Monday 10 June 2019

Microsoft Licencing for a serverless school.

Going serverless challenges every preconception regarding networking and application delivery and that includes Microsoft licencing.  Working on the premise that nobody really understands this subject let’s try and keep things simple.

First we must assume that the adoption of Office 365 or G Suite for Education and associated SaaS applications has removed the requirements for SQL Server, Exchange and Remote Desktop Service (RDS).  It’s hard to believe that in 2019 a school would still be licencing a local Exchange server rather than the free Office 365 A1 tier for faculty and students. There’s really no excuse for this capital crime against the school finances.

However, while the school still runs Windows OS with local file and print services and MS Office 2019 installed on the desktop you still require a base set of licences.
  • A licence to install and update the Windows desktop OS.
  • A licence to install and upgrade the Microsoft Office suite.
  • A licence to install and upgrade the Windows Server OS.
  • Client Access Licences (CALS) for either devices or users to access resources on the server(s).
While it’s possible to licence each item individually most schools choose to purchase a ‘bundle’ under one of the Microsoft educational plans such as Open Value Subscription Agreement for Education Solutions (OVS-ES).

This approach has one major advantage. In addition to simplifying ordering, the bundled set carries a ‘student benefit’ option. This means that if the school buys licences for all staff members (defined as Full Time Employees or FTE’s) the same licence covers the student body as well.

Clearly this scheme has the potential for significant cost savings. In fact for any school operating a shared deployment of Windows devices, a Mac OS ICT suites running Office, a teaching and administrative department embedded with Microsoft Office and a multi-node Hyper-V Server farm it’s a deal not to be missed but what if you’ve gone serverless ?

In this situation the annual renewal cost for the bundle can look pretty steep, especially if the school needs to purchase a licence for each staff member regardless of whether they even have a network logon.  If the school derives value from the licence bundle that’s fine but with a serverless school that's unlikely to be true

For example the bundle includes a server user CAL which is not much use to a school that doesn’t run file and print services or host local Active Directory.

Similarly if pupils access a large shared pool of Windows 10 devices with Office 2019 installed the student benefit option makes financial sense but if they using Chromebooks or iPads to access G Suite or Office 365 web apps you're paying for something you don't need.

So what would Microsoft licensing look like for a serverless school that still needs to maintain a Windows 10 environment ?

This will vary from school to school but there are some pointers.

Manage Windows devices using InTune.
Schools need to move towards Windows 10 by January 2020 as support for Windows 7 depreciates.  Take this opportunity to place the new image under InTune control rather than falling back to a legacy process that requires local licensing. InTune offers a simple device licensing model which can factored into the price of the device. Alternatively InTune licences can be allocated to individual users.

Only licence what you need.
Why purchase Office 2019 licences for every staff (and student) member when only the SLT team actually need it to fulfill their duties. Office can be licenced as an add-on subscription to the free A1 tier and then allocated to those member of staff who need it. Everybody else can use the Office web apps which covers most situations.

If you ask a member of staff if they need Office 2019 the answer will be always be yes. If you then ask for a contribution towards the licencing costs you’ll probably find that, after due consideration the Office365 web apps will be fine after all.

Google has recently announced a new facility that allows the native editing of Office documents directly from G Drive. This may not meet the needs of the office macro ninja but it could reduce the need to licence Office for ad-hoc access and will certainly allow students to edit legacy document sets.

Make use of the new initiatives.
Microsoft is aware that the current EDU licence model is not ideal for the SaaS based school and is working hard to make it more attractive. One of these initiatives is the Shape the Future K-12 education program.

The major benefit of this scheme is the ability to order devices from Microsoft Partners with Windows 10 Pro preloaded. Units can then be manually enrolled into InTune without requiring an additional upgrade licence (Home -> Pro) or delivered direct to the user in a ready to run state through the AutoPilot scheme.

Schools with new hardware stock not covered by the scheme can still purchase an upgrade licence through OVS-ES but it’s far easier to absorb the discounted cost in the initial purchase price and enjoy the benefits of a more streamlined deployment process.

Run an appliance not a server
If your students and staff are taking resources from the cloud (including directory services) your local appliance should be reduced to running network support processes (DHCP, DNS). File storage will be managed using OneDrive/ Teams / Google Drive / Shared Drives while the print server role moves to a SaaS platform such as as Printix that integrates closely with both InTune and G Suite.

If you are running Windows Server you still need to licence the server cores but so long as your clients are not accessing local resources (application/file/print) there is no requirement for CALS. And of course you don't have to run Windows Server 2019 to provide basic network support.

Microsoft licencing becomes simple again. If you need a Windows device the total six year cost** is

Cost of device + Cost of the InTune device license + Cost of upgrade licence (if required).

       ** An InTune device licence is valid for six years.

A new staff member becomes

Cost of an annual Office Pro subscription licence (if required for role) otherwise use the free A1 Faculty.

The Office Pro licence, like the InTune user licence is transferable so you can work with a small free pool to make it more flexible.

Reevaluating Microsoft licensing in this way can bring substantial savings. There may be good operational reasons why this might not be immediately possible but in the future the serverless school shouldn’t be bundling up.

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