Microsoft Volume Licensing Update: The Fine Print on Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE)

By Cindy Barron-Taylor

Director of Client Services, NPI

January 24, 2018

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If you’re a seasoned Microsoft Volume Licensing customer, you’re probably familiar with Microsoft’s Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI). This Enterprise Agreement enrollment was originally designed to simplify licensing and help  Microsoft Volume Licensing customers manage their core infrastructure more efficiently. In 2013, Microsoft announced that it would replace the ECI with a new enrollment – the Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE).

But, like most major volume licensing changes with Microsoft, this change was not a simple “replacement.” There were several underlying changes that were not immediately clear to some customers. Fast forward to today and many Microsoft Volume Licensing customers are still feeling the impact of this opacity.

When Microsoft retired the ECI, it advised ECI customers that the SCE was the newest version of this type of EA. However, many companies are shocked to learn that, even though this is how the SCE was sold to them, the underlying requirements and commitments of the SCE are not the same. Unfortunately, full understanding of these requirements and commitments often doesn’t occur until a true-up is due or a compliance inspection is underway. Here at NPI, we regularly help clients grasp these complex licensing issues, and establish the optimal licensing strategy for their needs – best-match usage rights at lowest cost. 

Here’s the 411 on this thorny issue. Under an ECI, Microsoft customers were not required to license the Core Infrastructure for their entire enterprise. The ECI was simply a means to get into an EA with additional discounts to cover Core Infrastructure purchases. While some of Microsoft’s Volume Licensing customers took advantage of this new way to buy (and did in fact license their entire enterprise consistently for ease of management), others merely used the ECI as a vehicle to achieve deeper discounts on net new server additions. 

This flexibility changed with the SCE.  The language in the SCE describes the Existing Baseline Licenses and the requirement by the SCE customer to identify all Existing Baseline Licenses in each Product Family upon the start of the enrollment. If there are licenses not identified at that time, those licenses may not be used during the enrollment term.  For example, let’s say a customer has 100 licenses of CIS Datacenter Core 2-Lic on an ECI and 75 licenses of Windows Server on Select Plus. When that customer signs a SCE for the 100 CIS Datacenter Core 2-Lic licenses, the 75 Windows Server licenses on Select Plus may not be used during the course of the SCE enrollment. This was not the case in the ECI. 

Also, the ECI allowed customers to purchase licenses for the individual components of the Core Infrastructure Suite (such as Windows Server and System Center) through existing Volume Licensing options such as the desktop EA or Select Plus.  This same is not true on the SCE, as the SCE Product Selection Form points out that quantities of Windows Server and System Center must be combined into the CIS Suite SKU.

This is just one reminder of why it’s important to fully understand changes to Microsoft’s Volume Licensing programs, and to analyze how these changes will affect your Microsoft usage rights and spend. Subtle variations in language can have meaningful impacts on costs (and, in some cases, compliance).