How Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Suite licensing affects you

 In Cloud, Microsoft, Office 365, Software, Volume Licensing

This post was updated on Dec. 10, 2015.

Microsoft will launch its new Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS) offering on Dec. 1, 2014, the latest step in its broader shift in licensing models to a “mobile first, cloud first” strategy. ECS will be a bundled subscription SKU offering containing Office 365 (O365) Plan E3, Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), and Windows Client OS Per User. This new offering will be available to organizations looking to transition to the cloud mid-term, at renewal, or as part of a new agreement.

ECS provides organizations with a true user-based licensing model, removing the per-device licensing requirements on the Windows Client OS. However, with any new licensing change come requirements on how organizations can procure and manage the new offering in their environment going forward. Provided below is an overview of the ECS offering and important considerations when moving forward.

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Understanding the changes to ECS

The traditional on-premises Desktop Platform licensing options — e.g., Office Pro Plus and Windows Client OS — have primarily been device based. The Client Access License (CAL) offered per-user or device licensing depending on how an organization’s users/devices were accessing its server technology. With the introduction of O365, Microsoft initiated user-based licensing for Office Pro Plus, available in the form of a standalone Office Pro Plus for O365 subscription or as an O365 Subscription Plan E3/E4.

In April 2014, Microsoft introduced EMS, which provided even more flexibility to procure cloud services in a user-centric approach. The final transformation comes with the release of Windows Pro Per User subscription license, which shifts from device- to user-based licensing. This change is best illustrated in the chart below.


What ECS procurement options are available?

ECS is available through three different purchasing options, depending on where an organization is in its current agreement, and when it wants to transition to ECS. These three offerings are as follows:

  1. Enterprise Cloud Add-on User Subscription License (USL): The “add-on” option is similar to the current O365 add-on option. Organizations in an active enrollment that are licensed for the Desktop Platform products can purchase the ECS Add-on SKU for their on-premises desktop platform licenses. This add-on SKU can be purchased mid-term (between enrollment anniversary), at enrollment anniversary, or at enrollment renewal. The addition of the ECS add-on to an organization’s existing license footprint provides a means to shift from a device-centric to a user-centric profile going forward.
  2. Enterprise Cloud from SA USL: The “from SA” option is specific to organizations that want to fully transition their on-premises licensing investment to ECS at renewal. An organization must pay in full for on-premises licenses and have active Software Assurance (SA) maintained on their platform enterprise enrollment at renewal. Customers essentially drop their on-premises license quantities and replac them with ECS when they choose this option.
  3. Enterprise Cloud Suite Full USL: The “Full USL” applies to organizations that either don’t have an active enrollment for Desktop Platform products or are adding new users to an existing enrollment that needs to be licensed for ECS. Unlike the prior two options, the full user-subscription license doesn’t account for an underlying license and SA investment in the desktop platform products. Therefore, this full user subscription license will be applied when an organization signs a new enterprise enrollment for ECS, or trues up new users to an existing enrollment.

Why Windows SA Per User is a game changer

The most significant change introduced with the release of ECS is Windows Client OS licensing. Traditionally, Windows has always been a device-based license model, with additional benefits and access rights granted under SA. Now, Microsoft is offering a user-based licensing model for Windows. This license will be called “Windows SA Per User,” and it will be offered in both an add-on and full USL. These two options are described in more detail below, along with the alternative option of Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Per User.

Windows SA Per User Add-on: The add-on option requires the primary user’s device be licensed for Windows 8 (or current version) with SA. By assigning the add-on to the primary device, the user can access Windows OS from any other corporate owned or third-party device locally or via a virtual desktop infrastructure. There is no limitation on how many devices the primary user can access from. In addition, if the organization is licensed for Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), the rights for MDOP extend across these devices at no additional cost.

Windows SA Per User Full USL: The full user option doesn’t require the primary user’s device to have active Windows SA assigned, but rather that there is a device with Windows 7/8 Pro assigned to the user. Based on this requirement, an organization can assign the Windows SA Per User Full USL to the device, thereby permitting the user access from any other corporate-owned or third-party device locally or via a virtual desktop infrastructure. There is no limitation on the number of devices that the primary user can access from. As in the add-on option, MDOP rights also extend to additional devices at no cost.

Windows VDA Per User: As an alternative to the Windows SA Per User option, Microsoft also has introduced Windows VDA Per User. The Windows VDA subscription has always been a device-based license intended for organizations that needed a virtual desktop infrastructure and had to properly license the end-point devices. Typically, VDA was leveraged for non-Windows OS devices, like thin clients. However, with the introduction of Windows VDA Per User, organizations with no primary devices running Windows Pro (or a qualified OS) can acquire the Windows VDA Per User subscription. Similar to the Windows OS options, Windows VDA Per User will be available as both an add-on and full USL.

As organizations evaluate their current infrastructure, including the potential transition path to Microsoft cloud services, it’s important to understand how Microsoft continues to shift its licensing models to accommodate its “mobile first, cloud first” strategy. This complex shift can be quite difficult to understand, given the number of iterations to licensing requirements and models, procurement options, and pricing plans. Having a trusted advisor like SHI to help guide you through this process is integral in ensuring you are making the right decisions in your transition to the cloud. Please contact your SHI Account Executive to discuss this new Enterprise Cloud Suite offering in more detail.

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