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The SAM Club’s 10th Anniversary

As we enter a new decade The SAM Club is celebrating its 10th Anniversary.

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One thing that hasn’t changed over the 10 years is that licensing rules & compliance requirements continue to change.

During our 10 years we have:-

  • Continued to acquire long term clients that have on-going Service Agreements with us.
  • Performed many projects to help clients with their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement renewals.
  • Helped clients to become compliant & successfully negotiate Microsoft Audits.
  • Helped to novate & co-term license agreements during mergers (In one case we helped with the merger of 3 major law firms).
  • Helped clients purchase low cost 2nd hand Microsoft licenses to meet specific needs.
  • Helped clients recoup costs by reselling redundant on-premise licenses as they move to cloud-based solutions.

We have seen significant IT changes & trends which have had significant impacts on licensing decisions & costs:-

  • Vendors moving from permanent licensing to subscriptions.
  • Uptake in Software as a Service (SaaS), such as Mimecast.
  • Fast-growing new Software Vendors, such as Veeam.
  • Vendors providing mobility/multi-device management & security solutions.
  • The trend towards cloud-based solutions, especially Office365 & Azure.

The SAM Club has kept pace with these trends & expanded its range of services in order to continue to provide good SAM & Licensing advice to its clients considering their future IT plans.

10 years ago, our largest client was a 600-user law firm. Today our largest client has over 3,500 users.

Our geographic spread has widened with clients in Jersey, Salisbury, Nottingham, Dublin as well as in London. Modern remote working & web-based technology enables us to work efficiently in helping remote clients whilst keeping our fees down.

We can honestly say that we have saved all our clients significantly more money than our fees, as well as saving them time & ensuring compliance.

If you are not already a SAM Club client, then we would be pleased to have an exploratory discussion with you. Contact us.

Follow us on LinkedIn & sign up to our blog, where we regularly publish timely licensing news & good practice tips.

 

News Release – Our new partnership for cloud and modern workplace

Working with the experts at independent cloud consultancy SystemsUp

SAM Club & SystemsUp

At the SAM Club, we are independent licensing and Software Asset Management consultants.

For 10 years we have provided cost effective, practical solutions to manage software licensing, purchasing, renewals, re-harvesting and compliance.

However, many of our clients are in process of moving from, or are actively considering moving from, on-premise IT solutions to cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365, M365, Azure and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.

To assist our clients with the technical side of these migrations we have partnered with independent consultancy SystemsUp. The team at SystemsUp work with organisations across the public and private sector to ensure that the cloud services and collaboration tools they choose are implemented effectively and securely.

Having the right partner to provide independent technical consultancy services helps our clients to choose the right cloud-based applications and services, and to architect the very best solutions to meet their business requirements.

Our partnership with SystemsUp offers an additional option to The SAM Club’s clients. It does not interfere with our clients using their usual software suppliers.

Ian Nicholls, Director & Managing Consultant at The SAM Club says, “SystemsUp and The SAM Club are both authorised Microsoft partners. Together, we provide objective, expert licensing and technical guidance, to help our clients make the best decisions and to reduce cost and risk.”

Nick Martin, Managing Director of SystemsUp, says, “Our partnership is about helping organisations to exploit all aspects of the cloud in a way that benefits their business as well as their users. We want to ensure that their move to the cloud is as seamless as possible and results in a workplace that is fit for the digital age.”

Get in touch to find out more

VMware announces Price Increases w.e.f. 2nd April 2020

VMware announces Price Increases starting from week ending 2nd April 2020. On 3rd February 2020 VMware announced a change to its per-CPU licensing model.

VMware price increases image

As from 2nd April 2020 any software offering that VMware licenses on a per-CPU basis (e.g. vSphere) will require one license for up to 32 physical cores and an additional CPU licenses for every additional (up to) 32 cores.

This is in recognition of processors having an increasing number of cores, making them more powerful. Also, it starts to align VMware with software authors such as Microsoft that already licenses products such as Windows Server & SQL Server on a per-core basis.

Note that this is related to real physical CPU cores not logical processors created by Hyperthreading.

The change is unlikely to affect the vast majority of customers immediately as most use servers with Intel or AMD processors having less than 32-cores.

For the few customers who are currently deploying VMware software on CPUs with more than 32 cores, or for those that are in the process of purchasing physical servers with more than 32 cores per CPU, VMware is providing a grace period after the licensing metric change goes into effect on 2nd April 2020. Any customer who purchases VMware software licenses for deployment on a physical server with more than 32-cores per CPU prior to 30th April 2020 will be eligible for additional free per-CPU licenses to cover the CPUs on that server.

To apply for additional licenses customers may contact their reseller, VMware sales or raise a ticket with VMware Support via there My VMware portal. Of course, The SAM Club will help its clients where required.

The SAM Club will be making a change to its clients SAM Workbooks to record those servers running VMware software that have processors with more than 32 cores & how many per-CPU licenses are assigned to each CPU.

The terms and conditions for customers to apply for additional free licenses to support deployments of VMware software on CPUs with more than 32 cores are:-

  • Servers and VMware licenses must be purchased before 11:59 pm PST U.S. 30th April 2020
  • The request for additional licenses must be submitted before 11:59pm PST U.S. on 29th January 2021. Proof of server purchase prior to 30th April 2020 will be required
  • Customers must be on active VMware support (SnS) contracts at the time of the request for additional licenses.
  • Customers will be charged for Service and Support (SnS) on the additional free licenses at the time the customer’s SnS contract for the existing licenses renews.

VMware’s announcement can be found here and a useful article can be found here.

For assistance with your VMware licensing & SnS, VMware licensing compliance, & maintaining your My VMware portal please contact us at info@thesamclub.co.uk

You might also be interested in our other VMware blog articles.
Take care when splitting and combining VMware licenses
VMware #I’m Compliant Campaign

SQL Server 2019 licensing

SQL Server 2019 licensing reached General Availability on 6th November 2019.

SQL Server 2019 licensing

See here for product feature details.

The significant change to licensing (from the 2017 release) is that with each purchase of SQL Server with Software Assurance (SA), you are entitled to:

  • Fail-Over servers for disaster recovery New

Allows customers to install and run passive SQL Server 2019 instances in a separate OSE or server for disaster recovery in anticipation of a failover event.

  • Fail-Over servers for disaster recovery in Azure New

Allows customers to install and run passive SQL Server 2019 instances in a separate OSE or server for disaster recovery in Azure in anticipation of a failover event.

  • Fail-Over servers for high availability

Allows customers to install and run passive SQL Server 2019 instances in a separate OSE or server for high availability in anticipation of a failover event.

  • You can also run backups (full and transaction log) and database consistency checks (DBCC CHECKDB) on either or both of these secondary databases.

Microsoft does require these databases to be in non-readable format mode, which is configurable through the AlwaysOn Availability Groups feature set.

You do not have to run SQL Server 2019 to take advantage of these benefits. They are valid for any license of any supported version of SQL Server (which currently is any version starting from SQL Server 2012)

For a summary of SQL Server 2019 licensing see the Licensing Datasheet.

Full licensing information may be found in the Licensing Guide.

These includes details of licensing for Big Data Clusters.

Memo: Microsoft allows you to run any nonproduction workloads under Developer Edition, which is free, so long as your workloads aren’t running production. This includes testing, training and user acceptance.

The SAM Club has helped many clients with their SQL Licensing to ensure compliance whilst making significant cost savings. If we might be of assistance please contact us at info@thesamclub.co.uk to arrange an exploratory discussion.

You might also find our recent blog around SQL Server licensing case studies interesting.

 

Azure Dedicated Hosts now generally available

Azure dedicated host If your organisation is considering Azure or already using it then it is worth considering Azure Dedicated Host which Microsoft released in December 2019. We discussed Azure Dedicated Hosts at our last Azure group meeting back in October.

The Azure Dedicated Host provides physical servers that host one or more Azure virtual machines for Windows and Linux. The servers are dedicated and isolated to your organisation, the server capacity is not shared with other customers. Dedicated Host servers can be grouped together to provide your own server farm within Azure.

The Azure Dedicated Host helps address compliance requirements and gives control over the server infrastructure allowing you to make decisions on the hosts maintenance policies. Further information can be found here.

Unlike on-premise server farms, where there is no limit to the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) that can run on a server, the Azure Dedicated Host does limit the number of VMs based on the number of available VCPUs. The type of VM available is also dependent on the Dedicated Host Type, see the configuration table here.

Note that the Reserved Instance options for 1 and 3 year are not currently available to help reduce the cost, although there is a reference to these within the pricing. Reserved Instances can be managed at an organisational or individual department level. As Dedicated Host has only recently been released, it would appear that – Reserved Instance is an option that will become available in due course.

One benefit – comes with Hybrid Use Rights with Windows Server Datacenter licenses that a customer may already own. These can now be used fully and assigned to an Azure Dedicated Host based on the maximum number of VM’s allowed considering the VCPUs limits. Previously the only option was to assign a Windows Server license to Azure VMs based on the ‘Group of 8’ rule. The ‘Group of 8’ rule states that each VM within Azure must be licensed for all cores subject to a minimum of 8 cores. So, a Windows Server Standard or Datacenter license for 16 cores could only be used for 2 VMs within Azure. Note: Windows Server Datacenter also allows for dual use rights so it can be used for an on-premise host server plus 2 VMs within Azure.

Is your organisation currently using Azure? Have you seen your Azure costs spiral? The SAM Club provides a cost optimisation service to assist organisations to gain control over their Azure spend. Please contact us at info@thesamclub.co.uk if you would like to discuss.

VMware #I’m Compliant Campaign

If your organization uses VMware, you may be contacted by the VMware Global Compliance Services team giving your organization the option to be part of its #I’m Compliant campaign stating: “This campaign offers the opportunity to review your company’s state in regards of VMware software licenses usage and prove adequate compliance related to their terms and conditions. After the process is completed, your organization could obtain a Compliance Certificate related to the licenses reported usage.”

The #I’m Compliant invitation does not state that it is a license audit but, in effect, it is.

If you accept the invitation and participate you will be asked to complete a license Deployment Report and instructions on how to extract the required data from your VMware installations.

You will also be required to complete a Certificate of VMware Software License Deployment declaring that your completed license Deployment Report is an accurate report of the VMware software licenses you have deployed.

Note: The VMware EULA states that “During the License Term for Software and for two (2) years after its expiration or termination, You will maintain accurate records of Your use of the Software sufficient to show compliance with the terms of this EULA. During this period, VMware will have the right to audit your use of the Software to confirm compliance with the terms of this EULA.”

The SAM Club has come across many real world scenarios that have caused licensing issues and EULA breaches, including:-

  • Licences purchased in one country and installed outside the permitted country/region
  • Mixed support levels on VMware installations on a host machine often as a result of splitting, merging or reallocating licenses
  • The use of mixed OEM and channel licenses
  • Multiple installations using the same license key
  • Installations using the wrong license key
  • Wrong licenses upgraded by VMware in response to Upgrade Orders
  • Licenses missing from VMware’s own Installed Base Report (IBR) even though they are on the customer’s MyVMware portal

Please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk if we might help you with any type of VMware audit, your VMware Licensing & Support and managing your MyVMware portal.

For our client’s that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we include the above in our standard service.

 

 

Use your Microsoft SA Planning Services Soon

Microsoft has announced the phasing out of Planning Services days as a benefit of Software Assurance (SA).

The timeline is:-

  • 31st January 2020 – Training Vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days.
  • 31st January 2020 – All Planning Services related to migration to cloud services are retired
  • 1st February 2021 – SA customers cease accruing additional benefits (days)
  • 31st May 2021 – Last day to create Planning Services Vouchers
  • 31st December 2021 – Remaining Planning Services fully retired

 

  1. URGENT ACTION is required if wish to convert your Training Vouchers to Planning Services days.
  2. URGENT ACTION is required to use your Planning Services days in relation to cloud migration

Planning Services provide deployment planning assistance for On-premises or Hybrid environments with Microsoft Consulting Services or qualified Microsoft partners.

Planning Services are largely focussed on transitioning On-premise workloads, such as Desktop (Office/Microsoft 365 & Windows), Exchange, SharePoint & SQL Server, to Microsoft-hosted or mixed (Hybrid) deployments.

Note: You must pro-actively activate your Planning Services benefit creating a Planning Services Voucher which must be assigned to your Project Manager. This is done via your VLSC and/or MPSA licensing web portals.

Although it will be 2 years before Planning Services are fully retired, we recommend that you consider using your Vouchers soon.

Note, however, that Microsoft has introduced FastTrack  to help organisations move to the Cloud.

FastTrack services are delivered by Microsoft employees, Microsoft-approved suppliers and Microsoft-approved partners (“FastTrack specialists”).

There are some specific eligibility criteria such as purchasing a minimum of 150 licenses from the eligible plans.

Customers with eligible subscriptions to Microsoft 365, Office 365, Azure, Dynamics 365 etc can use FastTrack at no additional cost for the life of their subscription.

If you need any assistance, please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk

For those clients that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we will be contacting you to help you claim and manage any outstanding Planning Services benefits, if required.

Also, see our blog on the phasing out of Training Vouchers as a benefit of SA.

Claim your Microsoft SA Training Vouchers Soon

Microsoft has announced the phasing out of Training Vouchers as a benefit of Software Assurance (SA).

It has been replaced by Microsoft Learn which is available to everyone now, is free and self-paced with options  for certification.

The timeline is:-

  • 31st January 2020 – Training Vouchers can no longer be converted to Planning Services days
  • 31st January 2020 – Azure related training courses removed from catalogue
  • 1st February 2021 – SA customers cease accruing additional benefits
  • 31st May 2021 – Last day to claim accrued Training Vouchers
  • January 2022 – Training Vouchers no longer redeemable
  1. URGENT ACTION is required if wish to convert your Training Vouchers to Planning Services days.
  2. URGENT ACTION is required if you wish to use your Training Vouchers for Azure related courses.

Note 1: Training Vouchers are acquired when you purchase SA on On-premise product licenses such as Windows Server & SQL Server core licenses, as well as purchases of Microsoft 365 From-SA User Subscription licenses. (From-SA indicates a transition from SA for on-premise products such as Client Access License (CAL) Suites).

Note 2: You must pro-actively claim your Training Vouchers via your VLSC and/or MPSA licensing web portals. If you have not done so, we recommend you consider doing so soon. However, note that once created, Training Vouchers are valid for 180 days.

Although it will be 2 years before Training Vouchers are no longer redeemable, we recommend that you use your Vouchers soon as we expect Microsoft Certified Training Centres to start to wind down the number and range of courses offered.

If you need any assistance, please contact The SAM Club at info@thesamclub.co.uk

For those clients that have an on-going Service Agreement with The SAM Club we will be contacting you to help you claim and manage any outstanding Training Vouchers benefits.

Also, see our next blog on the phasing out of Planning Services as a benefit of SA.

SAM Club Kickers December Manager of the month

Congratulations to Liam O’Mahoney who is the December manager of the month. Liam is a previous winner of the trophy back in 1996-97.

As we move into January, the transfer window is open in the Premier League. Time to take stock of your squad and team performance and keep an eye on the transfer market. A few teams have replaced their manager so expect some player movement during the month.

There are less than 200 points between 1st place and 18th. Using your wildcard or the bonus options of Bench Boost, Triple Captain and Free Hit at the right time could make a huge difference and see your team climb the table as we move into the second half of the season. Could you be picking up the big prize for this season: The SAM Club Fantasy League Trophy!

SAM Club Kickers Dec 19 Mgr of the mth

Customer journey migrating to Azure and licensing considerations

The SAM Club’s 6th Azure User Group meeting was kindly held at Neon Underwriters, a long-term client of ours based in London. The topic for this meeting was about a customer’s journey migrating to Azure. The SAM Club also presented on some of the licensing considerations that firms need to consider when planning their Azure migration.

Customer journey migrating to Azure event

Azure Licensing

Ian Nicholls from The SAM Club kicked the event off with a presentation on Azure licensing, discussing how Windows Server on premise licenses with SA (Software Assurance) can be used within Azure via the Hybrid Use Benefit. Emphasis was placed on the planning phase when considering moving to Azure and the importance of licensing.

Microsoft use the ‘Group of 8 Rule’ which refers to the number of cores, so a VM (virtual machine) must be licensed for 8 cores minimum. If a Windows Server Standard license for 16 Cores is used within Azure under Hybrid Use Rights, this can be used for a max 2 VM’s (2 x 8 Cores) based on the specification of the VM. The rule for a Standard license is that it can be used for an on-premise server or in Azure but not both. But you get 180 days of concurrent use rights whilst migrating servers.

This rule also applies to Windows Server Datacenter (DC) which seems strange as DC is for unlimited VM’s within a host server on premise. But within Azure there is no concept of a host server. A Datacenter license can be used both on premise & in Azure – based on the Group of 8 rule. So, a 16 Core DC license can be used for a max of 2 VM’s within Azure.

You can also stack licenses so by adding more cores, you can run a VM for 16, 24, 32 cores etc. Savings of up to 40% on VM’s can be seen when using the Azure Hybrid Use benefit.

SQL licensing

The Azure Hybrid Use Rights for SQL Server within Azure only applies to the per core licensing model for SQL Server Standard and Enterprise per core licenses with SA.

SQL Server licenses on the server/CAL model are not applicable for Azure Hybrid Use Rights.

SQL Server Enterprise when used for General Purpose or Hyperscale Service Tiers are entitled to 4 cores for 1 core with SA owned and used. Business Critical or Azure Virtual Machines are only entitled to 1:1 core.

Each VM must be licensed for every core with a minimum of 4 cores per VM.

With migrating to Azure there is also 180 days of concurrent use rights to assist with the process.

BYOL – Bring your Own License

Where software licenses that are owned and used within Azure outside of the Hybrid Use Benefit, such as SQL Server on the Server/CAL model, a License Mobility Verification Form must be completed within 10 days and submitted via the LSP/Reseller.

Azure Dedicated Host

Azure Dedicated Host (DH) is a new service that is currently in preview from 1st August 2019 so has some limitations.

Azure Hybrid User Rights can be used for a Windows Server Datacenter license being applied to the DH for all the cores. A DH can also be used for SQL Server with an Enterprise License also being applied based on the number of cores on the DH.

It is also possible to group DH together, like an on premise ESX farm for example.

The DH addresses compliance requirements by giving the ability to place Azure VMs on a specific & dedicated physical server with host level isolation – no third party VM’s will be placed on your hosts.

With Azure VM’s, Microsoft complete and apply maintenance to the VM’s as required. With Dedicated Host servers, you have the option to defer host maintenance for up to 35 days, thereby gaining full control over the sequence and velocity of the maintenance process. Most maintenance events have little or no impact on your VM’s. But there may be some sensitive workloads where every second of pause could have an impact. You can therefore opt in to a maintenance window for control and to reduce the impact on your service.

Existing Azure VM’s can be moved to Dedicated Hosts and it is our understanding that portal support for this will be available soon.

Pricing

  • Charged per dedicated host – not VM
  • No upfront costs
  • Host price based on:
    • VM series (Dsv3 & Esv3 – support for Fsv2 coming soon)
    • Hardware Size
    • Region
  • Software Licensing, Storage & Network usage billed separately – no change compared to Azure VM’s
  • No termination Fees
  • Reserved Instance are not currently available during the preview phase.

Below are the current Dedicated Host options. It is worth noting, that with an on-premise server running VM’s there are no limitations on the number of VM’s.

With DH there is a limit based on the number of virtual CPUS available:

Azure Dedicated Host options

Updated License Terms:

On 1st October 2019, Microsoft updated their licensing terms for dedicated hosted cloud services.

Due to the emergence of dedicated hosted public cloud services, beginning 1st October 2019 on-premise licenses purchased without software assurance and mobility rights cannot be deployed within the following public cloud providers: Microsoft, Alibaba, Amazon (including VMware Cloud on AWS), and Google. They will be referred to as “Listed Providers.”

These changes don’t apply to other providers and there will be no change to the Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) program or to the License Mobility for Software Assurance benefit, other than to expand this benefit to cover dedicated hosted cloud services.

Farrer & Co LLP: Journey to the Azure Cloud

Neil Davison IT Director at Farrer explained, signing an agreement with Net Documents in 2013/14 was Farrer’s first toe in the water with their journey to the cloud. Farrer were one of the first law firms to move their infrastructure to the cloud, which was considered due to aging technology during a review of their infrastructure. There were server room issues, cabling issues and technology nearing end of life, so a full replace was needed. Dell worked with Farrer on a review strategy roadmap so they could consider replacing their on-premise infrastructure, versus Private and Public Cloud options. When this was presented to the board it was clear that Public cloud offered the best solution.

Any security issues that the board raised were addressed by Microsoft’s trust center and they found this resource invaluable in helping convince the board to approve the project. In 2016 the project was approved, so Farrer set about finding the right partner to help them with help from Microsoft. After tendering to 4 partners, SystemsUp were chosen and they led Farrer through every aspect of the migration.

The planning phase took 14 months and their infrastructure was mapped so they could see what was in place and which systems linked to each other. From here a migration plan was formulated and as the integration between systems was crucial, the decision was taken to move everything to Azure at the same time.

Security

Microsoft offers a very high level of security, but it is still a shared responsibility. So, Farrer had to put a plan in place for security on servers and patching, mapping against CIS benchmarks – which is run by Microsoft and advises on measures to take to help improve your company’s security score.

A high-profile client did an audit at Farrer and security was a high concern all round, but Azure was not the concern, most questions were around the Net Documents software with Azure being a tick box exercise.

Farrer backfilled their infrastructure team and utilised SystemsUp to upskill the team so that they had in house knowledge once the project was completed.

Farrer have other security products in place aside from Microsoft’s; currently on the Microsoft M365 E3 plan they use products from Checkpoint and Tenable.io to complement their security and are considering moving to Microsoft M365 E5 next year.

Testing

Testing took thousands of hours and they had a team test the migration plan before it was executed live. Some of the systems were 20 plus years old so some latency was picked up. The decision was made to use the Amsterdam datacentre as this is one of the first locations to receive updates with London being the second datacentre location.

Changes did happen during the migration with updates from Microsoft coming through regularly in Azure, but SystemsUp understood Farrer’s environment and were able to adapt accordingly. A question was raised in the room about how this new adoption of technology is being received within the law firm. There is always resistance to change but that is the nature of the world we live in now and technology is becoming more of a competitive edge for law firms to have over the competition.

There is a testing group in place at Farrer who meet every 6 weeks to review changes and decisions made on which updates to implement.

Changes internally

The infrastructure team at Farrer have changed the way they work, and the team have reskilled using resources such as the Microsoft Enterprise Skills initiative for support and training. They are more focused on being proactive and looking at what’s coming; which makes them more agile and able to leverage new technologies such as AI.

Farrer see Azure as much more than a lift and shift and feel they have only touched the surface of what is possible in Azure. Re-platforming of systems is taking place now and considering other cloud services.

Since migrating their entire infrastructure to Azure and using Microsoft 365 Farrer have had 100% uptime.

Regarding Business continuity Farrer have completed fail over testing for a week with the London Datacenter being used during the DR (Disaster Recovery) period which ran as good as the live environment. Remote working is enabled through a Checkpoint VPN providing direct access with an always on VPN connection.

The next step for Farrer is a review of the infrastructure and costings, they have some servers on Reserved Instances (RI) now and they review them quarterly with SystemsUp.

Additional resources

Microsoft have a Fast Track Service team for Azure which is available based on eligibility.

Discussion on next topic and host

Ideas for the next meeting topic were:

  • Azure Sentinel demo and security discussion
  • Dictalogic demo (an alternative to BigHand)

The date and location are to be confirmed.

You can find blog articles from our previous events here:
Azure User Group meeting
Azure User Group meeting 2 Dev /Test
Azure User Group meeting 3 Security & Compliance
Azure AI Chatbots is the hype justified?
Microsoft Cloud Economics Assessment