Have You Seen this Email? Microsoft Software Asset Management Review

By Rob O’Shaughnessy, Software Licensing Specialist, Pre-Sales Technical Support


I’ve been working in the GreenPages licensing department for over 14 years and many readers are probably asking the question, “why?”  Do you honestly like torturing yourself, Rob?  No, not really. I did have a full head of hair when I first started here and with each license change it recedes, so at least I’m saving on shampoo costs. Let’s face it, there are so many rules and regulations with licensing that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with.  Just when you think you understand, it changes.


We’ve been seeing an increase with our customers getting emails with the subject line: Microsoft Software Asset Management Review. Have you received this email? If you haven’t yet, there’s a good chance you may see one float in your inbox. This is Microsoft’s asset management team.  Their goal is to help you understand the licensing you currently own and match it up with what you’re running on your network.  Basically, this is an audit.  

Microsoft’s SAM doesn’t discriminate—everyone is a target. You’ll eventually have to deal with them so my recommendation is to not ignore the email. Now, just because you receive an email doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not compliant. Even if you’re 100% sure you’re compliant, it’s still best to work with them.  I can tell you that if their findings suggest that you’re short on licenses, the only real penalty is that you have to buy the licenses.  There are no fines, you’re not going to jail…this isn’t the Orange is the New Black. 

I suggest that if you do receive this email that you reach out to us here at GreenPages.  Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time and there are some particulars of licensing that IMO the SAM team doesn’t know, especially when it comes to virtualization. Just a quick example: you may have 20 Windows Standard 2008 R2 VMs but only own five licenses.  Are you in compliance? Yes.  If you own Windows Enterprise 2008 R2 it allowed you to run up to 4 VMs with each license.  In this example the SAM team didn’t know the old rule when Windows 2008 R2 was around.   I mean, let’s face it, Microsoft licensing is confusing and the SAM team is human, so it’s always good to get a second set of eyes on it. 

This post’s goal is not to scare you and indict you of any wrong doing.  It’s to inform you.  If you do see this email I wouldn’t ignore it as much as you may be tempted to.  Hopefully it’s a quick and painless process for you, but regardless please let us know how we can assist.  If you already have worked with the SAM team, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! 


Here are some FAQs I get from our customers:

Do I need a Windows Cal and RDS Cal?  Yes, Microsoft requires you to stack the CALs.  Same is true if you’re running Exchange, SharePoint, Lync etc.  Both the Windows and the specific application Cal is required.

What’s up with SQL Core licensing?  SQL moved from a per processor licensing model (when you got unlimited Cals) to per Core model when SQL 2012 was released.  So, the deal is, if SQL is running on a physical sever, you have to tally up all the cores on that box.  If SQL is running virtually you have to license all the cores allocated to the VM.  A minimum of four cores are required for each scenario.  This means that in a physical environment, even if the processor only has 2-cores, you’re still required to license four.  Same in the virtual world.  If you plan on only allocating 2 cores to the VM, Microsoft requires that you pay for 4-cores worth.  The reason is the price of the former per processor license is the same as the price of 4 cores today.  Licenses are sold in two-core packs. SQL Enterprise is now only licensed by the core.

What is multiplexing?  This mainly pertains to SQL, but it basically means that if users are hitting an application directly or indirectly a CAL is still required.  For example, your users are hitting a web server that has a back end SQL server.  The users are not touching the SQL app directly, but they are accessing information from it.  You need a CAL.

How do I reimage and downgrade my OEM Windows 8 Pro with a Windows 7 Pro MAK that I don’t have?  First off, yes you can legally downgrade and reimage an OEM copy of Windows.  The problem is getting the key to do it.   If you purchase a PC that has Windows 8 Pro, but you need to load Windows 7 Pro without a key, what you can do is purchase a single volume license of Windows Professional.  The cheapest way to do it is by purchasing an SA Only sku of Windows Pro.  You have 90 days to purchase this license after your PC purchase.  This will give you the ability to log onto the Volume Licensing Services Center (VLSC) site and obtain a MAK Windows 7 and download.  You only need to purchase one license as it will give you multiple activations.  If you need more you can call Microsoft Clearing House to obtain more.

The Outlook that’s included in Office Standard doesn’t allow Personal Archiving or Retention Polices when using the Exchange Enterprise Cal, but standalone Outlook and the Outlook included in Office Pro Plus does?  Isn’t it the same Outlook?   Yes, if you purchase the Exchange Cal you’re likely doing so to use the Personal Archiving or Retention Polices that are included with it. However, for it to work properly, you need to either own standalone Outlook (basically you can purchase Outlook a la carte) or Office Professional Plus.  For whatever reason the Outlook that comes with Office Standard doesn’t work.  Microsoft doesn’t have an answer for this.