New ways to purchase SQL Server and Windows Server

windows sql purchase

Microsoft announced some changes to their products’ offering a while back, in order to meet the customers’ needs for cost-effective and flexible solutions. Therefore, since last year, Windows Server and SQL Server can be purchased as ‘license subscriptions’ through the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. The novelty is that CSP is a licensing program designed to provide only Microsoft public cloud subscriptions, such as Office365, Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), Azure and Dynamics CRM Online and not on premises licenses.

The (hi)story

For ad-hoc capacity demands, end users could subscribe to Azure virtual machines (VMs) for their cloud infrastructure. The VMs came with a Windows Server license included. However, for more consistent, longer lasting cloud workloads, this was a quite expensive solution.

For these types of workloads, Microsoft introduced the Azure Reserved Instances (RI): computer, networking and storage based virtual machines, but without a Windows Server license included. To use the RIs you needed to have Software Assurance (SA) in a Volume Licensing contract (Enterprise Agreement, Open license, etc.) to be eligible to use the Azure Hybrid Use Benefits that came along.

For those customers who didn’t have SA, there was no way to license the Windows Server in Azure. This changed since last year and customers can now purchase software subscriptions (for a 1- or 3-year term) for Windows Server and SQL Server to run on Azure Reserved VM Instances.

What does this mean for you?

You can now acquire Windows Server, SQL Server (Standard and Enterprise editions) and Windows Server Client Access Licenses (CAL) (per user and per device) as a subscription and take advantage of the Azure Hybrid Benefit without the need to purchase Software Assurance.

You will also get access to other Software Assurance benefits for which previously you would have had to purchase SA separately, such as:

  • Self-hosting benefit
    It allows end users to provide their own software as a hosted service on their own servers, using a combination of Microsoft software and their own software to create a so-called Unified Solution. The licenses can be used to provide customer-facing software solutions hosted on dedicated or shared infrastructure.
  • Disaster recovery benefit
    It allows end users that are running an instance of eligible server software in a physical or virtual operating system environment (OSE) on a licensed server to temporarily run a backup-instance. This can be done in a physical or virtual OSE on either one of its servers dedicated to disaster recovery, or for instances of eligible software other than Windows Server, on Microsoft Azure Services, provided the backup instance is managed by Azure Site Recovery (a disaster recovery solution) on Azure.
  • Semi-Annual Channel benefit
    End users with Windows Server products in the Semi-Annual Channel will have new releases available twice a year (in spring and fall). Each release in this channel will be supported for 18 months since the initial release. The Semi-Annual Channel is particularly useful to those that have modern applications and innovation scenarios such as containers and micro-services that require faster innovation.

End users may not allocate subscriptions for Azure licenses to Azure and their on premises servers simultaneously. There is an exception that allows them to do this on a one time basis, for a period not exceeding 31 days, in order to allow the migration of servers’ workloads dedicated to their use on Azure. Licenses are deemed “assigned to Azure” when end users use the software on Azure. It is not allowed to redeploy to on premises servers for a period of 90 days.

The Server subscriptions product terms only allow for deployment on an end user Azure tenant* or the on premises server. These subscriptions cannot be deployed on third-party multi-tenant hardware.

*A tenant is a representation of an organization. It’s a dedicated instance of Azure Active Directory that an organization or app developer receives, when the organization or app developer creates a relationship with Microsoft – like signing up for Azure, Microsoft Intune or Microsoft 365.

What’s in it for you?

These Windows Server and SQL license subscriptions are suitable for covering a short-term requirement, for example, in the context of a migration. The possibility of price reduction for IaaS in Azure with the Azure Hybrid Benefit acquired through server subscriptions for Azure can also be appealing.

This is a good option for end users that do not want to invest in costly Microsoft Licensing Agreements or are seeking a more flexible cost-effective way to license Windows Server and SQL Server.
However, like all license-related topics, the actual added value of the server subscription for Azure depends on your current situation and on your organization’s future strategy.

Should you require any support to determine if or how these subscriptions can cover your needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.