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Microsoft 365 Apps on Amazon Workspaces: A Game-Changing Shift Explained

The landscape just shifted: Microsoft 365 Apps are now welcomed on Amazon Workspaces. We dissect this unprecedented move.

What happened?

Before August 2023, you could not deploy Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Office) Apps on Amazon Workspaces. It was prohibited. Not anymore. The way this Microsoft Licensing change was implemented is highly "unconventional".

The Unprecedented Move: Microsoft's Allowance and Its Oddity

Microsoft allowed running Microsoft 365 Apps for Business and Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise on Amazon Workspaces.

It means that if you use Amazon Workspaces in your organisation, you may finally install Office 365 applications in your virtual machines in Amazon Workspaces.

So, if you have a workforce working remotely or you utilise Cloud workstations for centralised management and security, you are less constrained in what you may install for your employees and colleagues to use.

But here is what is very unorthodox with this update. Instead of finally giving all Listed Providers, including Amazon, Alibaba and Google, rights to host Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft singled out one service running on Amazon. So, neither Amazon's clients who use EC2 nor the clients of the other Listed Providers have benefitted from the change.

To add insult to injury, instead of updating the Microsoft Product Terms pages for Microsoft 365 plans, Microsoft added a new page deep down the "Other Legal Terms" tree, thus increasing the complexity of the already convoluted document.

Notwithstanding the above, it is good news for end clients.

Eligibility Criteria: Who Can Deploy Microsoft 365 Apps on Amazon Workspaces?

You must be a subscriber of one of the following plans:

  • Microsoft 365 E3

  • Microsoft 365 E5

  • Microsoft 365 A3

  • Microsoft 365 A5

  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

You must use Amazon Workspaces. No other Amazon services qualify. No other Listed Providers qualify.

We get a lot of questions about Google Cloud. Unfortunately, this right does not extend to Google Cloud.

And there are restrictions in the small print.

If you work in FinOps and ITAM, here's what you need to add to your long list of compliance checks.

"One active instance"

Users licensed with the above-listed products may "install and use a single active instance" of the Microsoft 365 Apps.

"Active instance" is not defined either by Microsoft or by Amazon. We assume that it means it's not a backup instance.

The important limitation is that only one copy is allowed per licensed user.

We don't know how it will be monitored and enforced and if it is even possible.

Permitted support channels

Installed M365 Apps must run on the Enterprise Monthly Channel or Current Channel.

This should not be a problem for the majority of organisations. Here, as well, we don't understand how it will be monitored and enforced.

May we also deploy Project or Visio on Amazon Workspaces?

Yes, it is permitted, but there are stringent conditions.

  1. Project and Visio Online Apps may be deployed only in addition to Microsoft 365 Apps.

  2. The above also means that only users licensed with eligible Microsoft 365 plans together with Visio Online and/or Project Online may deploy Project and/or Visio click-to-run applications.

  3. The same channel limitations apply.

Why did it happen, and why was it so strangely implemented?

Disclaimer: This is our expert opinion.

If you follow our analytical updates or watch SAMexpert TV YouTube channel videos, you should have noticed that Microsoft began implementing significant changes to BYOL (Bring Your Own License) back in 2022.

In October 2022, they overhauled BYOL completely with the Flexible Virtualisation Benefit. That update was positive and very significant. It finally allowed easy BYOL and included every product on the Microsoft product list. However, it specifically excluded Amazon, Google and Alibaba.

In April 2023, they threw a bone to CSP-Hosters by making two changes to Windows Server licensing. Compared to the October 2022 update, this one had a limited impact. Firstly, the change only affected an exclusive club of cloud infrastructure providers. It's not easy to become a CSP-Hoster. Secondly, Microsoft limited the changes to "license-included" scenarios, which in the current circumstances renders the whole change close to useless.

You won't be incorrect if you think it's related to the anti-trust pressure that Microsoft is facing in the EU.

What you may not know is that there is a group of European Cloud Infrastructure Providers that are campaigning and lobbying for fairer Microsoft licensing terms for hosters – CISPE.

You may quickly draw the lines between the updates and the limited non-confidential information you can find about CISPE's work. And you'll also find that Amazon is one of the CISPE members.

Our advice to you is to continue watching this space. BYOL has become an essential part of Cloud FinOps, and it can be a great tool for CFOs to keep their IT budget on a lead.

Talk to a Microsoft licensing expert

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As we don't sell Microsoft licenses or Azure services in SAMexpert, our advice is always independent and unbiased.