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Visual Studio, MSDN, non-production hosting in SPLA

Software development and testing is a natural part of IT operations, even if your organisation is not a software development company.

Licensing Microsoft Development Tools on your premises is complicated enough. Adding to the complexity, deploying them in the Cloud is governed by a completely different set of rules.

Note: This article has been updated to the new BYOL rules from October 2022.

How to deploy your own licenses in the Cloud or on hosting

When you rent a virtual machine from a provider on shared, multi-tenant hardware, you may deploy your own Microsoft licenses in that virtual machine as long as the following conditions are met:

Cloud or hosting platform

Licenses that can be deployed there

Amazon AWS Google Cloud Alibaba Cloud Microsoft Azure services

The licenses have active Software Assurance,

The software has License Mobility through Software Assurance rights,

You must also complete a License Verification Form and send it to Microsoft no later than ten days after deploying your licenses in a multi-tenant environment.

Microsoft Azure (in addition to the above)

The licences are eligible for Azure Hybrid Benefit

Any other Cloud or hosting platform

The licences must be on an active subscription or have active Software Assurance

The provider may request you to provide proof of license.

You can learn more about Microsoft Bring Your Own License (BYOL) here.

Deploying Visual Studio subscriptions and MSDN Software in the Cloud

From October 2022, Microsoft permits any subscription license to be deployed with any "Authorised Outsourcer" - any provider that is not Amazon, Google, Alibaba or Microsoft itself.

That was a game-changing update for Visual Studio users, who previously could only deploy their Visual Studio licenses on Azure.

Unfortunately, this update did not grant similar rights to deploy Visual Studio on AWS, GCP or Alibaba Cloud. You still must procure these licences from these Cloud providers directly on a per-month subscription basis. To our knowledge, only AWS provides Visual Studio licenses as of July 2023.

So, here is an updated table for Microsoft Development Tools BYOL in multi-tenant environments:

Cloud or hosting platform

Visual Studio BYOL

MSDN software included with Visual Studio subscriptions

Microsoft Azure services

You may bring subscription licences or licenses with Software Assurance

Permitted to be deployed in Azure Virtual Machines

Amazon AWS Google Cloud Alibaba Cloud

Visual Studio must be procured directly from the provider

BYOL not allowed

Any other Cloud or hosting platform

The licences must be on an active subscription or have active Software Assurance.

The provider may request you to provide proof of license.

Alternatively, you may procure Visual Studio licences on a monthly subscription from the provider.

Unclear – no official clarification has been provided by Microsoft so far.

We recommend treating it as not permitted.

Note that when you procure monthly Visual Studio subscription licences directly from the provider, those are per-user licenses that are required for every authorised user. Please be vigilant when managing Active Directory security groups and keep the number of users authorised to access Visual Studio to an absolute minimum.

Providers beware - there is no "non-production" on hosting

When you manage complex hosted infrastructure for your customers, it's easy to forget that hosted environments' rules differ from on-premises.

You may not simply replicate what they do on-premises in a shared, multi-tenant environment. You may not discount "non-production" workloads the same way it is done on-premises.

Sadly, we often see it when a SPLA compliance audit finds that some virtual machines weren't appropriately reported through SPLA because the provider considered them to be using Microsoft Developer Network licenses.

Your dev/test in SPLA is chargeable as a production workload.

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