Is Microsoft Licensing becoming easier to follow?

Having worked at Microsoft in Licensing over 8 years I have seen customers and partners as well as Microsoft employees longing for licensing simplification.

When other vendors seemingly managed to attract customers with a simple message, easy to understand product line-ups and pricing, Microsoft sales people (including myself) often struggled with the almost impossible task to explain costs of a move to the cloud for an existing on-premise customer or to model the alternative procurement scenarios.

Has this now all changed? In my view, not quite fully yet, I do think however that in the past 18 months we have seen evidence of product editions as well as programmatic purchasing options heading toward a much clearer and consistent approach, see below examples of this:

  • Microsoft decided not to launch Enterprise Advantage – a program I would have struggled to see as “simple” for customers to manage and keep track of.
  • Recent announcements to offer O365 under MPSA with only 1 year terms, coupled with the removal of Azure under MPSA altogether underline the focus Microsoft has on supporting only 3 main ways to buy Online Services from Microsoft, namely:
    • Value added Services through the Cloud Solutions Provider Program (CSP)
    • Self-service offers through Microsoft Online Services Program (MOSP) – the direct portal
    • Microsoft assisted, Enterprise-wide purchasing options through the Enterprise Agreement or Open for smaller customers
  • With regards to products, there have been improvements in streamlining the Services – there are now only 3 main Enterprise Online Services offerings with Office 365 E1, E3 and E5. Additionally, the naming for EMS, Windows Enterprise and the SPE Suites has been aligned under the banners of E3 and E5 differentiating the standard and more enhanced offerings.
  • Even in the on-premise world there have been some improvements – the main Server License products: Windows, SQL, System Centre have now all been transitioned to a per-Core model– a metric which helps license count when moving licenses to the cloud.

All these changes to me are a positive sign of simplification and an underpinning cohesive strategy – Will it ever be simple? – probably not, and there is a reason for this; the product variety and the requirement to accommodate multiple procurement requirements will always attract complexity, but I think it is fair to say since the arrival of Satya Nadella with a more defined and let’s say more “inclusive” strategy Microsoft from my perspective appear to be on the right path now.

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