Microsoft User CAL pricing is changing. Here’s what you need to know.

 In Microsoft, Software, Volume Licensing

In December 2012, Microsoft increased the cost of the User Client Access License (CAL) by 15 percent. Here on the SHI blog, we discussed the evolving nature of how organizations were accessing devices, both on premises and in the cloud, and Microsoft’s need to address this shift through an increase in the cost of User CALs.

Flash forward to 2015: Microsoft has announced an additional change in the cost of the User CAL licensing model. The decision behind the increase can be attributed to multiple factors, including increased adoption of multiple devices by information workers, and the subsequent ease of license management of User CALs versus Device CALs in multi-device scenarios. So we’re back on the blog to help you understand what this price adjustment means, and what some of your options are.

Microsoft User CAL Changes

Effective Aug. 1, costs of the following User CALs will increase 13 percent:

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

All other User CAL prices will remain as-is, including the SQL, Dynamics CRM, and Dynamics AX CALs.

What does this mean for you?

Since the increase doesn’t take effect until Aug. 1, there’s no immediate impact for customers. However, organizations should start evaluating their options based on how they currently license their server environment, what CAL model they are leveraging, and what volume licensing (VL) program they are procuring under. There are a few key points to examine:

  • The price change will impact all VL programs with the exception of Academic and Charity.
  • Existing EA customers can continue leveraging the pre-increase pricing on their current customer price sheet. This includes CALs added after signing, as long as it’s done prior to Aug. 1.
  • Transactional VL customers (i.e., Select, Open, MPSA) will pay the higher cost immediately on Aug. 1.
  • The pricing for Enterprise Cloud Suite or Office 365 (O365) suites will not be affected by the price increase.
  • There are no changes to the Product Use Rights associated with the Server User and Device CALs.

Evaluating your options

Organizations licensing under an EA should review current User CAL entitlements and agreement expiration date. If you are licensed for the User CAL and EA is up for expiration on or after Aug. 1, you will renew at the higher User CAL price point. However, depending on your agreement expiration date, you may qualify for an early renewal to avoid the price increase.

In addition, organizations that have an EA expiration date prior to Aug. 1 can renew at the existing User CAL price point and lock in the costs for the next three-year term. Non-EA customers purchasing under a transactional VL program should consider moving to an EA before Aug. 1 to secure the current User CAL pricing.

As broad adoption of O365 services expands, Microsoft pushes on with new licensing models that address the shift in how organizations consume their services, like the introduction of the Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS) in December 2014. The ECS incorporated a per-user licensing model across Office, CALs, and Windows Client OS. Organizations that are currently licensed for ECS, or are considering ECS, will not be impacted by the User CAL price change; the ECS cost already incorporates the per-user subscription licensing model.

There is no “one size fits all” option for User CAL customers. Aside from the current and future price points, organizations should examine a litany of decision points that will determine the best course of action to license User or Device CALs.

One thing is for sure: preparing for the Aug. 1 price change should be addressed with your SHI Account Team sooner rather than later.

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