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Microsoft True-down, Software Assurance, and Citrix are key issues according to CCL research


2264763977_fbeb2e34ba_zThe CCL recently hosted a Microsoft Licensing round-table with a number of enterprise organisations present, this article shares some of the key concerns organisations face managing Microsoft.

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Microsoft is one of the largest software companies in the world with the most pervasive software; many organisations will be managing Microsoft software across Desktop, datacentre, virtual, mobile and cloud.

Lack of True-down

The CCL research states that the lack of true-down ability mainly affects subscription licensing, so the likes of Office 365. The intent of any subscription license model should be that it can be reviewed on a regular basis, for example annually and have the ability to not only true-up to the correct license number (which Microsoft require) but also to “true-down” if the number of licenses required have fallen. However, a number of CCL members have stated that they are not able to true down with any of their Office 365 subscription licenses.

Microsoft not allowing customers to true down with subscription licenses is another revenue maker for Microsoft, and limits customers to make effective use of their software licenses. If a customer needs a certain amount of Office 365 licenses for a project that is primarily made up of contractors, then they are obviously going to invest in licenses for those users. However, they should then have the ability to ‘true down’ those licenses once the project has finished and the contractors are no longer a part of the organisation.

Surely that’s the whole point of subscription licensing. As Microsoft have stated in the past, it is meant to help their customers be more agile and flexible. It’s not flexible if they can’t true down!

Inability to add back SA (Software Assurance) or trade Licences recently purchased without SA against commitment to EA

The CCL states that one of their multi-national corporate members has a Microsoft EA agreement, however in 2014 two of its smaller regional operating companies purchased Microsoft Office 2013 licenses via Select on a “license only” basis i.e. without SA. Both Microsoft and the organisation would like to manage all their Microsoft licenses under a single group wide EA.

But at this stage Microsoft will not recognise the investment made by the two small operating companies and therefore they will not join the Group EA as they would be forced to re-purchase the same licenses with the addition of SA.

The Select licenses were more expensive and the organisation is willing to back pay the SA that would have been due, but Microsoft’s stance is the member would have to re-purchase the whole license requirement with SA.

We believe the best solution is that Microsoft should introduce a reinstatement fee to be able to add SA to licenses. This fee would include costs for the back maintenance plus a reinstatement fee.

Confusing License rules between Microsoft and Citrix

It has been generally accepted that Microsoft makes no effort to mitigate any compliance risk or provide a simple explanation of how to configure Citrix so that it complies with the T&Cs of the license.

In addition, where Citrix issues are identified on corporate machines during an audit, Microsoft should be clear the end users will not have to pay for all the licenses they are theoretically compliant for, but work with the client to put in place appropriate measures within a specified time frame to solve the problem through appropriate configuration of Citrix.

This should be automatically applied to all Microsoft customers, and shouldn’t be a discretionary ‘concession’ that means smaller companies or those with poor account managers are disadvantaged.

Another issue revolves around the fact that some customers have purchased many fat client PCs but now wants to re-categorise them as thin clients because of their change of use. Microsoft’s position is that these machines must remain licensed as full fat clients even though there is a change of use.

The CCL states that they have the following recommendations to make to help clear this up:

  1. Microsoft should provide a clear explanation of how the licensing rules work
  2. Provide some examples of Citrix / Active Directory / other application configuration that meet the criteria

The ITAM Review believes that this is a sticky area of Microsoft integration with other products, and how it affects licensing. As the CCL have said there needs to be better clarification on the relationship between Microsoft and Citrix machines, and what licenses are required in what instances. Microsoft needs to work with customers who wish to change the scope of their environment and move machines from fat to thin clients. Customers should not be paying fat licenses for thin clients, as they are not using all of the features.

“This is a classic case of Licensing being a blocker to innovation. Licensing complexity is getting in the way of implementation. Here is a great opportunity for Microsoft to demonstrate some leadership and provide clear licensing guidance and use cases around Citrix” Martin Thompson, Chief Agitator, Campaign for Clear Licensing.

No novation of SA benefits associated with certain Licenses

In the last couple of years, Microsoft has been adding additional usage rights into Software Assurance. In particular, server mobility rights (required for data centres where there is load balancing or high availability capability) are acquired through SA.

However one of Microsoft’s rules is that SA cannot be novated. This means that when a company divests one of its entities which requires server mobility rights, even if it novates the licenses, it can’t novate the SA, which means that the divested entity automatically becomes non-compliant, even though they have paid for the mobility rights.

An example involves a company that purchased SQL Enterprise Licenses with SA (very expensive) in February 2013 on a Select Plus agreement in their parent’s name, but in December of that year the company was sold. The SQL Server Licenses were assigned from the parent company to the divested entity, but although they had paid for three years of SA, of which less than 1 year had been used, the SA could not be novated. Microsoft suggested they could ‘reattach SA’ and receive a refund for the unused years, which is possible up to 90 days after the sale of the entity. However they could only do this by purchasing the SA through an EA.

Unfortunately the divested entity didn’t have an EA, although eventually they found an affiliate that did, so they thought they could move forward. However unfortunately by this time the 90 day window had closed, and their account manager refused to give them a concession. The company felt they had no choice but to repurchase the SQL Server Licenses AND new SA in order to be compliant.

Lack of Windows server License mobility through SA

Finally, the CCL reports that there was a suggestion from its members that there should be the option of license mobility through software assurance for Windows Server software. At the time of writing, this only exists for certain applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, but not for the server operating system that must be purchased under the SPLA from the host.

The ITAM Review believes that enabling customers to have the ability to add Windows Server software to have the same benefits as the likes of SQL server will enable greater flexibility for Microsoft customers, and will also prove to be a great benefit to Windows Server users.


Do you agree with the above findings? Have your say on the issues currently affecting Microsoft users – are you currently going through a frustrating time with a Microsoft EA renewal? Are you unsure whether or not to move to the subscription cloud based model?

Let us know by completing our Microsoft 2015 research questionnaire.

(We will not share any of your data or information with anyone).

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About David Foxen

David Foxen is a Software Asset Management expert and enthusiast. He had a vast experience of successfully implementing SAM, SAM tools and also made huge cost savings. A member of the ISO Standards WG21, David is a massive ITAM geek, so uses any opportunity to talk about the subject to who-ever will listen. He believes that the industry needs to share its knowledge and success stories to help the SAM industry mature and become more effective. Always willing to help, his primary goal is to make a difference to organisations and the SAM industry so everyone will know how epic SAM is!

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