Understand SPLA Licensing: What You Need to Know

Navigating the world of Microsoft licensing can be a complex and daunting task. But fear not, for there is a beacon of clarity and simplicity in the ever-changing landscape of software licensing: the Microsoft Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA).

In this post, we will guide you through the ins and outs of SPLA licensing, from understanding the basics to mastering the intricacies of compliance and audits. By the end, you will have a solid grasp of this essential licensing program and be prepared to make informed decisions for your business.

Short Summary

  • Understand Microsoft’s SPLA. Licensing to offer tailored solutions while staying compliant.
  • Benefit from the pay-as-you-go model, access to the latest products, and flexibility in scaling services.
  • Master MBSA, SPLA & Product Terms for compliance with EULAs and successful audits.

Understanding Microsoft SPLA Licensing

spla licensing

Microsoft SPLA is a licensing program designed for service providers, enabling them to access Microsoft software for hosting purposes and pay for it on a pay-as-you-go basis. This unique licensing approach offers many benefits, including flexibility, scalability, and cost savings.

As a service provider, understanding SPLA licensing is critical to offering tailored solutions to your end customers and staying compliant with Microsoft’s terms and conditions. So let’s dive deeper and explore the world of SPLA licensing.

What is Microsoft SPLA?

Microsoft SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) is a licensing program that allows service providers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to utilize Microsoft software for hosting purposes and pay for it on a pay-per-use basis. The beauty of this model lies in its flexibility, as it allows providers to deploy unlimited instances and create unlimited user accounts while only reporting and paying for the high watermark of licenses consumed every month.

However, navigating the SPLA licensing terms and conditions can be challenging, and failure to comply can result in lengthy, contentious SPLA audit proceedings and substantial penalties.

Who Needs an SPLA License?

Providers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that wish to include Microsoft products in shared hosting scenarios need an SPLA license. This allows them to offer a unified solution to their end customers, combining the power of Microsoft software with their own services-hosted applications.

End customers can also benefit from SPLA licensing by supplementing their existing licensing portfolio and taking advantage of the pay-as-you-go model, reducing long-term commitments and start-up costs.

Key Benefits of SPLA Licensing

The key benefits of the SPLA volume licensing agreement can be summarized as access, flexibility, and opportunity. By participating in the SPLA program, providers gain access to the latest Microsoft products, allowing them to stay up-to-date and offer cutting-edge solutions to their clients.

Flexibility is inherent in the pay-as-you-go model, enabling providers to scale their services based on customer demand and only pay for the licenses they consume. Finally, the opportunity lies in the ability to tap into new markets and deliver tailored solutions that cater to each client’s unique needs.

SPLA Licensing Models and Pricing

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To cater to the diverse needs of service providers and their clients, SPLA offers a variety of licensing models and pricing structures. Understanding these options is crucial to deciding which licensing model best suits your business and your customers’ requirements.

In this section, we will explore the two main licensing models offered by SPLA: per processor/core and per-user, as well as the associated pricing structure.

Per Processor/Core Licensing Models

The per-processor/core licensing model is designed to provide unlimited user access without additional access licenses. This model applies to products such as SQL Server, BizTalk, System Center, Windows Server, and SharePoint (public websites only).

The primary advantage of this model is its simplicity, as it allows providers to focus on server management and scalability without worrying about tracking individual user access.

Per-User Licensing Models

Per-user Microsoft SPLA licensing models revolve around products licensed per-user, such as Microsoft Office, SharePoint Server, and SQL Server Standard. This model allows organizations to acquire licenses for each user utilizing the software. It provides a more customized approach to licensing and enables organizations to pay only for the required licenses.

Additionally, this model offers the flexibility to adjust software usage according to evolving business needs.

SPLA Pricing Structure

The SPLA pricing structure is based on the number of licenses consumed, with a minimum monthly usage report of $100. This pay-as-you-go model allows providers to scale their licensing costs in line with their business growth and customer demand, ensuring that costs are always aligned with revenue.

It’s important to note that discounts and pricing may vary and can be negotiated with SPLA resellers or obtained through a private pricing list.

SPLA Compliance and Audits

spla compliance

Ensuring SPLA compliance is paramount for service providers, as failure to adhere to service provider licensing agreement terms and conditions can lead to severe penalties and damage to your business reputation. This section will discuss the various aspects of SPLA compliance, from accurate license consumption calculation to audit preparation and response.

By understanding these elements, providers can minimize non-compliance risk and maintain a strong relationship with Microsoft.

SPLA Reporting Requirements

To maintain SPLA compliance, service providers must submit accurate and timely monthly reports detailing the quantity of SPLA licenses utilized by their customers, including those consuming over $1000 in monthly license fees. In addition, Microsoft may request details of Software Services Resellers and Datacenter partners upon request.

Accurate reporting is essential for compliance purposes and maintaining a clear understanding of your licensing costs and usage trends.

Types of SPLA Audits

Microsoft conducts SPLA audits to ensure compliance with the MBSA, typically once every three years. These audits can be notified through email or formal letters and may require snapshots of hosting data and other relevant records.

In recent years, Microsoft has introduced a Self-Certification Audit or Verified Self-Assessment (VSA), which allows providers to demonstrate their compliance without submitting their deployment data.

Understanding the different types of SPLA audits and their processes is crucial to ensure a smooth and successful audit experience.

Preparing for SPLA Audits

Preparing for a software audit can be daunting, but with the right approach, it can be a valuable opportunity to review and optimize your licensing practices. To prepare for an SPLA audit, it’s essential to master the MBSA, SPLA, SPUR, and Microsoft Products Terms and ensure End-User License Agreement compliance.

Additionally, having reliable, near-real-time data from all servers in your hosting estate is critical for ensuring accurate license consumption calculations. Providers can minimize the risk of non-compliance by taking these steps and maintaining a strong relationship with Microsoft.

Licensing Mobility and BYOL Scenarios

spla deployments

Licensing mobility and Bring Your Own License (BYOL) scenarios enable users to leverage their existing Microsoft licenses within shared and dedicated infrastructures, providing additional flexibility and cost savings.

This section will explore the various aspects of licensing mobility and BYOL, from license mobility within server farms to license mobility through Software Assurance and BYOL in shared and dedicated infrastructures.

License Mobility within Server Farms

License Mobility within Server Farms is a feature that enables the transfer of virtual instances of self-hosted applications between host systems and server farms without any licensing restrictions. It allows for deploying server application licenses on-premises or in the cloud, providing additional flexibility and scalability for service providers.

This right is granted to all SPLA licenses, simplifying the management of licenses within server farms.

License Mobility through Software Assurance

License Mobility through Software Assurance is a benefit that enables customers to utilize their volume licenses with Software Assurance in the cloud. This benefit requires a license verification process, allowing customers to repurpose server licenses with active Software Assurance toward workloads.

By providing additional flexibility, License Mobility through Software Assurance allows customers to transfer their software licenses between different server farms, leveraging the adaptability of the cloud.

BYOL in Shared and Dedicated Infrastructures

Bring Your Own License (BYOL) in Shared and Dedicated Infrastructures allows users to utilize their licenses on dedicated infrastructure, combining SPLA, volume, and CSP licenses with self-hosting them. This approach enables customers to take advantage of their existing Microsoft licenses while benefiting from the flexibility and scalability offered by shared hosting environments.

To bring SPLA licenses to Azure, customers must enlist the services of a service provider with an SPLA services agreement and ensure their licenses are “DCP eligible”.

SPLA vs. Other Microsoft Licensing Programs

spla vs csp

As a service provider, it’s essential to understand the differences between SPLA and other Microsoft licensing programs, such as the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. This section will compare the key differences between SPLA and CSP, including product limitations, target markets, and support requirements.

By understanding these distinctions, providers can decide on the most suitable licensing program for their business and customers.

Key Differences between SPLA and CSP

One of the key differences between SPLA and CSP lies in their billing models: while CSP offers both direct and indirect billing models, SPLA does not dictate end-customer pricing. Additionally, CSP imposes more stringent technical support requirements, mandating 24/7 support for end-users.

Regarding product limitations, SPLA offers greater versatility, permitting providers to offer infrastructure solutions and Independent Software Vendor (ISV) solutions, while CSP may impose certain product restrictions. Understanding these differences is crucial for providers to make the best choice for their business.

Choosing the Right Licensing Program

Selecting the right licensing program depends on the type of business and services agreement being offered and the customer’s specific needs. Factors to consider include the technology’s security level, the competitive edge it offers, the revenue generated, the duration, exclusivity, and termination rights.

Providers can make informed decisions that best suit their business and customers’ needs by carefully evaluating these factors and understanding the distinctions between SPLA and other Microsoft licensing programs.

Navigating SPLA Licensing Terms and Conditions

To ensure compliance with the SPLA and licensing agreement terms and conditions, it’s paramount to have a thorough understanding of the various agreements and documents governing the use of Microsoft products under this program. In this section, we will explore the importance of mastering the MBSA, SPLA, SPUR, and Microsoft Product Terms and ensuring End-User License Agreement compliance.

By becoming well-versed in these terms and conditions, providers can minimize non-compliance risk and maintain a strong relationship with Microsoft.

Mastering the MBSA, SPLA, SPUR, and Microsoft Products Terms

spla contracts

The MBSA, SPLA, SPUR, and Microsoft Products Terms are essential documents that outline the terms and conditions of using Microsoft products and services under the SPLA program. Each document serves a specific purpose and is crucial for providers to understand and adhere to maintain compliance.

By mastering these documents, providers can ensure they follow the correct processes and procedures, minimizing the risk of non-compliance and potential penalties.

Ensuring End-User License Agreement Compliance

End-User License Agreement (EULA) compliance is another critical aspect of SPLA licensing. Providers must ensure their end customers have accepted the relevant EULA terms and conditions. This can be achieved by including EULA acceptance as part of the onboarding process for new customers and regularly reviewing compliance with existing customers.

Providers can avoid penalties and maintain a strong relationship with Microsoft by diligently ensuring EULA compliance.


In conclusion, Microsoft’s Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) offers a flexible and cost-effective licensing solution for service providers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). By understanding the intricacies of SPLA licensing, from its various models and pricing structures to compliance and audits, providers can make informed decisions that best suit their business and customers’ needs.

With the knowledge and insights gained from this comprehensive guide, you will be well-equipped to navigate the world of SPLA licensing and unlock the full potential of this powerful program for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an SPLA?

The Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) provides a convenient, cost-effective way for service providers and independent software vendors to license Microsoft software for hosting and delivering applications. It offers reliable access to high-quality technology while allowing the flexibility of pay-as-you-go pricing and usage-based billing.

What type of license is SPLA?

Microsoft SPLA (Services Provider License Agreement) is an ideal license for service providers and independent software vendors, allowing them to provide software services to access Microsoft software for hosting and delivering applications easily.

It’s a great way to stay up to date with the latest products and technologies from Microsoft.

How much does it cost to license an SPLA?

The cost of a Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) is free to get started, with no upfront costs and no long-term commitments required.

There is, however, a $100 minimum after the first six months that must be reported.

What is the difference between SPLA and Azure?

SPLA licenses provide cost-effective access to Microsoft software, whereas Azure enables users to quickly deploy scalable and resilient applications with the assurance of cloud support.

Azure Cloud Services are designed to maximize business success and meet scalability requirements, providing more excellent value for money.

What is a Microsoft SPLA?

Microsoft SPLA is an agreement between Microsoft and its service providers, allowing the latter to license eligible products monthly and provide hosted services and applications to customers.

It enables service providers to access Microsoft’s products and services cost-effectively.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson possesses 20 years of experience in Oracle license management. Having worked at Oracle for 9 years, he gained an additional 11 years of expertise in Oracle license consulting projects. Fredrik has provided assistance to over 150 organizations worldwide, ranging in size and tackling various Oracle licensing challenges, including Licensing Assessments, Oracle audits, Oracle ULAs, and more.