SPLA Automation

If you want to run your SPLA business efficiently, SPLA automation is needed for several key reasons, such as Reducing time spend. Optimizing license cost, Optimize end customer invoicing and Improving Compliance status.

What is SPLA automation?

At the core SPLA automation includes:

  • Automated inventory collection, from multiple data sources, to establish the data foundation needed,
  • Complex license calculations, finding the most optimal licensing option across versions, editions, etc. and deliver an accurate draft for ordering.

But in addition to this, it should also include:

  • Support for end customer invoicing
  • Documentation for Audit purposes

Automated inventory

Extracting inventory data is not rocket science, still there are a few aspects you consider in relation to the automation processes, like:

  • Can you monitor your environment to ensure new installations or user access can be detected and managed within the reporting month? (“You can’t manage what you don’t know”)
  • Can you keep track of changes during the reporting month? A snapshot at the beginning and end of a reporting month is not enough to ensure correct licensing – or compliance.

Complex license calculations

License rules are not always easy to understand, especially if licensing in general is not “your cup of tea”. The rules may be changing from time to time as the manufacturer finds new ways to increase their revenue, including new or changed license metrics, included license metrics, etc.

The term: “Highest watermark” is a bit different under SPLA, than with traditional licensing, as the Highest watermark e.g.  must be counted, not by the highest number of users during a period, but by on the highest number of individual users with access during the reporting month.

Licensing calculations can only be truly automated with the knowledge of current license rules and continued updates the these being implemented.

Keeping updated requires dedication, interest and time, which is not always present at service providers, making home-grown automation very difficult.

In addition to this you need to be in control of what products are being licensed under SPLA, and which are not.

You need to track Proof of Concept for customers, exclude server installations covered by License Mobility and keep continuous track of these entitlements in relations to required licenses, to mention a few.

Adding SAL for SA will increase complexity as you should report (and Invoice) based on actual access and not the number of SAL for SA entitlements, taking mixed licensing with SAL for SA and regular SALs in to considerations.

Common pitfalls in relation to reporting

Even when you have automated and accurate inventory to perform the sometimes complex license calculations, you still need to take specific license rules into considerations, such as, but not limited to:

  • Reporting only one 2 core pack when you are required to report a minimum of 4 cores
  • Miss combination of Windows and SQL
  • Reporting Office without RDS
  • Reporting SharePoint without SQL
  • Reporting SharePoint Enterprise without reporting Standard
 

In addition to this you need to be in control of what products are being licensed under SPLA, and which are not.

You need to track Proof of Concept for customers, exclude server installations covered by License Mobility and keep continuous track of these entitlements in relations to required licenses, to mention a few.

Adding SAL for SA will increase complexity as you should report (and Invoice) based on actual access and not the number of SAL for SA entitlements, taking mixed licensing with SAL for SA and regular SALs in to considerations.

End customer invoicing

This may not be a core feature of a SPLA reporting tool, but this is more often than one should expect, a topic that can be improved.

When inventory is more than a snapshot twice a month and the inventory baseline, the previous reporting month is concluded, the changes related to licensing, can be used to improve the accuracy of end customer invoicing.

To be able to automate support for end customer invoicing you need to have the inventory data sorted on a per customer basis, in relation to deployments and access. As customers are not static, keeping track of changes becomes vital for accurate invoicing, which again also ties into the highest watermark mentioned above.

A report, showing if changes on an end customer has occurred delivers a fast and efficient overview on which customer(s) needs attention in relation to invoicing for the reporting month, so proper actions can be taken.

Documentation for audit purposes

Unless you are able to reject an auditor’s claim, an audit can be quite expensive as auditors often seem to make assumptions that favor Microsoft at the expense of the service provider.

Documentation is the best, and often the only, defense in relation to an audit as “He who holds the best arguments, often wins the discussion”.

Linear calculations, like: “The auditor is applying the logic of that the ESX hosts we have today were the same for the past three years”. (Needless to say that is not the case) or assumptions like: “Based on these sample data we can extrapolate your license needs to be…” are not unusual, but without proper documentation it can be difficult to argue against.

By automating inventory, keeping track of changes during the reporting month, describing how licenses were calculated and saving this in a format which cannot be tampered with, you will have the data needed for the documentation you need for an audit.

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