Microsoft SPLA Reporting using SAM Tools
The Microsoft Service Provider Licensing Agreement, or SPLA, gives service providers and independent software vendors the ability to offer their customers hosted software services including web services, database services and applications.
SPLA service providers must report back their software usage on a monthly basis. However, tracking and reporting monthly SPLA usage can prove to be a difficult undertaking for any organization. Mapping user numbers to each service offered to multiple customers requires input from numerous data sources.
Information is required to be interrogated and collated from different locations. Traditional Software Asset Management tools tend to focus on Volume Licensing within a traditional customer estate, rather than the Service Provider, meaning any attempts to use a SAM tool can often mean making the best of an imperfect solution. Most SAM tools will not have the ability to split per customer and the metrics inherent within SPLA.
Issues with reporting Microsoft Service Provider Licensing Agreement usage
The key issues with reporting SPLA usage come from 3 areas:
Collating all numbers for infrastructure products: This is an area where all inventory tools will be able to give an understanding of the estate and what is installed.
Application instances per customer: Most inventory tools will be able to offer “business units” where the deployments can be places within its own BU per customer. However, within SPLA it is not the deployment that needs to be licensed for productivity, it is the number of users.
Number of users per customer: This is the most challenging aspect of reporting monthly usage on SPLA. This requires identification of the user number per service (e.g. 500 users for customer A using Exchange, 300 from customer A using Skype). In the first instance, assigning users per customer is only available is some SAM tools, but applying users per service is rarely found.
This is only considering the requirements for a single month. SPLA reporting, especially in compliance situations, looks at the monthly figures over multiple months, not just the current reporting period.
Accurate SPLA reporting has other benefits, too
Having visibility of the above has additional benefits beyond reporting correctly to Microsoft. Interrogating these numbers will allow a SPLA provider to identify areas where there is not sufficient control, highlighting areas where improvements and efficiencies can be made. Aligning the findings to SAM best practice can highlight gaps within the SPLA provider’s policies and processes for the lifecycle of their services. For example, if the joiners and leavers process does not automatically turn off accounts then they are liable for payment while active.
The importance of having controls in place and being able to report on these areas has come to the fore in recent years due to Microsoft’s SPLA customer activity. Some reviews include large remediation penalties relating to backdating of subscriptions for three years at the current level of usage. This means that the importance of maintaining historical usage records could be critical in an audit scenario.