May 2013

          Licensing in Plain English: Newsletter on all things Microsoft

          A Note from your Licensing Specialists at PC Connection, Inc. and More Direct:

          Okay, I think it’s time that we all step out of our comfort zone and talk about something we hate to talk about: software compliancy. First of all, we should acknowledge that almost every organization wants to remain compliant (I say ‘almost’ because I have run into a few that don’t care at all – not a smart strategy). Most companies want to be legal, and are NOT trying to rip Microsoft off. We know this, Microsoft knows this. BUT, we also are aware of a phenomenon I call ‘compliance drift’, which happens in certain segments of your IT environment where you sort of slowly drift out of compliance. I am not talking about upgrading to Exchange 2013 when all you only own 2003 – that is a blatant example of non-compliancy. I am talking more about areas that need to be watched closely, and checked once or twice per year. Beware compliance drift, especially now, because Microsoft has recently been challenging their customers compliancy status, sometimes aggressively. There are a few specific types of engagements that we are seeing Microsoft pursue

          1. Self-Audit. This is an instance where Microsoft sends you an email asking you to count your software usage and send the results back to them. They will typically send an ELP (Effective Licensing Position) form to be filled out, then they match that against your MLS report to determine compliancy. Microsoft does not discriminate – any customer may get the request from Microsoft, regardless of compliancy status.
          2. SAM Engagement. In this instance Microsoft sends an email to their customer asking them to engage in a formal “soft-audit” of their network. The good news here is that you as the consumer have the ability to choose who you would like to partner with on the engagement. For instance, PCC is a SAM partner. So we assist many customers in getting their software inventoried, reconciling that with their licensing entitlements, cleaning things up, and presenting to Microsoft. Again, customers are randomly selected – anyone may receive this email at any time.
          3. Formal Software Audit. This is a case where Microsoft thinks something is fishy with your environment - either you have no Windows Server 2008 CAL’s, or your Server-to-CAL ratio is off, or whatever. Microsoft will engage a legit auditing firm to come in and count your licenses. This is not fun.
          4. Business Software Alliance (BSA) audit. We hope this never happens to you, but if you are out of compliance, and someone tips off the BSA, you’re really in hot water. Any found compliancy issue will result in severe fines and back payments. Nobody, not even Microsoft, wants to see this happen. They, and your partners like PCC as well, would prefer that all customers are actively engaged, monitoring licensing entitlements and usage on a regular basis, and truing up as needed.

          In each of these engagements you will be required to purchase any outstanding licensing, usually within 30 days. A good way to avoid getting a request to perform any of these compliancy checks is to proactively engage your software advisor, and even volunteer for a SAM engagement. It sounds counter intuitive, but doing this check on your own with a certified SAM partner is an indication that you are concerned about staying compliant, and will allow you to do this type of reconciliation on your own terms. SAM can be a powerful tool for compliance risk mitigation, and it is usually performed at no charge to the customer – the only charges would be any outstanding licenses, which most companies are willing to purchase in order to confirm that they are entirely, totally, 100% legal with all their Microsoft software.

          Please note: if you do get contacted by Microsoft about any of the engagements listed above, contact us immediately. These are definitely not something that can be ignored, and sometimes a tactful response can sometimes buy you time and/or additional resources.

          I hope this information helps. Please contact your PCC rep or specialist if you have any questions. Now, here are your headlines from April….

          Windows XP Death March: Tips, Tools and Last-Ditch Support Options

          A black day for many IT pros will be coming less than a year from now when the venerable Windows XP operating system hits its end of life. Experts are cautioning against panic, but it's looking kind of grim.

          By Kurt Mackie

          April 28, 2013

          Gartner: 'Prepare now' for the death of Windows XP; security at risk

          Microsoft flips the 'off' switch on Windows XP and Office 2003 support a year from now, and with no more security updates and patches coming, corporate security could be at risk.

          By Zack Whittaker

          April 17, 2013

          Windows 8, take 2? Let's see Start button, boot to desktop

          Microsoft may be moving toward bringing back the Start button and allowing users to boot straight to the desktop with its coming Windows 8.1 release later this year.

          By Mary Jo Foley
          April 16, 2013

          Office 2010 SP2 Beta Now Available for Download

          As of today, customers can download the beta for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 SP2. In addition to updates for the desktop and server apps, this beta also includes full-product SKUs of SharePoint and related server products, updated to install on Windows Server 2012.

          By The Microsoft Office Sustained Engineering Team
          April 8, 2013

          Microsoft Office Rumored to Have 'Gemini' Update Schedule

          Microsoft may have a series of Office updates, code-named "Gemini," which are planned for arrival over the next year or so.

          By Kurt Mackie

          April 11, 2013

          SharePoint 2013, Cloud vs. On-Premises: What You Need To Know

          Microsoft's plan to upgrade SharePoint in the cloud first is complete, but the puzzle for IT is still coming together. Here's a variety of factors you'll want to consider before making an on-site vs. cloud decision.

          By Jeffrey Schwartz

          April 25, 2013

          Microsoft Flings Open the Doors to Windows Azure Infrastructure Services

          Microsoft takes on Amazon's cloud by announcing the general availability of its own Windows Azure Infrastructure Services offering and setting the stage for a price war.

          By Pedro Hernandez

          April 16, 2013

          SQL Server 2000 Losing Security Support on April 9

          SQL Server 2000 is at the end of its product lifecycle and will lose its "extended support" from Microsoft on Tuesday, April 9.

          By Kurt Mackie

          April 5, 2013

          Blue Signals Faster Release Cycle

          A faster product release cadence for both on-premises and hosted products, such as Exchange, Office, and Office 365, and for the Windows OS signals a change that significantly affects Microsoft's customers. At a time when many customers still use older versions, such as Windows XP, unless organizations adapt to faster releases, they may fall further behind, making eventual upgrades to currently supported versions more difficult. Rather than focusing on a single product, such as Windows 8 Blue (a code name), and its new features and updates, organizations should begin thinking about how to manage more frequent product releases across their entire IT infrastructure.

          By Michael Cherry
          Directions on Microsoft
          April 22, 2013

          Microsoft makes available 2013 release of Desktop Optimization Pack

          Microsoft has made its MDOP 2013 virtualization and management tools available for download by volume licensees.

          By Mary Jo Foley

          April 10, 2013

          BizTalk 2013 Catches Up to Platform

          BizTalk Server 2013, released Apr. 1, 2013, is the first version of the product to work with Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012, and the first version to qualify for product support on the Microsoft-hosted Windows Azure cloud platform. BizTalk Server is Microsoft's server product for application integration, business-to-business commerce, and related functions. The update extends BizTalk's supported life and enables customers to move BizTalk installations to Microsoft's latest platform, while Azure could make BizTalk installations easier to deploy and maintain for business-to-business commerce. However, BizTalk Server 2013 also brings a per-core licensing model that could increase future costs.
          BizTalk Server requires the following platform products:

          • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7 SP1, or Windows 8
          • SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 or SQL Server 2012
          • Visual Studio 2012.
          Some features have additional requirements; for example, the SharePoint adapter requires SharePoint 2010 or 2013 on-premises, or a SharePoint Online installation that has been updated to the 2013 software. (Microsoft is currently updating SharePoint Online installations to the 2013 version, a process that will probably be complete by the end of 2013.) BizTalk Server 2013 is licensed per processor core, using a licensing model very similar to the per-core licensing option of SQL Server 2012. Previous versions were licensed per-processor. Customers who have SA on processor licenses have options to convert them to core licenses at the end of their SA terms. In general, BizTalk Server's per-core and per-processor pricing yield similar costs for four-core processors but higher costs for processors with more cores.

          Rob Helm
          Directions on Microsoft
          April 22, 2013

          Microsoft delivers first cumulative update to Exchange 2013

          The first cumulative update for Microsoft's Exchange Server 2013, which includes both bug fixes and new features, is available for download.

          By Mary Jo Foley

          April 2, 2013

          Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 Available

          Visual Studio (VS) 2012 Update 2 was released in Apr. 2013, delivering features and fixes to Microsoft's integrated development environment (IDE). Improvements in Update 2 (which is a cumulative release that includes Update 1) include the following:

          • Tags that help organize work items in product backlogs when using the Scrum Agile development methodology
          • Access to testing tools in Team Web Access, which can help testers when the Test Manager desktop client can't be accessed
          • Several improvements to unit testing and new unit testing support for Windows Phone 8
          • An enhanced user interface for connecting to Team Foundation Server and new support for connecting to the Git open source distributed version control system
          • A profiling tool that can help developers make JavaScript-based Windows Store applications more responsive
          • The SketchFlow user interface mock-up tool (previously only available separately as part of Expression Blend) and support for XAML-based development using Windows Presentation Foundation or Silverlight with Blend (the Blend included in VS 2012 only supported HTML-based development before Update 2)
          • Support for JavaScript and HTML in the LightSwitch line-of-business application rapid development tool (LightSwitch could only be used to build Silverlight-based applications before Update 2)
          • Better performance and other enhancements in IDE features, such as the Code Map tool and the Windows Workflow Foundation and XAML designers.

          By Rob Sanfilippo
          Directions on Microsoft
          April 15, 2013

          SharePoint 2013 Required Update Arrives

          SharePoint and Project 2013 servers received a public update (PU) in Mar. 2013. The update fixes several issues, including some that may arise during an upgrade from earlier versions of SharePoint and Project Server. Customers will have to apply the PU and run the SharePoint Products Configuration Wizard on all servers before any future SharePoint updates can be applied. Versions of the update are available for SharePoint Server 2013, SharePoint Foundation 2013, and Project Server 2013. More information on PU1 for SharePoint 2013 is available at

          Wes Miller
          Directions on Microsoft
          April 1, 2013

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