Saving money on software licensing is now more important than ever. It is sad to see that some ITAM roles are under review in organisations due to cost cutting measures. I believe that IT and Software Asset Management (SAM) is a great way for businesses to save money, rather than an expense to be removed when times get tough.  

A common area where organisations can make cost savings, or at least prevent future unnecessary expenditure, is their Microsoft software estate. Correctly managing and optimising your investment in Microsoft software can offer key cost saving opportunities. Having worked with many organisations on Microsoft licensing reviews and audit defences over the years, I have seen several common mistakes that are easily made and end up costing businesses more money than necessary. 

The right knowledge and expertise can help organisations make some relatively minor changes that will save money in both the short and long term. 

For this article I am going to focus on SQL Server and Visual Studio. These are the two areas where I will often begin a review of an organisation’s Microsoft licensing as, in my experience, most companies have noncompliance or overspend issues here. 

Managing SQL in a Virtual Environment with Affinity Rules 

Many organisations I have worked with are unaware that if SQL is installed on a virtual machine without any affinity rules, an active Software Assurance is required to let the customer use Licence Mobility rights. This is dependent on which edition/version is installed, as with older licences like SQL Server 2008 R2 per proc metric, the license mobility is included in the licence. If Software Assurance is not in place, the customer is required to licence all the hosts where the virtual machine can move to. 

By default, you can only reassign a Microsoft licence, such as a SQL Enterprise Database, from one server to another every 90 days. This may sound ok if you have a physical datacentre, but it will not work in a virtualised world when virtual servers are designed to jump around hardware for better resource efficiency. At a cost price of around 20% of the license’s cost, you can use Software Assurance to obtain Licence Mobility rights that allows free roaming with Microsoft applications on virtual servers, or you can simply consolidate certain type of virtual servers on one big host. Without properly addressing the Licence Mobility issues, an audit penalty that typically costs five times more than the original licence fee may become payable.   

One method an organisation can use to avoid the requirement of Software Assurance is to create affinity rules through the console used for managing the virtual machines. In this way the customer would prevent any movement of the virtual machine and the License Mobility rights would no longer be required. 

Creating User Groups for Visual Studio Access 

Many companies will install Visual Studio on a server. This presents a really common problem where if the version installed is lower than 2017, then any user who has access to that server requires a licence. In the case of a licence audit the customer will pay far more than they need to for these licenses, simply because they are unaware of how to manage this. 

The best way to fix this problem is to create groups of users (e.g. Active Directory groups) and use these groups to control access to visual studio, only allowing access to users who are correctly licensed. 

It’s Time to Prevent Recurring Software Asset Management Mistakes 

Once an organisation has made fixes to these licence issues, it is important to ensure they do not happen again in six months’ time or similar problems occur in other areas of the software estate. I recommend that companies undergo a software governance assessment where improvements in the control processes can be identified and implemented. This will ensure that no random installations can be executed, and every decision would be monitored and approved or rejected, preventing any waste of money in the future. 

Marco is an experienced Senior Consultant and expert in Microsoft Licensing. He has successfully assisted multiple high-profile license compliance internal audits and audit defence engagements, ensuring his clients are operating on fully optimised and cost-effective licensing terms. 

Prior to his current role at FisherITS, Marco has supported SoftwareONE clients throughout Europe as part of the SoftwareONE Italy team. Marco’s experience and expertise of Microsoft licensing enables large and fast-growing organisations to save money and reduce compliance risk on their Microsoft investment.