Microsoft SharePoint SPLA licensing
Let's dive into Microsoft SharePoint SPLA licensing and examine the options available, access requirements, and permitted use of SharePoint Hosting.
By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of Microsoft SharePoint SPLA licensing and its components.
Two Licensing Models
Microsoft offers two licensing models for SharePoint in SPLA:
Subscriber Access Licenses (SALs)
Subscriber Access License is the dominant licensing model for SharePoint Server in SPLA. In this model, you may use any number of running instances of the server software, provided you acquire a SAL for each user authorised to access the server software, regardless of actual access.
Processor Server Licenses
This model is unique to SharePoint Hosting — a special license and model that only works when external and internal users access the same content, information, and applications. If this condition is met, the server is licensed per processor, and Subscriber Access Licenses are not required.
It gets a bit complicated when at the same time, there are other bits of information only available to internal users. Internal users accessing restricted information also require Subscriber Access Licenses (SALs) on top of processor licences.
This model is most fitting for public websites built on SharePoint.
Three Licenses for SharePoint in SPLA
There are three licensing options for SharePoint in SPLA:
SharePoint Server Standard
SAL per user
SharePoint Server Enterprise
SAL per user
Licensing Access to SharePoint with SALs
Access to Basic SharePoint Functionality
To access the basic functionality of SharePoint, users require SharePoint Standard SALs.
How to understand what is "basic functionality" and what isn't? It's simple. Anything not explicitly listed as "additional functionality" below and on the SharePoint page in SPUR is basic functionality.
Access to Additional SharePoint Functionality
SharePoint Server Enterprise SAL is an "additive" access license, an upgrade to the Standard SAL.
If a user requires access to additional functionality, they need a combination of two SALs: Standard and Enterprise.
The additional functionalities include the following:
Business Connectivity Services Line of Business Webparts
Office Business Connectivity Services Client Integration
InfoPath Forms Services
E-discovery and Compliance
Customer Analytics Reports
Access Exception for SharePoint Hosting
When external and internal users access the same content, information, and applications, you may license server instances with SharePoint Hosting processor licenses instead of licensing user access with SALs.
Access to content, information, and applications limited to internal users still must be licensed under SharePoint Server SALs.
Cost Management — Discounted SAL Options
SAL for SA
SAL for SA is a special discounted SAL that may be assigned to users that already have qualifying Client Access Licenses assigned to them. You must ensure that the users have the necessary licences, and if you are a CSP-Hoster, you must validate that and report the qualifying licences to Microsoft.
This benefit recognises the investment made by end customers into volume licences with Software Assurance.
SAL for SA
SharePoint Server Standard SAL for SA
SharePoint Server Standard CAL
Core CAL Suite
Enterprise CAL Suite
SharePoint Server Enterprise SAL for SA
SharePoint Server Standard CAL + SharePoint Server Enterprise CAL
Core CAL Suite + SharePoint Server Enterprise CAL
Enterprise CAL Suite
Note that although M365 packages provide SharePoint CAL equivalency, they are not listed as qualifying licences for SAL for SA.
Productivity Suite SAL
Productivity Suite SAL is a significantly discounted SAL bundle. It provides access rights equivalent to the following SALs combined:
Hosted Exchange Standard SAL,
Skype for Business Server 2019 Standard and Enterprise SAL,
and SharePoint Server 2019 Standard SAL.
From the cost perspective, if a user requires the combination above, it is a no-brainer to report a Productivity Suite SAL for them instead.
Note that to access additional functionality of SharePoint, SharePoint Enterprise SALs must be added to the Productivity Suite SALs.
How to Calculate SharePoint Licences in SPLA
How to Calculate Subscriber Access Licenses
A license is required for each user authorised to access the server software, regardless of actual access.
User activity does not matter.
If a user has access to SharePoint, they require a SAL except when the instance is licensed with SharePoint Hosting and fully complies with its requirements.
Establish what users and security groups are permitted to access SharePoint. All such users require SharePoint Standard SALs.
Establish all users and security groups with access to additional functionality. All such users require SharePoint Enterprise SALs in addition to SharePoint Standard SALs.
How to Calculate SharePoint Hosting Processor Licenses
SharePoint Hosting on a physical server (Physical OSE)
Count all physical processors in the server.
SharePoint Hosting in a virtual machine (Virtual OSE)
The formula is significantly more complicated. You must establish how many physical processors in the server support the virtual machine's cores and round it up.
It may be easier on a few examples:
Virtual Cores in the VM
Cores per Processor
On or Off
You may notice that hyper-threading affects the requirements.
You may also observe that virtual machines running on modern servers with 16 and more cores per processor rarely require more than one processor license, regardless of whether hyperthreading is on or off.
Clusters with different host processor parameters? Calculate requirements for each host individually and assign the licence quantity for the worst case — the highest number.
SharePoint SPLA Licensing in Azure
You cannot license SharePoint in Azure with native Pay-As-You-Go licenses.
However, service providers are allowed to use SharePoint licences in Azure reported through their own SPLA agreements. All Microsoft SharePoint SPLA licences are "DCP Eligible". Warning: it is only permitted until 30 September 2025.
SharePoint SALs in Azure
Calculating SALs remains the same as for your data centres.
SharePoint Hosting per Processor in Azure
There is no official clarification on calculating SharePoint Hosting processor licenses for Azure virtual machines. There is virtually no way to know the host processor parameters at each moment.
You may decide to be on the safe side and assign the number of licences equal to the number of virtual cores. You may also assume that an Azure host may not have less than four cores per processor and thus divide the virtual cores by 4 — don't forget to round it up.
Downgrade — Using a Previous Version
You may install any previous version of SharePoint.
Talk to a SPLA licensing expert
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