Customers may wish to run their licenses on hardware not owned by them – in an outsourcer’s datacentre or in the cloud – whilst this is possible, the fact whether the hardware is dedicated or shared will dictate if Software Assurance is required and how licenses are counted.

As described in this article, many licenses can be moved to the cloud- however it does require careful license management – the same as with the deployment of an additional on premise Server, using a license in the cloud requires either a spare license with Software Assurance or the purchase of an additional license with Software Assurance. For example, in environments licensed for unlimited virtual instances of SQL Enterprise(i.e. all physical Cores are licensed in a Server Farm, therefore unlimited VM’s can be run) deploying an additional instance in the Cloud requires the purchase of new licenses so that at all times all cores used in the Cloud and on premise are fully licensed.

We at Cloud Optics are well positioned to advise customers on license requirements for use in Cloud and on-premise and would be happy to support your organization should you be considering the use of your own licenses in the Cloud.

Software Assurance or not?

You will find that official advice often states that to run your Software on external Hardware – Software Assurance is required – whilst this is true in regards to running the Software on a shared platform or in the cloud, this would not apply necessarily if you wanted to run your own licenses on physically dedicated hardware on an outsourcer’s premises for example.

On a high – level the rules are:

Dedicated Shared


What is shared vs. dedicated?

The definition of dedicated vs. shared environment relates to the underlying physical hardware and whether it is dedicated to a customer or hosting software accessed by multiple customers (in VM’s for example) – the Cloud is clearly a shared environment as the underlying hardware is not dedicated to a particular customer.

According to the Product Terms – When a license is assigned it must be assigned to a Server which is defined as a single server, dedicated to customers use. It has to be a physically dedicated Server because the Server is defined as a physical hardware system capable of running server software. Therefore, a license cannot be assigned to shared Servers. Unless….

What grants the rights to run Software on shared Servers?

This right is granted to a Software Assurance Benefit called “License Mobility through Software Assurance” – this means that the Software in question must be covered with Software Assurance – if Software Assurance expires the right to run the Software on shared Servers expires as well.

Can the Software be run on any shared server environment?

No – it has to run on environments provided by “License Mobility through Software Assurance Partners”. A list of such partners is published monthly – the link is at the end of this article.

Azure is a qualifying environment. Note that Amazon Web Services are listed as a License Mobility through Software Assurance Partner.

Is this benefit available for all Server Products

It is available for most Server Products such as SQL Server, Exchange Server, Sharepoint Server; however, there is one big exception: Windows Server does not offer License Mobility through Software Assurance.

Can I run my own Windows Server licenses on a shared environment at all?

There is a way to do this – however it is not granted through the Windows Server Licensing rights but through Azure – and it only applies Azure being the “shared environment”

The benefit is called “Microsoft Azure Hybrid Use Benefit” – it allows Customers who have licensed Windows Server with Software Assurance to upload their Windows Server Image onto Azure Instances that don’t include the Windows OS (instances need to be purchased separately)

How to count licenses in a shared / virtual / cloud environment?

Recent announcements for SQL Server and Azure

Whilst it was possible to deploy SQL Server on Azure previously, Enterprise Agreement customers now have a range of BYOL (Bring your own licenses) gallery Images available. For these images there will not be a charge for the SQL Server Licenses- it eliminates the need to build a custom image to migrate SQL Server –

As with the Windows Server Hybrid Use benefit described above this shows that there is a tendency to enable and perhaps simplify the use of licenses when used on Azure – it will be interesting to see if other benefits will be launched to help customers moving licenses between on premise and Azure in the future.

We at Cloud Optics have experience in advising customers on their license and Software Assurance requirements when used in an internal / external or cloud IT Environment – please do not hesitate to contact me on


List of Partners allowed to host on shared platforms:

Announcement SQL Server BYOL Gallery for EA customers.

Product Terms

Azure Hybrid Use Benefit and License mobility through Software Assurance

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