Microsoft Eases Exchange Online License Assignments

Microsoft has simplified the administration of Exchange Online licensing when used with Azure Active Directory, per a Friday announcement.

IT pros that assign software licenses using the Microsoft 365 Admin Center or Azure AD PowerShell have sometimes gotten a message that they can't assign licenses that include conflicting services. In such cases, the attempted license assignment will fail. The license assignment failed because "concurrent Exchange Online license assignments" weren't permitted.

Microsoft has now changed that scenario. It's now possible to "stack" licenses that include the Exchange Online service. Per this new approach, the license that supports the most features will take precedence over a lesser license.

Microsoft gave the example of trying to assign an Exchange Online Plan 2 license to an existing Microsoft 365 Business Standard licensee (who already has Exchange Online access capabilities). Under the earlier scenario, IT pros would get a license assignment failure, but now such licenses get stacked.

The Exchange Online license stacking change apparently is in effect for organizations other than government agencies right now. Microsoft is planning to add this capability to "all Sovereign clouds (including Office 365 operated by 21Vianet) and Government clouds" sometime in the first half of this year.

Double Billing?
Possibly, organization could in essence get double billed with Microsoft's new Exchange Online licensing stacking approach. Microsoft's announcement didn't clarify that important detail, but it did offer the following warning:

This is important to understand: if two (or more) licenses are assigned, all of them are "in use" (and might be billed).

One might think that Microsoft's new Exchange Online licensing stacking approach would not double bill organizations. However, if that's the case, the announcement did not precisely state it.

Large Enterprise Benefit
The old Exchange Online licensing assignment approach mostly had been a problem for Microsoft's large enterprise customers that used groups to assign licenses, the announcement explained. Large enterprises had to figure out "which group to remove the user from" when making new assignments. The old approach was also problematic if automated scripts were used as part of that process.

The new approach with Exchange Online licensing stacking also offers benefits for organizations moving to Teams or SharePoint. Those applications and other Office 365 solutions may involve Exchange Online licensing, Microsoft explained:

Many services in Office 365 (Teams included) rely on Exchange Online to either store data in or to access data from mailboxes. For this reason, license packs constructed for Teams or SharePoint or other services, will sometimes include an Exchange Online license as well.

Other Exchange News
In other recent Exchange Online news, Microsoft has now documented how IT pros can search for, and retrieve, inactive mailbox data. The details are outlined in this announcement.

Also, for Exchange Server administrators, Microsoft recently announced that it is actively seeking feedback on improving the installation process for cumulative updates and security updates. A Microsoft survey to that effect will be available "until the end of this month."

About the Author

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


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