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Microsoft Spills Details on Products and Services Licensing Agreements

Microsoft recently published some new documents describing its emerging Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) licensing plan.

The MPSA was very briefly described by Microsoft back in November. It's a perpetual contract designed to "simplify" software licensing for midsize organizations and will replace Microsoft's Select Plus licensing at some unspecified point in the near future. Microsoft officials had previously said that MPSA licensing became available on Dec. 1. However, according to licensing experts, it isn't broadly available yet or it's just available to some customers. The general rollout of MPSA licensing is planned for late 2014, which is when all enrollments will be expected to start following the MPSA model.

The newly released documents describing MPSA are available at this Microsoft volume licensing page. The documents include an overview (PDF), a comparison with Select Plus (PDF) and frequently asked questions (PDF), along with other information.

The other major licensing change planned for general availability by Microsoft this year is Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE). SCE is an Enterprise Agreement contract, initially rolled out on Dec. 1, that requires having Software Assurance coverage across an organization's infrastructure. SCE eventually will replace Microsoft's current Enrollment for Application Platform (EAP) and Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) offerings.

MPSA Capabilities
It turns out that the MPSA is still evolving. Microsoft's documents explain that just some elements are available today. For instance, MPSA isn't available yet for academic and government sectors. In addition, Software Assurance coverage under MPSA isn't available, but Microsoft plans to add it by the "end of 2014," according to the FAQ.

MPSA will allow organizations to purchase multiple account types, including premises-based Microsoft products along with online services, through a single contract. However of the services, only Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Yammer and Windows Intune subscriptions are currently available with the present MPSA offering. Microsoft isn't allowing organizations to change their online service plans yet under the MPSA offering, but that capability will be added later.

Microsoft describes the MPSA as blending elements of the Microsoft Business and Services Agreement, Select Plus licensing and Microsoft Online Services subscriptions. It consists of two parts: a licensing agreement and a "purchasing account" document that specifies which entities in an organization can make a software purchase. Per Microsoft's nomenclature, the "agreement administrator" of an MPSA is the person in an organization that handles the MPSA's purchasing account.

The main tool for managing an MPSA is a new "Microsoft Volume Licensing Center," which will provide tools for the agreement administrator that will show account details covered under the MPSA. Still to be added to the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center are tools for "user management and pre-populated and custom reports," according to Microsoft's FAQ. Moreover, if an organization has other kinds of volume licensing agreements with Microsoft, then they will have to use the older Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center to manage those accounts.

In addition to supporting multiple account types, the MPSA will allow organizations to work with multiple Microsoft partners on software purchases while maintaining a single MPSA contract. Previously, Microsoft had required a single partner of record for such software purchasing deals.

Price Levels
Microsoft didn't provide any documents listing pricing information for the new MPSA offering, but the FAQ described the MPSA as being based on "three product pools: Applications, Systems and Servers." Four price levels (A through D) are associated with each product pool based on "product points." To get certain pricing under MPSA, an organization has to maintain a certain level of pricing points for one year. For instance, A-level pricing requires maintaining 500 price points over the year.

"No entry minimum is required to begin purchasing through the MPSA," Microsoft's FAQ states. "However, to maintain purchasing eligibility at Level A you must purchase a minimum of 500-points within each active product pool by the compliance anniversary date. The compliance anniversary date is established as the one year anniversary of the month you first sign your MPSA."

It's not clear how an organization an organization can calculate its costs under such as scheme. Presumably the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center would have the tools. However, Microsoft didn't explain the details in its documentation.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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