Microsoft User CAL Changes: What it means for you

As the nature of the cloud evolves, so too does its licensing models. In the past, organizations were set up with licensing on a “per device” basis, but with the ongoing consumerization of IT and the proliferation of new devices (mobile phones, tablets, ultrabooks, etc.) in the workplace, many organizations are looking to cut costs by shifting focus to the user rather than the device.

To address this shift, Microsoft is raising the cost of its User Client Access License (CAL) licensing model. Effective Dec. 1, 2012, the cost of the following User CALs will increase 15 percent:

  • Bing Maps Server CAL
  • Core CAL Suite
  • Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Exchange Server Standard and Enterprise CAL
  • Lync Server Standard, Enterprise, and Plus CAL
  • Project Server CAL
  • SharePoint Server Standard and Enterprise CAL
  • System Center 2012 Client Management Suite
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server CAL
  • Windows Multipoint Server CAL
  • Windows Server CAL
  • Windows Server Remote Desktop Services CAL, Terminal Services CAL
  • Windows Server Rights Management Services CAL

What does this mean for you?

Nothing yet. If you already have an enterprise agreement (EA) that covers any of the impacted User CALs, you can continue to procure those licenses for current price through the life of the current EA. But once Dec. 1, 2012 hits, all bets are off. At that point, any Select or Open Agreement customer, or any EA customer looking to purchase or renew any of the above CALs will be subject to the increased pricing.

The change will not affect the SPLA or EES (Academic) Licensing Programs, the Dynamics, or the SQL product lines. Nor will it impact current Device CAL pricing. Also, the Product Usage Rights for both the User CAL and Device CAL will not change.

What options do you have going forward?

If your CALs are provisioned in an enterprise agreement (EA), you’ll want to take a look at your renewal date. If it’s coming up between December 2012 and March 2013, you might want to consider an early renewal to take advantage of current User CAL pricing before the Dec. 1 price bump. Similarly, if you are considering adding a new User CAL to your EA in the future, you might want to do so now before the 15 percent increase goes into effect.

If you do not have an EA, but rather are procuring User CALs under a Select or Open Agreement, now is the time to consider making that change. Entering into an EA before Dec. 1 will lock in current User CAL pricing for the duration of your agreement. This can result in significant savings when you project the 15 percent increase out over the course of three years.

Lastly, make sure that the User CAL model is right for your organization. Historically, the conversation about user versus device centered on access rights versus price point. Now you need to take both into account – who and what is accessing the server and the associated costs:

  1. Do the math. Look at how many devices are accessing your servers compared to the number of users. If the number of users outweighs the number of devices, a Device CAL is the way to go. On the other hand, if there are more devices than users, a User CAL is often more efficient.
  2. Look to the future. Based on your calculations in step one, device-based licensing might be the most economical way to license today, but it might not be a few years down the road. The potential cost increases when you start adding more devices.
  3. Consider ease of use. With the number of devices and access points employees bring to work increasing constantly, it’s become easier for employers to count and track their licenses based on a User CAL.

The trend is clear — today’s workforce is using more devices than ever to connect to the cloud to drive business value. We can expect Microsoft and other software providers to react accordingly. Take this time to review your organization’s licensing environment and reaffirm which CAL model is most appropriate for you. But remember: either way, every qualified device or user must be licensed. No exceptions.

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