posted a licensing call that we recorded for Microsoft which sets out the fundamentals of how Windows as a service will work, the editions of Windows 10, licensing Windows per-user instead of per-device and how customers can get the Windows 10 upgrade.

You can also read our earlier blog posts on Never Pay for Windows Again and How to Upgrade to Windows 10.

Some important highlights:

1 – Windows will be an evergreen service and devices on Windows Home and Pro will have Windows updated at no ongoing cost.

2 – Windows Home will be on what’s known as Current Branch which means those machines will get feature updates as soon as they’re released.

3 – Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise with Software Assurance (SA) will default to Current Branch but can be set to Current Branch for Business which allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months.  If updates are not deployed within that time, the OS will become unsupported.

4 – Windows Enterprise is the only edition where customers can fix on a specific release (known as a Long Term Servicing Branch).

5 – Windows Enterprise without Software Assurance (SA) will NOT BE UPDATED.  The update facility (Current Branch or Current Branch for Business) is a Software Assurance benefit for Enterprise edition, not part of the Windows licence.  So Windows will only be kept up to date for Enterprise edition customers if they maintain their SA annuity.

6 – Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices can be upgraded at no cost for 1 year after the release of Windows 10.  Windows Enterprise is not eligible for this free upgrade.

7 – The upgrade licence is tied to the specific device and is not transferable.  For example if you bought Windows 8 retail, that can be transferred to another pc but the Windows 10 upgrade cannot be transferred.  Within the first year, you would need to transfer the Windows 8 licence to the new machine and then kick off the free upgrade again.  After the first year, if the new machine didn’t come with an OEM Window 10 then you would need to buy Windows 10 in order to install it on that device.

8- There will be downgrade rights so if you buy a device with Windows 10 you will be able to deploy Windows 8 or 7 in its place.  This varies according to the channel you purchase through.

9- We’d love to get some more questions so please contact us if you have any that you’d like us to answer.

 

 


Windows 10 – How to Upgrade

Windows 8.1Microsoft would quite like to get a billion devices onto Windows 10 so if you could help they would appreciate it.

You’ve probably heard a lot of chatter about Windows 10 being a free upgrade and for many customers that will be true for the first year.  Microsoft has a Windows 10 free upgrade program geared toward consumers, however many SMBs will also take advantage of it.  That’s fine; if their devices will run windows 10 then Microsoft are happy for them to do that.  Microsoft will offer a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year.  After 1 year, you’ll need to buy a full-packaged product (FPP) or volume licence to install Windows 10.

There are things to be aware of for the upgrade so please read about the Windows 10 upgrade specifications.

Windows 10 upgrade paths

 

What do you notice from this eligibility list?  Windows Enterprise editions and Windows RT are specifically excluded.

Windows RT is likely being replaced with Windows 10 mobile edition anyway so more will become known on that in the next few months.  Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Enterprise edition are not eligible for the free upgrade offer so how would those customers acquire Windows 10?

Customers with Software Assurance (SA) on their Windows licences have rights to Windows 10 Enterprise through the software assurance new version rights benefit.

In the days when you acquired Windows Enterprise by buying Windows Pro + SA, your underlying licence was Pro but even if you stopped SA you could retain perpetual rights to enterprise.  In this case you could revert to Pro edition and go for the free upgrade.  That does involve a reinstall though so not a nice option.

Or you could buy Windows 10 Enterprise + SA all over again.  Possibly not an option which will be greeted by cheers.

Or you could go for Windows 10 Enterprise without SA and stick with the Long Term Service Branch.

Limitations with the Upgrade

The Windows 10 licence created during the upgrade is a consumer licence that is tied to the device.  The licence will continue to work for reinstalling Windows 10 after the free upgrade period ends but only on that specific device.  so if you need to replace the hard drive or do a reinstall for any reason other than replacing the motherboard, it will work.

For volume licensing customers, the licence created is not a Volume Licence (VL) and will not be in VLSC (Volume Licensing Service Centre).  Whilst there won’t be any differences in the end-user experience between the free upgrade and a new VL purchase of Windows 10, the licence is different.  If you buy Windows 10 Pro through VL, you could not use the image or keys from the VLSC to apply the upgrade for free to other, unlicenced machines.  At present the Windows 10 Pro Upgrade licenses will be priced the same as the existing Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade licences in case you do want to buy the full edition.

A couple of last points; even though customers on Windows 8 will get a lot of nudges to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will not force people to upgrade.  They can remain on Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 and the support lifecycle for those remains in place.

Education customers have the same criteria.  Upgrade goes by the eligibility of the device and installed operating system; nothing special or limited for education.

See part 2 of this blog post for information on how Windows 10 is becoming an evergreen service.


Never Pay for Windows 10 Again

Windows 8.1

Will Windows 10 be the last ever version?  Is Windows 10 going to be free?  Can you plan a surprise birthday party for a psychic?  Well, let’s tackle the first question here and the second question in our how to upgrade to Windows 10 blog post.

Never Pay for Windows Again

Currently, you might buy a pc and it will come with Windows preinstalled.  You’ve paid for the OEM (original Equipment Manufacturer) licence of Windows.  You’ll get feature updates and security patches from time to time and you can choose to install them or hide them.  It’s up to you (or you organisation’s IT policy).

With Windows 10, you won’t have a choice.  Windows updates will be applied when they’re ready.  So in a way, Windows 10 will be the last version because you will never have to pay for the next version of the client OS on the same pc; new features will just be installed.  If you need to buy a new machine, you’ll pay for the OEM licence as part of the pc’s purchase price and then Windows will just be kept up to date for the lifetime of the device.

You may be concentrating on the negative here that you won’t get a choice and must install new features.  Think about two huge positives though:

  1. you never need to pay for Windows again on the same machine and you’ll always have the latest version
  2. Software vendors and developers can almost guarantee that 90% of Windows users will have the same build

The second point there should make you smile if your pc has ever crashed or you’ve needed to phone support because an application isn’t working.  There are so many combinations of OS, patches, drivers, runtime files and versions around that reliability and consistency are devilishly hard to achieve.  Applications and peripherals should work far better if the manufacturers and developers can work to a stable and single platform.  Sounds a bit Apple-like doesn’t it?

Why is Windows Becoming a Service?

The world of software is changing to cloud aka software as a service.  With that change comes different release cadences.  If you’ve been in IT for a while you’ll be familiar with the terms 3.5 inch floppy, modem and three-year release cycles.  Office 365 has a monthly release cadence.  Azure enjoys weekly updates.  This is the way of the world; goodbye versions and hello evergreen services.  Innovation has become faster and users expect new features quicker.

What if I Don’t Want to Automatically Install Updates?

Microsoft thinks Windows 10 is going to have three demarcations of users: consumers, business users and mission-critical business systems.  For each type there is something known as a ‘branch’.

Windows 10 update Branches

 

Consumers will be subject to the Current Branch and will receive Windows updates as they are released.  Of course, they will have gone through extensive testing via engineering builds, internal testing, early adopters and the Windows Insider program beforehand so several millions of users will already have installed these updates.

Business Users will default to Current Branch but have the option to select Current Branch for Business (CBB).  This allows them to defer feature updates for up to eight months after they’re released to the Current Branch.  This provides ample time for testing, compatibility work and fixes and just to wait and see how the hundreds of millions of Current Branch users get on with the updates.  The updates can be deferred but they will need to be installed within that eight-month timeframe.  Organisations will be able to control and manage how updates (including critical and security updates) are deployed using tools such as System Centre Configuration Manager, Windows Server Update Services or a new Windows 10 service called Windows Update for Business.

Mission-critical systems such as medical, aviation, etc. have the option to deploy point-in-time releases known as Long Term Service Branch (LTSB).  These will not be updated with new features but will have security and critical updates although the organisation can manage and control the distribution of these updates.  LTSB releases will be supported for at least 5 years (10 years if the customers has software assurance).  New LTSB releases will be made available every two-three years and customers will have the option whether to install them or not.

In short, if you don’t want to receive Windows OS updates, you will need to be on the LTSB and that requires certain Windows editions.

Long Term Service Branch is only Available for Windows Enterprise edition

Windows 10 editions and update branches

 

Windows Home edition must be on Current Branch.  Windows Pro can be on either Current Branch or Current Branch for Business.  This means that both of these editions will be updated (CBB allows the updates to be deferred but only for up to 8 months).

Windows Enterprise edition is available with or without software assurance.  Windows Enterprise without SA allows the customer to deploy a point-in-time LTSB release, or previous ones (downgrade rights in other words) and for that release to still be supported for 5 years.  Windows Enterprise edition with SA also gives customers the rights to new LTSB release when they become available (every 2-3 years).  They can choose whether to install new releases or not.  SA also means the customer gains extended support so their chosen release will be supported for 10 years.

One important point to note is that Enterprise edition without SA will not enjoy updates on Current Branch either.  Customers with Home and Pro editions will always get the latest features for the life of the device.  Enterprise edition without SA will not.  The release that’s installed will eventually become out of date and the customer will need to buy a licence again to update.

Windows 10 Enterprise Edition with SA is available through all Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs (Open, Open Value, Select+, MPSA, EA, etc.)