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MSDN Subscriptions Quick Guide (Part 2 of 2)

MSDN Logo This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

This is the second article in the two part series:

  • Part One – Understanding Your Benefits and Obligations
  • Part Two – Maximise the benefits and minimise the risks

See Part One here.

Part Two -Maximise the Benefits and Minimise the Risks

Managing MSDN licenses can be challenging – the strict rules about mixed use machines means that compliance requires that organisations keep their production and development environments completely separate. As a result, organisations frequently ring fencing their development environments but then fail to take advantage of the Office Productivity license benefits for their developers.

On the other hand, the separation of the two types of environments can lead them to have a false sense of security about the compliance of the development environments. The tips below will help you get the most from your MSDN subscriptions while ensuring your development environments remain compliant.

Seven Top Tips for Managing your MSDN Subscriptions

  1. Assign an MSDN Administrator to manage your licenses through your VLSC. This person will be able to move subscriptions between developers to ensure that the company gets the maximum benefit for the variety of subscriptions it holds – although bear in mind subscriptions can only be transferred between developers every 90 days.
  2. Include development environments in your Change and Configuration Management processes and ensure that the names of developers working on the different environments are included as Configuration Items. This means your MSDN Administrator can be sure that everyone working on a particular environment has an appropriate MSDN subscription that covers them for all the activities they are involved in.
  3. Make sure training and production environments are on different physical machines from your development environments. If they aren’t, you could end up having to license your development environments as if they were production environments which can get very expensive.
  4. Remember that MS Office Pro Plus, Visio Premium and Project Pro can be used for mixed development and production purposes. However make sure your developers and IT Support staff are aware that if your developers have the wrong version of these applications installed on their machine (eg MS Office Std) it will constitute mixed use and everything else on the machine will need to be licensed as if it was production. If the machine is redeployed, make sure it is wiped first unless it is going to another developer who also has an MSDN subscription.
  5. “Installing” an application counts as using it, so if the MSDN copies of Office, Visio and Project are installed by Service Desk personnel rather than the developer who owns the subscription, the Service Desk engineer will have to have a subscription as well!
  6. If you decide to cancel a subscription, it still has value because most MSDN licenses provide perpetual rights and can continue to be used to install and develop applications published up to the time the subscription expired – as long as you still have the media and license keys. If you decide to let subscriptions expire, make sure you download and store everything you might want to use in future.
  7. Make sure you track and take advantage of your support call allowance. If you have a lot of MSDN subscription licenses, these can be worth thousands of pounds.

As with most licensing, managing MSDN subscriptions is about ensuring you have the control mechanisms in place to ensure you are getting the most out of them without accidentally falling out of compliance.

What alternatives exist to MSDN Subscriptions?

MSDN subscriptions can be very expensive and often difficult to justify unless you have a large development function. The cost of the initial year is particularly high as it includes a license for Virtual Studio, Microsoft’s development platform. However, there are a couple of alternative products which may be more appropriate for organisations which don’t do much development but still need to evaluate Microsoft Products or do a small amount of SQL Development work, for instance to allow MS SQL Server to be used as the back-end for a non-MS application.

TechNet Subscriptions

Technet Subscriptions also give you access to full featured Microsoft Software for testing and evaluation purposes not related to software development. It also allows access to certain beta releases, service packs and new software releases in order to allow organisations to evaluate and assess things like compatibility and security issues.

SQL Server 2008 Developer Licenses

SQL Server 2008 Developer is actually a special edition of the SQL Server 2008 application which allows the developer/s to whom the Developer license is assigned to build and test applications that run on SQL Server 2008. The development version of SQL Server 2008 has the functionality of SQL Enterprise 2008 but has limitations on the size of the database that can be created during the testing process. One benefit of Databases created using SQL Server 2008 Developer Licenses is that they can be easily upgraded to a full version of SQL to allow easy staging into production.

SQL Server 2008 Developer is different to most other Microsoft Applications because, like an MSDN Subscription, it is a per user license. This means each developer working on the project will need to have their own SQL 2008 Developer license, but as long as this condition is met, they can install as many instances of the product as they need – as long as it is used solely for development purposes, of course!

Downgrade rights are available for previous versions of SQL Server Developer.

Useful Resources

There are many useful resources available on the internet to help organisations ensure they choose the right development or evaluation license and get the most out of them. I have listed some of the most useful resources below:

This is the second article in the two part series:

  • Part One – Understanding Your Benefits and Obligations
  • Part Two – Maximise the benefits and minimise the risks

See Part One here.

This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

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About Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of The ITAM Review, an online resource for worldwide ITAM professionals. The ITAM Review is best known for its weekly newsletter of all the latest industry updates, LISA training platform, Excellence Awards and conferences in UK, USA and Australia.

Martin is also the founder of ITAM Forum, a not-for-profit trade body for the ITAM industry created to raise the profile of the profession and bring an organisational certification to market. On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.

He is also the author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management. In addition, Martin developed the PITAM training course and certification.

Prior to founding the ITAM Review in 2008 Martin worked for Centennial Software (Ivanti), Silicon Graphics, CA Technologies and Computer 2000 (Tech Data).

When not working, Martin likes to Ski, Hike, Motorbike and spend time with his young family.

Connect with Martin on LinkedIn.


  1. MagicRX8 says:

    Great article – surprised I just now found it since it was posted a year ago.  One thing that still is difficult to confirm is the number of licenses for both the Server and the Desktop products that you get.  Microsoft has a nice comparison chart to show you which products you get with each level of MSDN Subscription however they are not clear at all on how many licenses of each product you get.  Would you or anyone know where this information is kept?

  2. Ad says:

    Project and Visio is no longer included in any offering / or renewal.

  3. mik3a says:

    In regard to running on different physical machines, Microsoft have informed us that we cannot even have them on the same backend SAN storage system, even if running on separate physical host server.

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