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Clearing up the confusion around Microsoft Office 365 Licensing & SPLA

Microsoft | Posted on December 15, 2014 by Stephen Tsatskas

As a Microsoft Sales Specialist, I’m frequently asked licensing-related questions from our clients.

While I’ve received a lot of questions about SPLA and the benefits of simplified licensing, the number one question at the top of most client’s minds is whether or not they can license Office 365 under SPLA. Read on for the answer.

Can you license Office 365 under SPLA?

Let’s cut to the chase – the short answer is no. It all comes down to volume licensing and how it cannot be used on a shared platform. Unfortunately Office 365 doesn’t offer License Mobility through Software Assurance for these products.

So, what is Licensing Mobility? 

License Mobility is when a client owns the licenses and bring them to a service provider to host. But how do you know what products are covered by License Mobility? Thankfully, Microsoft made it simple, all products covered by License Mobility are clearly market in the Volume Licensing Product Use Rights (PUR). In addition, the rules for License Mobility are also described in the PUR, page 101.

For Office 365, the PUR specifies that customers are allowed to access an instance through Remote Desktop Services (RDS). However, let’s be clear, this RDS instance cannot be on a shared platform (not even on a dedicated Virtual Machine), as the only licenses that can be moved to a shared platform are those eligible for License Mobility.

The PUR also describes the installation and use rights for Office 365 as follows (page 81):

  1. Each user to whom you assign a User SL may activate the software for local or remote use on up to five concurrent OSEs.
  2. The Licensed User may also use the software activated by another user under a different User SL.
  3. Each user may also use one of the five activations on a network server with the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) role enabled.*
  4. You may allow other users to remotely access the software solely to provide support services

* Please see the Product List for deployment options when using RDS.

One thing to note is that there is a technical limitation that blocks deploying Office 365 PowerPoint bits on a network server as RDS does not support Office 365 PowerPoint bits. You can however deploy Office 2013 or Office 365 RDS on a server in a physically dedicated outsourcing scenario. Microsoft has confirmed the outsourcing language in the April PUR allows this:

Outsourcing Software Management

You may install and use permitted copies of the software on Servers and other devices that are under the day-to-day management and control of third parties, provided all such Servers and other devices are and remain fully dedicated to your use. You are responsible for all of the obligations under your volume licensing agreement regardless of the physical location of the hardware upon which the software is used.

Next Steps

If you would like assistance with SPLA or Microsoft related inquiries, connect with your Softchoice Account manager to arrange a call with a member of our SPLA. dedicated SPLA and Microsoft experts, Softchoice is here to clear up the complexity of Microsoft licensing and support all your Microsoft needs. You can also leverage our SPLA page for more information.

For immediate questions, please leave them below in the comments section and I will respond to them personally.

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