SBS 2003 Licensing Case Study: Alaska Fishing Company – the COMPLEX answer

Hiya folks – harrybbb here. I am the co-author and the publisher of the Advanced Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best Practices book. I like to hold virtual book readings – so here is some stuff from Chapter 3 for ya! I continue the licensing discussion and step it up to the next level with a complex explanation. Ahoy!

The Complex Answer

Let’s introduce some complexity into this example. First, take a step back in
recent history to understand the current context of CAL licensing. Microsoft is


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a very large company with over 60,000 employees worldwide! SBS 2003 is a product suite that touches many different groups at Microsoft and requires deft coordination to even get the product out the door in a timely manner. Microsoft as a whole is trying to standardize its products to provide a consistent “Microsoft customer experience.” This standardization would affect the user interface (UI) of its applications and operating systems, and require consistent language in print and on-screen help systems (these are communication standards). Believe me, knowing what I know about Microsoft via my personal relationships, this is a very tall order!

Back to SBS 2003 CALs. Microsoft has correctly determined that SBS 2003 should not have “unique” licensing that is inconsistent with the underlying Windows Server 2003 operating system. Makes sense! So I can weave a personal tale of SBS lore that better explains this concept. When Microsoft was madly preparing to launch SBS 2003 in New Orleans on October 9, 2003, its SBS development and marketing team resources were stretched incredibly thin. Yours truly was engaged by the Microsoft SBS marketing team to write several of the public-facing Web pages over a weekend just before the product launch. One page that I was assigned to write was about SBS 2003 licensing. I wondered aloud about mastering and writing Microsoft Web page content on this seemingly complex topic with such a tight deadline. My manager put me at ease when he explained that SBS 2003 CALs are simple: SBS CALs are precisely the same as the CALs of the underlying operating system for the first time in history. Just use the same basic wording as the CAL page for Windows Server 2003. Whew! That was easy to understand.



BEST PRACTICE: When in doubt or confused about SBS 2003 CALs, just return to your “roots.” Up until SBS 2003, we only had device licensing with the SBS product and, quite frankly, we all got along just fine. After you realize that the old-fashioned form of licensing still exists, you could certainly expand your horizons that give credence and consideration to the new user CALs that are discussed next.

One final point on device CALs. The device CALs are assigned to a specific
device. So Computer#1 has a specific device CAL assigned to it. So does
Computer#9 in the organization. Once a device CAL is assigned to a specific

CHAPTER So You 3 Want SBS to Be 2003 an SMB Licensing Con

computer (or other computational device), that CAL can’t be rotated to another device in a round robin fashion.

User CALs

Okay—time to introduce user CALs, the new client-side licensing paradigm revealed in the SBS 2003 timeframe. User CALs are assigned to a user, and this user can utilize any number of devices on the SBS 2003 network. For example, a software development firm might have 50 employees and each employee has three computers and a SmartPhone (which is a “device” when remotely connected to the SBS 2003 network). So it behooves a software development company that has a high ratio of devices to users to utilize user CALs. In this example, the software development firm would need a user CAL for each of its 50 employees (50 in all), even though the total number of devices used by these employees may be significantly greater than 50.

Now allow me the privilege of weaving this user CAL discussion into the Alaskan fishing company scenario (which, of course, is not in the software development business as per the paragraph above). Suppose that the Alaskan fishing company has 10 executives who have desktop PCs at work, PCs at home, and laptops for mobility purposes while traveling. This suggests three devices per executive, on average. On the one hand, the Alaskan fishing company could make sure that they purchased three device CALs per executive to remain “legal,” for a total of 30 device CALs. But that, of course, would be economically inefficient and financially silly. Rather, the Alaskan fishing company should purchase ten user CALs for the ten executives. But what about other employees of the company who need to use a computer?

Mix and Match

To meet the needs of all employees of the Alaskan fishing company, the company could mix and match SBS 2003 CALs, for a total of ten user CALs and 20 device CALs. There are still 30 CALs in total, but the CAL composition now appears different than originally presented. Now the ten executives laden with multiple devices could compute away with impunity and not fear a visit from the SBS software police, and other employees would have appropriate access to the company’s other network devices. You get the point.


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BEST PRACTICE: Mixing and matching SBS 2003 device and user CALs is akin to the linear programming problems you solved in the quantitative sciences series (the ole “quant” series) you completed in your University education. You’ll recall that linear programming is all about optimal resource allocation decisions. CALs are a resource and should be efficiently allocated. Some users can benefit from user CALs, given the nature of their work habits, etc. Other users are better off with device CALs. Ideally, you’ll minimize licensing costs while obtaining the optimal mix of CALs, given your employees’ device usage patterns.

In Figure 3-2, observe the probable mix and match scenario for the Alaskan fishing company.

Figure 3-2

Mix and match time, baby!



BEST PRACTICE: User CALs make great sense when the number of devices exceeds the number of users. In contrast, device CALs make the most sense when the number of users exceeds the number of devices.

CHAPTER So You 3 Want SBS to Be 2003 an SMB Licensing Con

Specific User CAL Assignments

Slow down just a second, my fellow Microsoft partner! What about the user CAL point that surfaced earlier, about a CAL being assigned to a specific user? Is that to say something like user CAL number seven is assigned to Barry Jones, the CEO of the Alaskan fishing company? Yes it is! User CALs are assigned to a specific person. You would be wrong to assume that you could purchase a handful of user CALs and then let ANY EMPLOYEE pluck user CALs from the licensing pool when needed (such as when traveling and remotely accessing the SBS 2003 network). It doesn’t work that way. User CALs are not allocated in a round robin fashion, mate!

BEST PRACTICE: Here’s another simple rule of thumb you can employ in the madness surrounding purchasing the proper licenses: any user who will utilize Remote Web Workplace (RWW) to access their desktop computer back at work will need a user CAL. That is because the external PC being used to access the SBS 2003 network is considered an external device and the internal PC is also considered a device. Granted—you could purchase two device CALs, but that would be unnecessarily expensive.

However, and read closely, there is a situation where a user accessing the SBS 2003 network via RWW could use a device CAL. That would occur when the device is the user’s laptop that she takes with her (the device CAL would be assigned to the laptop) and the user does not access another computer on the internal SBS 2003 network (e.g., she only accesses the RWW interface).


Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

MBA, MCSE, CNE, CLSE, CNP, MCP, MCT, SBSC (Microsoft Small Business Specialist)

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J


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