Blog Archive

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.)


Microsoft Azure RemoteApp Overview



Microsoft Azure Logo

We’ll cover a technical look at RemoteApp in an upcoming blog post but in this post we examine what Azure RemoteApp provides and how to licence it.

Why is RemoteApp Useful?

According to Microsoft, around 75% of employees bring technology of their own to work and nearly 30% of employees use three or more devices at work. These employees clearly want to access corporate resources from their devices. One way for IT to provide this is through desktop and application virtualization where the device is merely used as a ‘window’ to the user’s full Windows Desktop running remotely on a server somewhere. So a user could be sitting in their favourite coffee shop, using their iPad, viewing and interacting with their company pc desktop and applications.

There may be times when the employee doesn’t need access to an entire desktop session but just wants to run a business application virtually. Azure RemoteApp allows IT to deliver virtual application sessions from the cloud. If the distinction isn’t quite clear, imagine sitting in front of your pc or laptop and seeing your Windows start button, background picture and the huge amounts of icons and shortcuts on your messy desktop (unless you’re one of those tidy-desktop people). Now imagine doing exactly the same but from a different device, such as your home pc, iPad or Windows Tablet. You’re seeing your entire desktop and then you would run applications, etc.

Now imagine using your iPad, home PC or Windows tablet and you have a shortcut to a business application that you need for work. Your run that application and you see the application’s window on your device as if it was a native application installed locally. That’s RemoteApp.

You should now understand the first advantage; IT don’t need to virtualize and expose entire desktops, but just collections of applications.

Secondly, at the time of writing, Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) are primarily for hosting middle-tier applications. You wouldn’t spin up an Azure VM and pop client software on it and allow lots of users to remote desktop into it. Technically it can work but an Azure VM only includes 2 Remote Desktop Session (RDS) licences so any more than two people connecting at a time requires additional RDS licences. Azure VMs are good for hosting the middle-tier applications that client (front-end) applications will connect to. The front-end applications might be a Windows application or a web-based application.

Azure RemoteApp is designed to vitualise a client-application to multiple users from the cloud and all the necessary infrastructure licences are included, including all the RDS licences.

So could a customer deploy Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus onto Azure and deliver it virtually to users via RemoteApp. Yes, in fact here’s a nice little webcast from the Office team stating just that. Office on-premises is still licensed per-device and doesn’t allow licence mobility so Office licences acquired on-premises can’t be used for Azure RemoteApp service; it’s just Office 365 ProPlus.

We must be clear here about the applications that are supported; RemoteApp delivers applications running on Windows Server in Microsoft Azure. Applications must therefore be compatible with Windows Server 2012 R2.

Azure RemoteApp has a selection of pre-built application collections to choose from or IT can upload template images to the Azure management portal. Users obtain the appropriate Azure RemoteApp client for their device via http://remoteapp.azure.com. When they launch the client they are then prompted to login, where they can choose to authenticate with either their corporate credentials, Microsoft account (e.g. Outlook.com) or their Azure Active Directory account. After authenticating, the user will see the applications their IT Admin has given them access to and can then launch whichever application they require.

Each user has 50GB for persistent user data and because Microsoft is using RemoteFX technology here, users will get a great experience: applications will support keyboard, mouse, local storage, touch and some plug-and-play peripherals on Windows client devices. Other platforms will only support keyboard, mouse and touch. Local USB storage devices, smartcard readers, local and network printers are supported and the RemoteApp application will be able to utilize multiple monitors of the client the same way a local application can.

How is Azure RemoteApp Priced?

In order to get started with Azure RemoteApp, you will need an Azure account. Azure RemoteApp is priced per user and is billed on a monthly basis.

The service is offered at two tiers: Basic and Standard. Basic is designed for lighter weight applications (e.g. for task workers). Standard is designed for information workers to run productivity applications (e.g. Office).

The service price includes the required licensing cost for Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services but it doesn’t include the application licence, for example you still need an Office licence if you wish to use that. The bandwidth used to connect to the remote applications (both in and out) as well as bandwidth used by the applications themselves is also included with the service.

Each service has a starting price that includes 40 hours of connectivity per user. Thereafter, a per-hour charge is applied for each hour up to a capped price per user. You won’t pay for any additional usage after the capped price in a given month.  Azure RemoteApp billing is pro-rated per day in case you remove a user’s access part-way through a month.

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp

As we mentioned, you create app collections which contain the applications you wish to run and you can assign these collections to a set of users. Currently you can create up to 3 app collections per customer and each app collection will be billed at a minimum of 20 users. If you have less users, you’ll still be billed for 20. Hopefully this will change as it’s a bit of an Achilles’ heel for small businesses. RemoteApp basic scales to 400 users per collection and RemoteApp standard scales to 250. If you want to extend any of these limits, or if you want users to access more than one app collection, you’ll need to contact Azure support.

We must reiterate that the customer is responsible for complying with use rights of the applications they bring onto the RemoteApp service. This includes Office and as you can see at the bottom of this table, Office ProPlus can be utilized as one of the installs for licenced users and this is treated as Shared Computer Activation.

Most existing 32-bit or 64-bit Windows-based applications run “as is” in RemoteApp but there is a difference between running and running well.  There’s guidance on the RemoteApp documentation pages at azure.com.

So in summary:
• Azure RemoteApp is priced per user per month
• The service is offered at two tiers: Basic and Standard
• Basic is designed for light-weight applications
• Standard is designed to run productivity applications
• Each service has a starting price that includes 40 hours of service per user
• Thereafter, an hourly charge is applied for each user hour, up to a capped price per user
• No charge for any additional usage above the capped price in a given month


Licensing Skype for Business



Skype for Business

 

 

Cast your mind back to November 2014.  Kim Kardashian broke the Internet; the title of the seventh Star Wars film was revealed to be The Force Awakens, or was it Spectre?  Half the USA had quite a lot of snow and One Direction still had five members.

November also saw Microsoft announce that the next version of Lync would become Skype for Business.  Starting from April 1st 2015, admittedly a strange choice of date to make changes, the new client, server and online service are becoming available so what are the implications for customers and when are the key dates?

Everything Lync is becoming Skype for Business.  Lync 2013 clients are changing to Skype for Business clients.  Lync Web app is changing to Skype for Business web app.  Lync admin centre is changing to Skype for Business admin centre.  Lync Online is changing to Skype for Business Online.  If you search for Lync in Windows 8, it will return Skype for Business.

The first thing to realise is the Server is changing first; not so much the client.  Lync Server is changing but the client won’t be new until Office 2016.  However the client user interface will be changing from to reflect the Skype look and feel.  More on that later.

Key Dates

April 1st 2015 – Lync Online Becomes Skype for Business

May 1st 2015 – Skype for Business 2015 Server released (replacing Lync Server 2013)

Lync Online is versionless so only the name and SKU description will change to Skype for Business.  Lync Server On-Premises SKUs will be replaced with new Skype for Business SKUs on May 1st and these new SKUs represent brand new, versioned offerings of the Lync Server products under the Skype for Business branding, for example Skype for Business 2015 Server.  There will be some legacy media SKUs that need to retain the Lync branding for those customers on current versions.

As mentioned, the Lync client software won’t be fully refreshed until Office 2016 but through software updates, there will be some branding changes.

What’s New in Skype for Business and the updated UI?

Lync was called Lync because it was about linking and connecting people everywhere to achieve more.  Skype for Business has:

  • All the capabilities of Lync, both for users and administrators
  • An improved UI that takes advantage of familiar Skype icons and colors to simplify adoption for people
  • Multiple deployment options, including server, cloud, and a combination of the two
  • The security, compliance, and control features that enterprises require

Lync users will have no problem getting around the updated UI and you can see some screenshots on Microsoft.com.  And if you’re a regular user of the commercial version of Skype, then Skype for Business will seem very familiar: the Contacts list, presence indicators, buttons and icons, and even the app sounds should make you feel right at home.

Of course, all the essential Lync features are still there—like the Quick Actions buttons, which let you IM, call a contact and more with just one click or tap.

Skype for Business UI

There’s a lot of similarity between Skype and Skype for Business.  Skype for Business takes advantage of people’s comfort with Skype to make adoption faster and easier within the enterprise.

Skype for Business makes it possible to connect to anyone else on Skype, using IM, audio and video.  Even people who are outside of your business can get the same capabilities.  Doctors can communicate with patients.  Employers can interview candidates.  I’m sure you can use your imagination.  This integration includes support for Skype IDs and directory search within the client.  Video connectivity to the Skype consumer network was enabled back in December for Lync 2013 users.

And Skype for Business has the full set of capabilities that people have come to expect with Lync, usable from small screens to large screens.

The Skype for Business UI will be made available in the Office 2013 so existing customers who use the Lync 2013 client need to prepare users for migration to the new UI.  For click to run users on Office 365, the new interface will be enabled automatically.  Admins will have the option to use a policy setting with the Wave 15 client to retain the vast majority of the Lync UI if desired.

Be aware that for customers with mixed estates (pc and mac), they will need to deal with mixed branding for a while.  Not a huge implication perhaps as they already have to deal with mixed versions (Lync client 2011 and 2013).  The conversation history feature will now be consistent across devices.  Skype for Business is also not supported on Windows RT devices

For IT, Microsoft is offering on-premises, online and hybrid deployment options, all based on the same underlying Lync and Skype technology and all interoperating with Office 365, Active Directory and other foundational technologies such as Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Fabric.

Skype for Business Server 2015 has the same hardware profile as Lync Server 2013 for easier upgrade and most of the existing software and hardware solutions that are qualified for Lync 2013 will also be compatible with Skype for Business.  So current Lync customers can quickly get up and running with Skype for Business and keep their existing investments.

The new Skype for Business Server 2015 (on-premises) adds native interoperability with numerous Cisco Tandberg VTC models, a new Call via Work feature for leveraging existing PBX handsets and support for SQL Always On resiliency on the back-end database servers.

And both on-premises and the online service as part of Office 365 includes the ability to host much larger meetings.  Office 365 currently has an attendee limit of 250.  This will increase to thousands.

Three Key Features and Services Coming up with Skype for Business

First – Call via Work is simple PBX phone integration which allows users to make outbound voice calls from the Skype for Business client.  When a user places a voice call, it is routed from Skype for Business to the originator’s desktop phone.  Once the originator answers the phone, the call is then directed to the destination number.  The call recipient answers and the call is established with Skype for Business serving as the control panel.  The originator can manage their presence and call controls from Skype for Business.  Why would you want to do this?  Well, you may not have headsets and you don’t want to use the pc’s microphone and speaker.  You may experience better audio through your PBX desk phone.  You can also place calls from the client using any phone near you (like your mobile, home or hotel phone).  The person you’re calling sees your phone number as though you were calling from your company’s main phone number.

So if I start a call from Skype for Business client, my desktop phone rings.  I pick up the receiver and hear the other person’s phone ring.  They answer, I say hello and they say hello David, lovely to hear from you.  We can talk and if the other person is also on Lync or Skype we can IM, app share, transfer files, etc.

Call via Work is only available for the on-premises Skype for Business.  There are also some things you can’t do in this scenario including record your meeting, upload a PowerPoint, use video, Whiteboard, OneNote integration, polling or Q&A features.  And you won’t be able to add people to the call; this is a you-and-one-other-person call.  If you need any of these features, then you should set up a regular conversation that isn’t routed through your PBX desk phone.

Second – Lync Room Systems evolve into Skype Room Systems.  There will be a range of devices optimised for Skype for Business from hardware partners like Crestron, Polycom and Smart.  These will be built on a Windows 10 platform and available for customers in the Windows 10 timeframe.  Polycom also have a new series of solutions called Polycom RoundTable, purpose-built for Skype for Business.  The first device in this new offering is the Polycom RoundTable 100, designed for small and medium businesses and expected to be around $1,000.  Spoiler; it’s not round at all.

Polycom Roundtable 100

The Microsoft Surface Hub is a new large-screen device built for ink and touch, optimized for group collaboration and designed specifically for Skype for Business.  It delivers digital white boarding based on OneNote, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content to the screen from any device and support for Windows 10 apps.

Both the Surface Hub and RoundTable 100 should be available around summer 2015.

Third – the addition of Broadcast Meetings to enable very large meetings.  This is because it leverages Azure Media Services and it will scale to thousands of endpoints.  Attendees view the video and content and listen to the audio of the broadcast using any browser; no client or plug-in is required.  Social streams like Yammer can also be integrated into the attendee experience and Broadcast Meetings can be recorded and stored in the cloud.  The Broadcast Meeting scenario is delivered as a cloud service add-on.  Lync Server customers have access to new cloud services when they take advantage of unique Hybrid capabilities in Skype for Business.  Hybrid effectively opens the door to new online add-ons, the first of which will be the support for Broadcast Meetings.

When will the Skype for Business service support PSTN calling?

Well, Microsoft intends to provide two methods for customers to add PSTN calling to Office 365.

The first is to buy a calling service from Microsoft in the same way customers might buy the service from telecom providers like BT today.  Microsoft will begin offering this in the US in the 2nd half of 2015, then expand to Western Europe and beyond in 2016 so a little way off yet but at least there’s a name for the service now.  The first targets in Western Europe are Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain.

The second method is to use existing on premises assets including trunks from the PSTN or PBX systems.  Using this option will require the use of some on premises equipment, based on Skype for Business Server technology.

In reality, don’t expect much detail on either method until Microsoft’s new financial year (July 2015 onwards).

It’s important to remember that Office 365 E4 plan provides Enterprise Voice (EV) on-premises and cloud service for meetings.  It does NOT provide EV in the cloud.  By having E4 now, customers will be positioned to move to EV in the cloud at a lower cost via a Skype for Business add-on when it becomes available.

Licence Transition from Lync to Skype for Business

The transition from Lync to Skype for Business has different implications for the client and the server/Server CALs.

Skype for Business 2015 Server is a new version of the Server.  As usual customers without SA will require new Server Licences and new CALs to access it.  Customers with current SA on their Lync Server will have rights to the Skype for Business Server when it releases to the pricelist on May 1st.

Skype for Business 2015 client is not a new client version.  The new UI and brand are being released as part of an Office Product Update for the Office 2013 Pro Plus Lync client.  This means that customers without SA can begin using the new UI and rebranded client without acquiring a new licence for the client.  As mentioned, IT Pros have the option to not expose the new UI to end users and to retain the Lync 2013 look and feel via admin policies.

The next version of Lync/Skype for Business will ship with Office 16 in H2 CY 15.

Microsoft’s aspiration is to be “Cloud First” by the middle of 2016.  By this time, customers should be able to use the online service without sacrificing enterprise voice or other key scenarios.  Not every feature will be exactly the same but there will be the full set of scenarios.

Skype for Business Licence Stack

Resources

If you’d like some Quick Start Guides for Skype for Business, Microsoft have put them all in a bundle that contains guides in both PDF and PowerPoint formats.  There are five guides including Audio setup and making calls; Contacts, presence, and IM; Meetings; Video and Sharing and collaboration.

And if you still want more to read then here’s a selection of Microsoft links:

Lync Online is becoming Skype for Business

Skype for Business change management and adoption

Skype for Business client on Lync Server resources: Awareness and readiness planning

Skype for Business client on Lync Online: Awareness and readiness planning

Switching between the Skype for Business client and the Lync mode client

Discover Skype for Business (client Help)

SfB Training resources (Download Center)

 


Are Charities Eligible for SPLA?



 

Service Provider Licence AgreementFirstly, there’s no logo for SPLA so we had to make one up.  Secondly if you haven’t heard of SPLA it stands for Services Provider Licence Agreement; a way for hosting companies to licence Microsoft products and host them for their own customers.  You can read about it on Microsoft’s SPLA page and we’ll write a blog about it in the future because if you’re selling cloud such as Office 365 or Azure, you should be looking at SPLA as an additional revenue stream.

A question came up recently as to discounted academic pricing – are charities eligible for discounted academic licensing through SPLA?

Let’s investigate.  The first place to look is the SPLA agreement.  That includes a supplement catchily titled the Qualified Educational End User Addendum.  Paragraph 1 states:

“Definitions. ‘Qualified Education End User’ means a Qualified Education User as defined for various regions at http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/userights/DocumentHome.aspx or at a successor site Microsoft identifies.”

For Aardvark, see Aardvark.  We investigate further and follow the suggested link to come across the Microsoft Product Licensing Search website which provides access to licensing terms, conditions and supplemental information relevant to the use of products licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing programs.  The page actually says ‘quick access’ but I took the word ‘quick’ out.  In the document list you should find the Qualified Educational User Definition.  This document at no stage mentions SPLA however because the SPLA agreement says that education users are defined here, then we’re good to continue.

Section G lists Charitable Organisations which operate on a not-for-profit basis and whose aims are the relief of poverty; the advancement of education; the advancement of social and community welfare; the advancement of culture or the advancement of the natural environment as being included in the definition of Qualified Education User.

Definition of qualified education user

 

I imagine David’s Ferrari California Purchase Fund doesn’t count in this eligibility list.

 

 


Select Plus Retirement



Microsoft retires Select Plus

Microsoft Select Plus was introduced in late 2008 to offer customers flexibility, better asset management and a way to balance growing technology needs with predictable costs when purchasing Microsoft software licences.  Select Plus was for large organisations, above 250 PCs, with multiple affiliates that wanted to purchase their software licenses and services at any affiliate level (centralised or decentralised purchasing), while realising advantages such as discount levels and licence management as one organization.  Since the agreement never expired, customers didn’t need to renegotiate and renew agreements every three years as they did with Enterprise Agreements.

You may have noticed we’re talking past tense here.  That’s because Microsoft announced in July 2014, at the Worldwide Partner Conference, that Select Plus would be retired.  Let’s examine why and what’s replacing it.

Firstly, there is no need to panic if you have a Select Plus agreement as this has always been a phased retirement and a lot of effort has gone into ensuring you will get the best advice from your transacting partner.

The replacement program is the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA).  MPSA has been in the market in a limited form since December 2013, has gradually been growing in scope and will ultimately supersede all the current volume-licensing plans Microsoft offers across small, midsized and enterprise customers.

Microsoft volume licensing

 

The diagram above summarises the current volume licensing programs, whether they’re aimed at small (blue) or large (purple) customers; whether they require commitment from the customer in terms of covering all qualified devices or whether a customer can purchase as much or as little as they need through a transactional arrangement.  It also shows which agreements offer non-perpetual licenses (shown by the dots) and whether Software Assurance is a built-in component of the agreement (where the SA is shown in a circle) or optional (SA not in a circle).  All of the products purchased through these agreements have traditionally been installed on-premises but a relatively recent change is that customers can buy Online Services through the majority of these agreements too with the noticeable exception of Select Plus.

What does the Select Plus customer do, who doesn’t want an EA and wants to buy Online Services through a transactional agreement?  How did customers acquire Online Services before they could purchase them through their Volume Licensing agreements?  The Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement (MOSA) exists as an alternative way of customers buying their Online Services.

You might be thinking this is sounding rather complex and fragmented.  If you are, you’ve hit the nail on the head and that’s why the MPSA was introduced.  A single, simplified agreement to purchase Online Services, Software and Software Assurance so you decide how and when you license Online Services and Software.

Transactional purchasing rules through the MPSA are just like Select Plus.  Customers can make transactional purchases of software licences only or licence and Software Assurance.  However, unlike Select Plus, customers can also purchase Online Services and work with multiple partners under a single account.  The chart  (click to enlarge) summarises the differences and for a comprehensive comparison of Select Plus vs the MPSA you can download this guide.

MPSA vs Select plus

 

 

 

 

The most recent change to MPSA was March 1st 2015 when it was expanded to include not just commercial customers but also government and academic customers too.  And in the near future you can expect to see MPSA including committed offerings as well as offerings for smaller customers.  The diagram below shows how MPSA fits into our volume licensing pattern for 2015.

Volume licensing with MPSA

 

You can see why we’ve called this a phased approach and figure 3 provides an approximate timeline of where the MPSA is headed; a complete transformation of the Microsoft Volume Licensing programs to encompass enterprise customers and small/midsized customers through the Open programs.

Microsoft MPSA roadmpa

 

You can read more about the MPSA on the main Microsoft site but now you know why Select Plus is being retired and what is replacing it, let’s look at the critical dates for commercial customers.

July 1st 2015 – Select Plus will no longer be available for new commercial customer agreements and the MPSA will be offered in its place.  Customers with an existing Select Plus agreement can continue to renew their Select Plus agreement after this date or choose to migrate to the MPSA and maintain their current Select Plus price level.

July 1st 2016 – Commercial customers with existing Select Plus agreements will no longer be able to renew Software Assurance through Select Plus agreements, or make new purchases through their existing Select Plus agreements after the next agreement anniversary.  All future purchases will be moved to the MPSA.  Customers will continue to have full rights and access to all software and Software Assurance acquired under Select Plus.

One point to emphasise is as of March 2015 the MPSA does not replace the Enterprise Agreement (EA) or the Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES), so if you have either of those, you should continue to license through these agreements.  Also note that Government and Academic customers purchasing through existing framework agreements or the Government Partner model should continue to do so as neither of these options will be supported through the MPSA at launch for Government and Academic customers in March 2015.

Finally, although most Select Plus customers should now look towards the MPSA, how might the Enterprise Agreement fit with the MPSA?  Customers with an existing EA or EES should continue to purchase through this agreement as this currently remains best option for committed licensing.  Should you want to make transactional purchases of Online Services, software licenses (with or without Software Assurance) or to renew Software Assurance, then we’d suggest purchasing through the MPSA.  Customers with an existing EA can sign an MPSA if they need a transactional option for purchasing in conjunction with their EA.

You can keep up to date on the Select Plus retirement via the Microsoft site and for more information on the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement, contact your Microsoft partner.


Buy-out Subscription Licences



Microsoft Volume Licensing Logo

One of the customers during a recent Microsoft Volume Licensing training event asked for some clarification around their Enterprise Agreement Subscription (EAS).  As the name suggest, EAS licences are non-perpetual, the customer only rents them so at the end of the agreement term, typically 3 years, the customer can either renew the agreement, uninstall the software or buy-out the subscription licences to make them perpetual.

There are two categories of product within the agreement; enterprise (or platform) products and additional products.  The enterprise products are so-called because they must be taken enterprise-wide – every qualified device must have a licence so if the customer wants to licence Windows 8.1 through their EAS, every qualified device the customer owns must be included, they couldn’t just licence 100 out of 500 pcs.

The agreement states that should a customer wish to buy-out their subscription licences, all enterprise products must be bought-out and additional products, such as SQL Server can be bought-out as required.  But many people interpret this as the enterprise products must be bought-out in order to buy-out the additional products.

The best place to check is the agreement document itself.  Take a look at the Corporate “Enterprise Subscription Enrollment” form that is signed for EAS customers and section 6 (End of Enrollment term and termination) states “If Enrolled Affiliate elects not to renew” and then goes on to offer the buy-out option “(i) Subscription Licenses buy-out. Enrolled Affiliate may elect to obtain perpetual Licenses as described in the Section titled ‘Buy-out option’ for Licenses in which a buy-out is available.”

The Buy-out clause (Section 2, paragraph g, clause v) details that

“The buy-out order must include Subscription Licenses for:

(1) Qualified Devices and Qualified Users added during the final year of the Enrollment term; and

(2) any Additional Products used by Enrolled Affiliate for which it has not yet placed an order; and

(3) either of (sic) both of the following:

1) for all Enterprise Products which allow buy-out, the number of perpetual Licenses equal to the total number of Enrolled Affiliate’s current Qualified Devices or Qualified Users for such Products, and/or

2) For Additional Products, the number of perpetual Licenses Enrolled Affiliate elects to obtain.”

Firstly it looks like there’s a mistake in the form on part 3 and it should say either or both of the following.  So if a customer wants to buy out any of the enterprise (platform) products then they must buy-out all of those products.  However they can instead buy out just additional products and there’s no need to buy out the complete order of additional products.

Finally, how do you know which products are enterprise and which are additional?  Check the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product List or attend one of our Licensing Training Courses.


SQL Server 2014 Licence Key



We had a question via a comment on one of our SQL Server 2014 blog posts.  It’s a little hard to answer because it lacks specific details such as part number and reseller but we like to try to answer questions.

“my company have bought 1 license sql 2014 and cd i download from website. during setup i need to insert product key. how to i get the license?”

Thanks for your query.  There are a few factors to consider which will help establish an answer:

1 – What website did you buy SQL 2014 from?  Was it a reputable reseller such as Insight or Ebuyer?  If you purchased the software through a site such as eBay, it may be that you were sold a pirated copy.
2 – What product did you buy?  Did you buy SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition Server licence or a SQL Server 2014 client access licence (CAL) or the SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition?  The price you paid (assuming it was from a legitimate reseller) will give you a clue; the standard server product with 10 CALs would be around £2,500-£3,000 whereas the developer edition would be around £50.

If you did purchase from a legitimate reseller, and was shipped a DVD in a box, then this is classed as full packaged product (FPP) and the product key to use on installation will typically be on a sticker on the DVD case.  It will be 25 alphanumeric characters in the form xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx.

In any case, your first port of call for help could either be the reseller you purchased this from or Microsoft support who can both advise you if the product is legal and legitimate and help you with the installation.  They can be reached on (+44) 344 800 2400.  You can also log a web support incident via Microsoft’s support page.

You can download a white paper on licensing Microsoft SQL Server or of course look into attending one of our licensing courses.


Windows Per-User Licensing



We recently wrote a blog for Microsoft explaining the new Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS).  ECS includes a licence called Windows SA per-user.  You can read the post on the Microsoft UK Volume Licensing site.  In this post, I want to delve a little deeper into how Windows licensing can work on a per-user basis.

Windows and Office have historically been licenced per-device; the machine you use these on had to have a licence.  Software Assurance provided a little bit of flexibility by allowing roaming rights in which the primary user of a licenced device could access the software from outside of the work domain (e.g. at home).  However, mobility is the new norm.  People work on lots of devices and in lots of locations and licensing software per-device is very limiting in these instances.  Office 365 has seen enormous success with per-user licensing (overtaking the number of seats of traditional Office 2013) and Windows 8.1 can now also offer a similar flexibility.

Let’s cover some facts first:

  1. Per-device licensing is not going away and there are myriad cases where it’s preferable; for example libraries, hospitals, warehouses, etc. where many people use the same device.
  2. Office 365 allows 5 local installations of the full Office applications for the licensed user.  Windows per-user allows the user to install Windows 8.1 on an unlimited number of devices for their own use, subject to some pre-requisites which I’ll detail in this blog post.
  3. Windows per-user is not a cloud based service like Office 365.  It can therefore enjoy downgrade rights so the user could install Windows 7 in place of Windows 8.1 for example.
  4. Windows per-user is a subscription licence.  If the subscription is not continued, the licence expires and Windows must be uninstalled.  Whether there’s a mechanism to check for the subscription and remove functionality as there is with Office 365, I don’t know at the moment.
  5. Windows per-user is only available through Enterprise Agreements at the moment so it’s not a case of popping to PC World and buying Windows 8.1 per-user I’m afraid.

I’ll start by looking at some current scenarios.  That will highlight some limitations which ECS can address.

Windows 8.1 is licenced per-device.

Anyone at all can use Windows on the device, anywhere at all (e.g. at work or at home).  It helps to have the device-owner’s permission but that’s just politeness and not a licensing requirement.

Windows 8.1 licenced per device

Running Windows 8.1 virtually.

Many organisations utilise virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) whereby the client OS is not locally installed on the licenced device but stored on a network server and then remotely accessed by the user.  If the Windows 8.1 licence for the device includes Software Assurance (SA), these virtual rights, known as Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) come as a benefit of the SA.  In this way, a user can access a virtual Windows desktop through VDI from a licenced Windows device.  This is fairly simple if the device is corporate-owned, for example, a laptop provided by the company for the user.  If the user wants to use their own (or a 3rd party) device to access their virtual Windows desktop, SA provides roaming rights to the primary user so they can access their desktop from outside work but 3rd party devices cannot be used to access virtual Windows desktops from within the corporate network, i.e. at work.  The primary user is defined as being the person who uses a pc for more than half the time in any 90-day period.  Let’s mention a few scenarios: the user can use their main work desktop pc whilst in the office; they can also access a virtual Windows desktop from their personal pc at home using VDI; they could also use a corporate laptop to access a virtual Windows desktop both at work and outside work (as long as the laptop is also licenced for Windows); they could not however bring their personal devices into work and access a virtual Windows desktop.  I can sense you’re frowning so time for an illustration.

Windows 8.1 VDI licensing scenarios

In summary:

  1. Anyone can use Windows 8.1 locally on a licenced device, anywhere, no matter who owns the device.
  2. To use Windows virtually, the user must be a primary user of a device licenced with Windows 8.1 + SA and furthermore if the device on which the virtual desktop is being accessed is not owned by the company with the Windows 8.1 SA licence, it must be used outside the workplace.

Windows 8.1 licenced per-user still requires a licenced device.

Windows per-user isn’t exactly a case of licensing a user.  The user must already be the primary user of a device already licenced with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro.  Then that user is eligible to be licenced for Windows 8.1 per-user.  What if the user doesn’t have a primary device that is already licenced with Windows Pro?  There is an alternative called Windows VDA per-user which negates the requirement for a licenced device but as you can imagine is priced higher because Microsoft can’t count on the underlying Windows licence.  So we end up with two choices: Windows SA per-user or Windows VDA per-user.

Ways to obtain Windows per-user

Whichever way you choose, the licensing benefits are the same.  Firstly, it gets around the ‘cannot bring a 3rd party device into work and access Windows’ restriction.  Secondly it allows the licenced user to install Windows 8.1 onto any number of devices.  Yes, that’s pretty generous isn’t it?  I mentioned in the facts at the start of this post there are some pre-requisites and the condition for installing Windows is that on devices with a screen size of 10.1″ and above, there must already be a Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro licence.  Even if the device already has a Windows 8.1 Pro licence, Windows per-user allows you to install Windows 8.1 Enterprise and you can access virtual Windows desktops from inside and outside work.  Time for a final illustration.

Running Windows when licenced per-user

That’s a lot of green and green is good unless we’re drinking milk.  The only red is that you cannot install Windows 8.1 on an iPhone, iPad or Android device but you can run it virtually.

In summary, there are still a few things to bear in mind, for example underlying Windows device licences don’t quite go away in most cases, but licensing Windows for a user gives enormous flexibility in allowing people to work wherever they are, whatever the device is and whoever it’s owned by.


Licensing Gotcha #1 – OWA



Microsoft Licensing ClarityIf you’ve dealt with Microsoft Licensing, you’ll know there are lots of exceptions, gotchas, myths and riddles.  We want to clear some of those up in our blog posts so number one is a good place to start.  These all assume basic Microsoft licensing knowledge but if you need to top this up with some free training, look at our licensing courses or contact us.

Microsoft Exchange Server is licensed in a server and CAL (client access licence) model.  The CALs can be per-user or per-device.  These CALs provide the user or device rights to access the Exchange server but you need a client to read and send email, deal with calendar entries and so on.  The obvious client is Outlook; part of the Office family of applications.  In the past the Exchange CAL included an Outlook licence but this was no longer included after Exchange Server 2003 and since then, Outlook needs to be purchased separately.

Perhaps you don’t have Outlook?  That’s ok because the Exchange CAL provides the rights to access e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks through either Outlook Web App (OWA) or through a mobile device via Exchange ActiveSync.

Typically a user will access their mailbox from a number of devices.  This is fine if you have deployed Exchange per-user CALs; the user can log into OWA from pretty much any internet connected device (hotel kiosks, airport lounge machines, home, work, internet cafés, etc.) and the user can synchronise to any supported mobile device.

If you have deployed per-device CALs then the user can only use OWA from licensed devices and can only synchronise from licensed mobile devices.

Hopefully you see the gotcha here.  Exchange is brilliant at providing access anywhere, anytime and on any device but only if you licence per-user.  For organisations that have per-device Exchange licensing, anywhere access becomes extremely restricted.


6 and 12 Month Pricing for Azure



Microsoft Azure Logo

Buying Microsoft Azure directly from Microsoft is as easy as online grocery shopping and for some people might even be cheaper (Waitrose does have a tempting cheese selection). Until recently, the pricing calculator on www.azure.com offered pay-as-you-go rates or discounted monetary commitment rates if you paid £300 or more per month for 6 or 12 months. You can read our previous blog post about this.

From July 26th, those commitment options are no longer shown, despite the website mentioning them.  No notice, no announcement; one could even use the phrase ‘swept under the carpet’.  Why is this?

As of 1st August, any Microsoft reseller can sell Azure monetary commitment to any customer in the same way they sell other Microsoft software such as Windows or Office (previously, Azure could only be purchased directly from Microsoft or through an Enterprise Volume Licensing Agreement).  Customers can now turn to their IT provider and buy Azure credit in $100 chunks (approx. £65 of Azure services).  This credit will then last for 12 months from the time the customer redeems the code online.  So if you want £1,800 of Azure credit, you would buy 27 or 28 of the Azure monetary commitment chunks.  We’ll run a blog post in the next week or so showing the experience in more detail.

As an example of how this credit might be used, a customer buying £1,800 worth of Azure monetary commitment from a reseller would go on to pay £34.75 per month for a 200GB Azure Backup Vault.  Around 52 months’ worth of Azure Backup (the azure credit only lasts 12 months so they’d spend the rest on other services but work with us here, this is a simple example).

A customer buying direct through Azure.com and pre-paying £300 for 6 months (a total of £1,800) would gain a discount of 22.5% off the pay as you go price and bring the Azure Backup Vault cost down to around £26.93 per month.  Around 67 months’ worth of Azure backup.  Both methods cost the customer the same £1,800 up front so which would you go for?  This is obviously detrimental to Microsoft resellers who wish to transact Azure as they wouldn’t be able to compete against those discounts.

So that is my understanding why the 6 month, 12 month and pre-payment pricing options on Azure.com  were hidden in the little attic room.  I believe it’s only for the time being and Microsoft is working towards rationalising the pricing waterfall and discounts across buying direct and via a reseller.