Microsoft's client-access licensing and pricing changes to hit December 1

Business customers who purchase CALs from Microsoft for use with Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, Windows Server, System Center and other products should be aware of licensing/pricing changes coming soon.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As of December 1, Microsoft is changing the way it prices the "user" option when purchasing client-access licenses (CALs), which will result in higher prices for some customers.


With the User CAL, customers buy a CAL for every user who accesses the server to use services such as file storage or printing, regardless of the number of devices they use for that access. With a Device CAL, they purchase a CAL for every device that accesses a server, regardless of the number of users who use that device to access the server.

Microsoft has positioned User CALs as being the optimal choice if company employees need to have roaming access to the corporate network using multiple devices, or from unknown devices, or simply if there are more devices than users in an organization. "Device CALs may make more economic and administrative sense if your company has workers who share devices, for example, on different work shifts," the Softies have said.

In the past, the price for these two kinds of CALs has been roughly the same, explained UK reseller Softcat in a blog post about the coming CAL changes dating back to October. But as of December 1, Microsoft is going to raise the price of user CALs by 15 percent, while keeping device CAL prices the same.

Microsoft notified its partners about these changes, expecting partner to let customers know so they could take action before December 1.

I asked Microsoft on November 26 for confirmation about these coming changes and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

“Microsoft recently notified partners about enterprise Client Access Licenses (CALs) changes so they can inform customers about their options before the changes take effect on December 1, 2012. These CAL changes include a user-based option that offers more value in support across unlimited devices and simplifies licensing management and compliance as devices in the workplace proliferate. Pricing for user CALs will change to reflect the increased value. Customers should work with their Microsoft partner or account team to assess their options.”

According to Microsoft partner Softcat, these are the Microsoft products that will be affected by this licensing change:

  • Bing Maps Server CAL
  • Core CAL Suite
  • Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Exchange Server Standard and Enterprise CALs
  • Lync Server Standard and Enterprise CALs
  • Project Server CAL
  • SharePoint Server Standard and Enterprise CALs
  • System Center 2012 Client Management Suite
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • Visual Studio TFS CAL
  • Windows Multipoint Server CAL
  • Windows Server CAL
  • Windows Server RDS, RMS, Terminal Services CAL

Does this mean users with User CALs have only four days left to panic and try to find some way to get around the coming change? Softcat notes that users with existing volume license agreements, like Enterprise Agreements, Enterprise Subscription, Open Value Subscription and Open Value Perpetual have more time. They can retain their pre-negotiated pricing until the end of their current contract terms, Softcat explained.

Customers who are considering purchasing products that require CALs any time in the near term, may want to talk to their Microsoft reps or partners of choice in the next few days, however, if they haven't already, about how best to try to protect themselves from the pending licensing/pricing changes.

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