Microsoft Announces Plans for Licensing Changes

Company announces Client Access License changes at its management summit.

Microsoft announced changes to its Client Access License (CAL) program at its Microsoft Management Summit.

The company said it plans to move some features in the Enterprise CAL offering into the Core CAL. Effective Aug. 1, Microsoft will have moved the Lync Standard CAL (currently part of Enterprise CAL) to the Core CAL. In addition, Microsoft says it will move the Forefront Endpoint Protection feature (currently included in the Enterprise CAL) into the Core CAL.

CALs are rights to use Microsoft software on devices.  CALs are typically licensed on a per-user or per-device basis. The Enterprise CAL is known as a "step up" over the Core CAL, providing the rights to use additional functionality.

Under Microsoft's planned changes for August, several features will be supported in the Core CAL, priced at $89 per user or device:

  • Windows Server CAL
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • SharePoint Standard CAL
  • Exchange Standard CAL
  • Lync Standard CAL
  • Forefront Endpoint Protection

On August 1, the Enterprise CAL will be priced at $86 per user or device, and it will contain:

  • Active Directory RMS
  • Forefront Unified Access Gateway
  • Forefront Protection Suite
  • System Center Client Management Suite
  • SharePoint Enterprise CAL
  • Exchange Enterprise CAL
  • Lync Enterprise CAL

Apart from these two CAL offerings, Microsoft sells a bundled package called the "Enterprise CAL Suite," or ECAL Suite. With Level A enterprise agreement licensing, the ECAL Suite will be offered at an estimated retail price of $175.

Microsoft describes these changes in this FAQ (PDF download). Prices will increase roughly three percent for "the Professional Desktop" and will increase roughly 10 percent to 14 percent for the "Core CAL Component," according to the FAQ.

Those organizations with the Software Assurance licensing option in place through August 1 can sign up for an "early use rights amendment" to use the new features without additional cost, according to the FAQ. Software Assurance is an extra-cost licensing option that provides educational support and software upgrade rights at no additional cost if the upgrade is released within the contract period.

Those organizations with enterprise agreements expiring between August and December and wanting to tap the new features can check on securing an "early commit" agreement, according to the FAQ.

ECAL Suite

Paul DeGroot, principal consultant at Pica Communications and formerly an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft advisory group, clarified some of the ECAL Suite details via an e-mail. He noted that the ECAL Suite offering includes both "Lync Standard [CAL] and Enterprise CAL," as well as a "Windows Server Rights Management CAL."

In addition, the ECAL Suite includes management licenses for Forefront Endpoint Protection and System Center Data Protection Manager, System Center Operation Manager and System Center Service Manager.

Although that may sound clear enough, the ECAL Suite is actually a combination of licenses, according to DeGroot.

"A couple of things make the ECAL Suite confusing," he wrote. "First, the ECAL Suite licenses some regular CALs as well as Enterprise CALs. Second, while an Enterprise CAL does not license a superset of Standard CAL features (that is, it does not include features licensed by a Standard CAL), the Enterprise CAL Suite is a superset of the Core CAL: it includes all the CALs in the Core CAL and adds more."

Cost is the reason to buy CALs through the suites. DeGroot said that "the Core CAL suite is about 15% less than buying the components separately, while the Enterprise CAL Suite is about 50% less than buying the component parts separately."

There's an important CAL caveat for organizations with enterprise agreements, DeGroot explained. "When you license the Core CAL as part of an Enterprise Agreement, you must license it for all of the users or devices in your organization," he said.

Lync CALs

DeGroot also explained that Microsoft has Lync CALs, which provide client licensing coverage, roughly speaking, as follows:

  • "Standard CAL: Instant messaging, presence, conference attendee
  • "Enterprise CAL: Audio, video, and Web conferencing; desktop sharing; conference initiator
  • "Plus CAL: Voice telephony, call management"

"Lync is an oddball, because of the Plus CAL, which other servers don't have," DeGroot explained. "Lync always requires the Standard CAL. Then you can use either the Enterprise CAL or the Plus CAL. And, of course, you can buy all three."

Microsoft further describes Lync CAL licensing in this blog. A breakdown of the details is provided at this Microsoft Web page.

Bringing IM to the Masses

The Core CAL, which comes with Software Assurance, is typically used by "upper midmarket" organizations with 500 or more seats, DeGroot said. He added that the Lync addition to the Core CAL Suite is a positive development because that sort of licensing makes sense in organizations where everyone will use instant messaging. Microsoft's previous licensing scheme made it expensive and complicated to get that feature, he explained.

Microsoft's licensing is rather complex, and Pica Communications has instituted a series of "Licensing Clinics" events to help with the details, including the vicissitudes of CALs. The next event will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of April, with an event in Chicago scheduled for June. More details on the Licensing Clinics can be found here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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