Understand SPLA Licensing: What You Need to Know

The SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) Licensing works as follows:

  • Designed for Service Providers: Allows them to host Microsoft software.
  • Pay-as-You-Go Model: Service providers pay based on usage.
  • Flexibility: Enables providers to offer tailored solutions.
  • Compliance and Audits: Microsoft is actively auditing hosting providers.

Introduction to Microsoft SPLA Licensing

spla licensing

Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) is a licensing program by Microsoft that is explicitly designed for service providers and independent software vendors (ISVs).

This program allows these entities to offer a broad range of Microsoft products to end customers as part of their service offerings. Understanding SPLA is crucial for service providers and ISVs because:

  • It provides the flexibility to offer various Microsoft products as services.
  • SPLA is critical to compliance with software licensing while delivering these services.
  • It represents a cost-effective solution for hosting and managing Microsoft products.

Understanding SPLA Licensing Models

SPLA offers a variety of licensing models to cater to different service scenarios:

Overview of SPLA Licensing Models: Per Subscriber, Per Processor, and Per Core

  • Per Subscriber (SAL): This model requires a Subscriber Access License for each user or device accessing the licensed products. It’s ideal for scenarios where user count is predictable.
  • Per Processor: Under this model, each processor license allows unlimited users to access the software installed on that processor. This is suitable for high-density environments.
  • Per Core: This approach is based on a server’s number of physical or virtual cores. It’s particularly relevant for data-intensive applications like SQL Server.

Explanation of Host/Guest Licensing Model

  • The Host/Guest model involves dual licensing requirements for host and virtualized guest environments. This model is critical for service providers offering virtualized solutions.

Insights into the Application Layer with SQL Server Licensing

  • SQL Server Licensing: In SPLA, SQL Server can be licensed either per physical core on a server or by individual virtual OSE (Operating System Environment). This flexibility allows service providers to tailor their SQL Server offerings based on the specific needs of their customers.

Benefits of Microsoft SPLA

Microsoft SPLA offers numerous benefits that are pivotal for service providers and ISVs in delivering Microsoft-based solutions.

These benefits contribute to the program’s attractiveness and utility.

Flexibility and Tailored IT Services for Customers

  • Customizable Solutions: SPLA allows service providers to offer customized and scalable IT solutions that cater to diverse customer needs.
  • Adaptability: The flexibility to adjust services and software offerings per customer demands and market trends is a key advantage.

Cost Considerations: Pay-for-What-You-Use Model

  • Cost Efficiency: With SPLA, you pay only for the licenses you use, providing a cost-effective solution for managing software expenses.
  • No Upfront Costs: This model eliminates the need for significant initial investment, making it easier for service providers to manage financial resources.

Access to the Latest Microsoft Software and Global Reach

  • Latest Software Access: SPLA provides access to the newest versions of Microsoft software, ensuring that customers always have the most up-to-date and capable tools.
  • Worldwide Distribution: Service providers can offer services globally, expanding their market reach and customer base.

Strategic Considerations for SPLA Licensing

Strategic Considerations for SPLA Licensing

When integrating SPLA into your business model, several strategic considerations are essential for aligning the licensing with your organization’s goals and customer requirements.

Aligning SPLA with Business Strategy and Customer Needs

  • Strategic Alignment: Ensuring that the SPLA offerings align with your long-term business strategy and your customers’ evolving needs is crucial.
  • Service Portfolio Development: Develop a service portfolio under SPLA that complements and enhances your core business offerings.

Understanding the Impact of Cloud Services and License Mobility

  • Cloud Integration: With the increasing shift to cloud services, understanding how SPLA fits into cloud-based solutions is vital.
  • License Mobility: Consider the benefits of License Mobility through Software Assurance, which allows more flexibility in cloud and hybrid environments.

Evaluating SPLA in the Context of Mergers, Acquisitions, and IT Infrastructure Changes

  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Evaluate how changes in business structure, such as mergers or acquisitions, impact your SPLA licensing needs and compliance.
  • Adapting to IT Changes: Be proactive in adjusting your SPLA strategy in response to significant IT infrastructure changes, ensuring that your licensing remains relevant and compliant.

In conclusion, the benefits of Microsoft SPLA, such as its flexible licensing models, cost-effective approach, and access to the latest Microsoft software, make it an attractive choice for service providers and ISVs. Strategic considerations, including alignment with business strategy, understanding of cloud impacts, and adaptability to organizational changes, are crucial for maximizing the potential of SPLA licensing.

Top 5 Best Practices for Managing SPLA Licensing

Managing Microsoft SPLA licensing effectively is crucial for compliance and optimization. Here are the top five best practices:

  1. Regular Audits and Compliance Checks
    • Conduct periodic audits to ensure compliance with SPLA terms.
    • Regularly review deployment reports against actual usage to identify any discrepancies.
  2. Effective User Access Management and Active Directory Hygiene
    • Implement robust user access controls to prevent unauthorized access.
    • Regularly update the Active Directory, removing inactive users to avoid unnecessary licensing costs.
  3. Understanding and Adhering to SPLA Obligations and Reporting Requirements
    • Stay informed about your contractual obligations under SPLA.
    • Ensure accurate and timely reporting of license usage to Microsoft.
  4. Staying Informed About Changes in Licensing Terms (e.g., SPUR)
    • Regularly review the Services Provider Use Rights (SPUR) document for any changes in licensing terms.
    • Adapt your licensing strategy in response to any updates or revisions in SPUR.
  5. Leveraging Tools and Resources for Optimized SPLA Management
    • Utilize software asset management tools to track and manage your SPLA licenses.
    • Take advantage of Microsoft resources and support for SPLA partners to stay informed and compliant.

Common Challenges and Solutions in SPLA Licensing

Navigating SPLA licensing involves addressing several challenges:

  1. Navigating Audit Risks and Compliance Issues
    • Be proactive in audit preparation by maintaining accurate records of software deployments.
    • Address any potential compliance issues promptly to avoid penalties.
  2. Addressing Complexities in Multi-Tenant Hosting Scenarios
    • Understand the specific licensing requirements for multi-tenant environments.
    • Implement segregation and tracking mechanisms to ensure compliance in shared hosting scenarios.
  3. Ensuring Accurate Reporting and License Tracking
    • Develop a systematic approach for tracking and reporting SPLA license usage.
    • Utilize dedicated SPLA management software to automate and streamline the reporting process.

By adopting these best practices and addressing common challenges, service providers can effectively manage their SPLA licensing, ensuring compliance and optimizing their software investments.

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. It allows them to provide software services to access Microsoft software for hosting and delivering applications efficiently.

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.


In conclusion, Microsoft SPLA is a strategic licensing program essential for service providers and ISVs, offering a flexible and cost-effective way to deliver Microsoft-based services.

Key takeaways include understanding various SPLA models, aligning SPLA with your business strategy, and adhering to best practices for effective license management.

Emphasizing regular compliance checks, adapting to changes, and staying informed about licensing updates are crucial for maximizing the benefits of SPLA and ensuring a successful service offering.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, enhancing organizational efficiency.