The Multiplexing Rule – Under Review (Updated)

Multiplexing

The ‘Multiplexing Rule’ is one of the much contested licensing mechanisms within the Product Use Rights

The objective of this article is to review the publicly available documentation available that explain the scope of the Microsoft  ‘Multiplexing Rule’.

  • General and Product-Specific use rights will be in your Agreement(s) with Microsoft the Product Use Rights or Product List
  • This article is not intended to replace the Product Use Rights or Product List
  • Please be aware that any licensing information could be subject to change. This article confers no rights and is provided for information purposes only.
  • Please refer to binding documentation relevant to your contract(s) and deployed software.
  • If you would like to book an in-depth Licensing Workshop or Microsoft Strategy Workshop please get in touch via email or  on Twitter

Multiplexing is defined as a Universal License Term and will apply to all products licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing. Under the hierarchy of the Product Use Rights, a Universal License Term will apply unless explicitly retracted or amended under General License Terms and Product Specific License Terms within the document.

“Universal License Terms apply to every product licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing (except where specifically noted in the General License Terms and/or Product-Specific License Terms)”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 4 of 116]

Microsoft’s definition of Multiplexing is as follows: “Hardware or software you use to pool connections, reroute information, reduce the number of devices or users that directly access or use the product, or reduce the number of operating system environments (or OSEs), devices or users the product directly manages, (sometimes referred to as “multiplexing” or “pooling”), does not reduce the number of licenses of any type that you need”

[Ref: Multiplexing Definition in Universal License Terms: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 11 or 116]

In the December 2012 Multiplexing Licensing Brief Microsoft states that “Users are required to have the appropriate licenses, regardless of their direct or indirect connection to the product”.

[Ref: Multiplexing Licensing Brief , December 2012, Page 1of 5]

The ‘Multiplexing Rule’, as a commercial term within the PUR ensures Microsoft receive a proportional spend according to the size of the organisation under the Client Access License or ‘CAL’ server metric.

The ‘CAL’ acts as a mechanism to count the total number of Users or Devices that access the server, files, data or content provided by a server. Wherein, the ‘Multiplexing Rule’ maintains a proportional and scalable licensing model; not limited by hardware or software that pool connections, reroute information, or reduce the number of devices or users that directly access, use a server product, or are managed by it.

The interpretation of this term, both from the perspective of Microsoft, and that of your technology team can have a material impact on your software spend.


External Connector and External Users

An External Connector, is a per server levy for an unlimited number of ‘external users’ defined under the Universal License Terms as users that are “not employees or on-site contractors to access the assigned server”.

The External Connector has no ‘digital footprint’; meaning “[…] a license attached to a Server that permits access to the server software by External Users.” It is solely a licensing mechanism for access by ‘external users’ as defined by Microsoft.

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 7 of 116, Universal License Terms – Definitions]

Directions On Microsoft clarify this by giving an example of an organisation that “makes a server product available to external clients on multiple servers (such as multiple servers in a Web farm), each server requires its own External Connector license”. For example under this scenario an external user might include, business partners, suppliers or b2b customers, retirees or alumni.

Directions On Microsoft explain that the “general principles that apply to CALs also apply to External Connectors” and expatiate that “access through an Intermediary still requires an External Connector”.

This is important statement, and while Directions On Microsoft have not  referenced source documentation, it could be derived from the overarching precedence of Universal License Terms; remaining in effect unless explicitly retracted or amended in either the General license Terms or Product-Specific License Terms of the Product Use Rights (see diagram below)

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In the September 2012 Licensing Windows Server 2012 VL Brief,  Microsoft state that multiplexing or pooling “does not reduce the number of licenses of any type that you need” [September 2012, Page 6 of 15].

Microsoft provides the following guidance:

“[E]ach physical server that requires external user access must have an EC assigned to it. Each EC permits external users to access any instance running on a server whether it be in a physical or virtual OSE” […] “Multiplexing hardware, software, or connections does not reduce the number of CALs required to access servers.” [Ref: Licensing Windows Server 2012 VL Brief September 2012, Page 5 of 15]


Exceptions

Microsoft has anticipated some exceptions to the CAL requirement to Windows Server running on the Physical OSE and used solely to:

§ “Run hardware virtualization software,

§ Provide hardware virtualization services, or,

§ Run software to manage and service OSEs on the licensed server.”

“However, you do need the appropriate CAL to access instances of the server software in any virtual OSEs on the server.”

[Ref: Licensing Windows Server 2012 for use with virtualization technologies, September 2012, Page 5 of 15]

The January 2013 in the Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments VL Brief  document Microsoft provided further clarification to the exceptions in the prior September 2012 brief:

“As a result in a situation where you are running Windows Server 2012 in the physical OSE and Windows Server 2003 in virtual OSEs and you are using the physical OSE solely to run hardware virtualization software, provide hardware virtualization services, and/or run software to manage and service operating system environments on the licensed server, you do not need CALs to access the Windows Server 2012 instance. You do need, however, Windows Server 2003 CALs to access any of the virtual OSEs.”

[Ref: Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments VL Brief January 2013, Page 20 of 27]


SharePoint CAL Waiver

Under the Product Specific License Terms for SharePoint Server 2013, (and Microsoft Office Audit and Control Management Server 2013) Microsoft introduced a product specific “CAL Waiver”.

CAL Waiver for Users Accessing Publicly Available Content

CALs are not required to access content, information, and applications that you make publicly available to users over the Internet (i.e., not restricted to Intranet or Extranet scenarios)”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 38 of 116]


Web Workload (Internet Web Solutions)

“When Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter is used as a Web Server you do not need CALs to access the software. A “Web Workload” means:

Internet Web solutions” are publicly accessible and consist solely of web pages, websites, web applications, web services, and/or POP3 mail serving. For clarity, access to content, information, and applications served by the software within an Internet Web solution is not limited to your or your affiliates’ employees.

You may use the software in ‘Internet Web Solutions’ to run:

§ web server software (for example, Microsoft Internet Information Services), and management or security agents (for example, the System Center Operations Manager agent).

§ database engine software (for example, Microsoft SQL Server) solely to support Internet Web solutions.

§ the Domain Name System (DNS) service to provide resolution of Internet names to IP addresses as long as that is not the sole function of that instance of the software.”

[Ref: Product List, March 2013, Page 172-3 of 179]


Using Windows Server 2012 for High Performance Computing (HPC)

“When Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter is used for High Performance Computing you do not need CALs to access the software. A “High Performance Computing (“HPC”) Workload” means a workload where the server software is used to run a Cluster Node and is used in conjunction with other software as necessary to permit security, storage, performance enhancement and systems management on a cluster node for the purpose of supporting the clustered HPC Applications. Please refer to the Product Use Rights for additional details.”

[Ref: Product List, March 2013, Page 173 of 179]


License grants associated with end of life of Windows Web Server

“Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Web Server. Volume licensing customers with active Software Assurance for Windows Web Server 2008 R2 licenses on September 1st, 2012 or as of the date of first availability of Windows Server 2012 for download on the Volume Licensing Service Center, whichever is earlier, (“Qualifying Licenses”) will be permitted to use Windows Server 2012 Standard software. To facilitate such use, for every two Qualifying Licenses the customer has, the customer will be deemed to be granted one Windows Server 2012 Standard processor license upon availability of Windows Server 2012” […]

“Additional information on using Windows Server 2012 as a Web Server

When Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter is used as a Web Server you do not need CALs to access the software. A “Web Workload” means a workload where the software is used as a front-end web server for development and deployment of Internet-accessible web pages, web sites, web applications, and web services and POP3 mail serving and access to content, information, and applications served by the software is not limited to your employees. Please refer to the Product Use Rights for additional details.”

[Ref: Product List, March 2013, Page 175 of 179]

The extract from the Universal License Terms of the Product Use Rights is represented below in full. It is also listed as a “defined term within the license model” of the General License Terms of theServers: Processor/CAL (Processor License + CAL + Optional External Connector)” Licensing Model which applies to Windows Server Standard 2012 and Windows Server Datacenter 2012.

Web Workloads (also referred to as “Internet Web Solutions”) are publicly accessible and consist solely of web pages, websites, web applications, web services, and/or POP3 mail serving. For clarity, access to content, information, and applications served by the software within an Internet Web Solution is not limited to your or your affiliates’ employees.

You may use the software in Internet Web Solutions to run:

§ web server software (for example, Microsoft Internet Information Services), and management or security agents (for example, the System Center Operations Manager agent).

§ database engine software (for example, Microsoft SQL Server) solely to support Internet Web Solutions.

§ the Domain Name System (DNS) service to provide resolution of Internet names to IP addresses as long as that is not the sole function of that instance of the software.”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 7-8 of 116]


Licensed Per Server, Not Per Instance or OSE

The January 2013 Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments VL Brief states that an external connector is assigned to each physical server and enables “any number of external users to access any number of licensed instances of the server software on that server”. The document also clarifies (in the footnotes) that “each hardware partition or blade is a separate physical hardware system, and, therefore, a separate server” when assigning licenses.

[Ref: Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments VL Brief January 2013, Page 14 of 27]


Licensing Models for External User Access

Microsoft states in the PUR General License Terms apply to “all products licensed under a given model (except where specifically noted in the Product-Specific License Terms)”.

§ Under the General License Terms of the “Servers: Processor/CAL (Processor License + CAL + Optional External Connector) Licensing Model” define the terms applicable to “Access Licenses” and define both the CAL and External Connector within “Defined Terms of the License Model”.

Accordingly, some general principles that apply to CALs also apply to External Connectors.

1. “You must assign each CAL to a user or device, as appropriate, and each External Connector License to a Licensed Server.

2. CALs or External Connector Licenses are required for access to server software.”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 25 of 116]

§ The General License Terms of the “Server/CAL (Server License + CAL + Optional External Connector) Licensing Model” define the terms applicable to “Access Licenses” and incorporates both the CAL and External Connector within “Defined Terms of the License Model”. 

§ “Requirements for External User access vary by product, as noted in the Product-specific license terms.

§ Depending on the product and the functionality being accessed, External User access is permitted under CALs, External Connector Licenses or the software license assigned to the Server. […]

§ You must assign each CAL to a user or device, as appropriate, and each External Connector License to a Licensed Server.”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, January 2013, Page 29 of 116]

Identifying when a CAL, External Connector or Server License will enable access to a server product by external users is defined within the product-specific license terms.


The Role of Authentication

The role of authentication as a pre-requisite for CAL or External Connector licenses is defined within the Product-Specific License Terms of the PUR and will apply only to some specific products.

The definition of “unauthenticated access” is product specific, located in the ‘Additional Terms’ of the Product-Specific License Terms i.e. Exchange Server Enterprise 2013, Exchange Server 2013 Standard, Lync Server 2013

In the Lync 2013 Licensing Guide states, “You do not need CALs for any user or device that accesses your Instances of the server software without being directly or indirectly authenticated by Active Directory or Lync Server.”

[Ref: Product Use Rights, February 2013, Page 35 of 116]

Under the Product Specific License Terms, Microsoft defines “authenticated” as a user or device that has an identity in the Active Directory Domain Services or Lync Server:

“An unauthenticated, or anonymous, user is a person or device that does not have an identity in the Active Directory Domain Services or Lync Server.

[…] an anonymous user is not authenticated. With the Lync 2010 Attendee client, unauthenticated users can a join Microsoft Lync Server 2013 hosted meeting. There are no required licenses for unauthenticated users of Lync Server 2013”

[Ref: Lync Licensing Guide, February 2013]

Microsoft recently updated the external user licensing models for certain specific server products, defined as “Licensed with Server” within product-specific license terms.

This has the effect of removing both the External Connector license and/or the CAL requirement for external users; allowing “An unlimited number of authenticated external users may access a Lync Server 2013 in scenarios where the number of CALs is uncertain”.

Vendor definitions are important when determining licensing requirements, and under this product-specific criteria, and upon review of the Product Use Rights Universal License Term definition(s) organisations are able to build a picture of the licensing requirement across the Microsoft product portfolio.

However, there does not appear to be explicit reference to Windows Server 2012 CALs or Windows Server 2012 External Connectors having an authentication requirement for Windows Server 2012. This is stated in other Microsoft documentation, including but not limited to:

  • “CALs are required for access to Windows Server whether direct or indirect. Users who are authenticated or individually identified, whether by the Windows Server software or by multiplexing hardware or software, require a Windows Server CAL to access Windows Server.” [Ref: Multiplexing Licensing Brief, December 2012, Page 5 of 5]
  • “If the user or device is authenticated or otherwise individually identified by a server running Windows Server through any other means, it requires a Windows Server CAL.” [Microsoft Licensing FAQs, website last accessed 25/03/2013 16:26]

As always, it is recommended to refer to your specific contract(s), the Product Specific License Terms of the Product Use Rights and Product List as source documentation in determining licensing requirements across the whole product stack. The licensing guides, and websites, while useful information resources and certainly influential, are not binding contractual documents.

For Windows Server, Directions On Microsoft  state that “Windows Server does not require CALs for anonymous clients accessing a server over the Internet”.


License Mobility of External Connectors

The Microsoft Product Use Rights  extends use rights for external connector licenses to allow reassignment within a server farm as ‘often as needed’ and certain application servers to a shared hardware infrastructure under License Mobility for SA

To understand and implement License Mobility it is important to traverse the fully hierarchy of the Product Use Rights:

Universal License Terms: License Reassignment

  • Generally, you may not reassign server application licenses on a short-term basis = not within 90 days of the last reassignment

General License Terms: License Mobility within Server Farms

  • You may reassign certain server licenses sooner under “license mobility within Server Farms” under Product-Specific License Terms section for the specific product
  • Example: Lync, Exchange, (SQL only with SA)

Software Assurance Benefit: License Mobility Through SA

  • You may move your licensed software from your servers to a 3rd party’s shared servers
  • Example: Lync, Exchange SharePoint, SQL with SA.

It is recommended to review the Product Use Rights in full, and for a further explanation and overview read Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments VL Brief (January 2013)

  • License Mobility within Server Farms. For eligible products, the 90- reassignment rule is waived, meaning you can reassign licenses from one server to another within your server farm as frequently as needed.
  • License Mobility through Software Assurance. For eligible products covered by active Software Assurance, you can deploy application servers in a service provider’s shared hardware environment.”

[Ref: Microsoft Server in Virtual Environments, January 2013, Page 21-22 of 27]


SQL Multiplexing

Microsoft often incorporates the ‘Multiplexing Rule’ when conducting product licensing reviews for SQL Server.

CALs are not required for SQL Server licensed under the Per Processor or Per Core licensing metric.

When licensing SQL Server software under the Server+CAL licensing model, users and devices that indirectly access SQL Server data through another application or hardware device still require CALs.

Multiplexing is defined as a Universal License Term and will apply to all products licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing. Under the hierarchy of the Product Use Rights, a Universal License Term will apply unless explicitly retracted or amended under General License Terms and Product Specific License Terms within the document.

This is re-iterated in the recent informational advisory documentation as applicable to SQL “Multiplexing does not reduce the number of Microsoft licenses required. Users are required to have the appropriate licenses, regardless of their direct or indirect connection to SQL Server.”

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2012, Page 16]

While the Multiplexing Rule is intrinsic to evaluating direct or indirect access or use of a server product; it should be comprehensively assessed whether the external user is also licensable under the relevant binding definitions for a SQL Client Access License (CAL), and those binding definitions should match the technical reality.

Microsoft provide some limited guidance on defining when a User requires licensable access to SQL Server:

“Any user or device that accesses the server, files, data or content provided by the server that is made available through an automated process requires a SQL Server CAL.

The number of tiers of hardware or software between the SQL Server and the user or devices that ultimately use its data, services, or functionality does not affect the number of CALs required.”

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2012, Page 17]

Microsoft defined the requirement for a User CAL in their comprehensive SQL licensing guide in 2008. “Licenses a person accessing or using the services or functionality of SQL Server or any of its components”

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2008, Version 1.06/17/09, Page 12]

“SQL Server CALs are required for users who directly input into, query, or view data from a SQL Server database (left side of Figure 1). Similarly, SQL Server CALs are required for users or devices that input data into, query, or view data from a SQL Server database through a pooling device (right side of Figure 1). This includes users who view data through web-based applications or enter information into a database through an intermediary product. (Note: Customers can also license SQL Server on a per-processor basis, thus negating any need for SQL Server CALs.)”

[Microsoft Volume Licensing Brief, Multiplexing Client Access License (CAL) Requirements, October 2011, Page 1 of 4]

An organisation must confirm whether their External Users use or access the “server, files, data or content” of the internal servers – directly or indirectly. it is recommend that this is fully backed-up with the proof of the technical reality, and confirm External Users do not “input data, query or view data from a SQL Server database” of internal server(s) under the relevant binding definitions.


Microsoft do periodically refer to ‘exceptions’ across the cannon of guidance documentation on SQL Server:

“This is true no matter how many tiers of hardware or software exist between the SQL Server and the client devices that ultimately use its data, services or functionality. An exception to this includes the manual transfer of data from employee to employee. For example, if an employee sends an Excel version of a report to another employee, the receiving employee does not require a CAL (as long as the report does not access a SQL Server in some way). An additional exception is communication exclusively between SQL servers

[Ref: SQL Server 2008 Pricing and Licensing, Updated July 2008, Page 1]

However, the latter exception was not addressed in the later revised Multiplexing guidance document (The word ‘exception’ is actually also not present). The refreshed document was released following SQL 2008 R2 General Availability on May 1st 2010 but prior to General Availability of SQL 2012 on April 1st 2012.

[Ref: Multiplexing – Client Access License (CAL) Requirements October 2011]

“Servers running SQL Server instances that connect to other servers running SQL Server instances require Server licenses, but do not require SQL Server CALs”

[SQL Server 2008 Licensing Guide Version 1.0 6/17/09, Page 13]

This may have been intended to illustrate that CALs are not required for Server to Server connections. However, If this is the case this term is not needed. CALs are only on a Device or User model as enshrined within the PUR. Microsoft provide no further guidance. However, the July 2008 Multiplexing Guide does provide this statement within the context of multiplexing.

Directions On Microsoft do expand on exceptions like ‘breaking the connection’ as result of human processes, for example: “In many situations, access to a server is interrupted by a business process or procedure, thus eliminating the need for a client license. A common example is one in which a user captures output from a server and then transmits it to other users via e-mail or by posting it on a file server or Web portal.”

“Manual data-transfer to/from SQL Server does not require CALs. For instance, if User A sends data to User B, who in turn enters data into SQL Server, User A does not need a CAL.”

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2008, Version 1.06/17/09, Page 13]

“[…] as long as the report does not access a SQL Server in some way”

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2008, Version 1.06/17/09, Page 44]

In the example describing a ‘custom application’ to illustrate multiplexing, Microsoft do stipulate “written back to” as a rationale behind extending the Multiplexing Rule.

[SQL Server Licensing Guide 2008, Version 1.06/17/09, Page 45]

“[…] If those processes by which the data is made accessible to users are all automated, SQL Server CALs (or per processor licenses) are required since this use is considered a multiplexing scenario. Multiplexing does not reduce the number of Microsoft licenses required. End users are required to have appropriate licenses, regardless of their direct or indirect connection to the product. Any user or device that accesses the server, files, or data or content provided by the server that is made available through an automated process requires a CAL”

[Microsoft Licensing FAQs, website last accessed 31/05/2013 13:57]

While the FAQ is intended to illustrate the qualification criteria of ‘automation; – in the reasoning the Microsoft Licensing FAQs response does refer to whether the ‘data is made accessible to users’ and that the user ‘accessed the server, files, or data or content provided by the server’. This would appear to provide a supporting interpretation that internal servers used only internal analysts would not be exposed to the external user (the public), even if there is argumentative weight placed on the term ‘automated’.

The weight on the definition of ‘automation’, when relied upon by Microsoft, and the precedent that Multiplexing is a ‘Universal Licensing Term’ could potentially be used to support the  extension of the Multiplexing Rule to determine logical establishment of a licensable user. This should be evaluated against the technical reality of the structure and processes of the environment.


Summary

It is accepted that the overarching precedence of Universal License Terms; remain in effect unless explicitly retracted or amended in either the General license Terms or Product-Specific License Terms of the Product Use Rights.

The ‘Multiplexing Rule’ should reasonably protect and maintain a proportional and scalable commercial licensing model; to ensure financial protection for a Vendor that is not limited by hardware or software that pool connections, reroute information, or reduce the number of devices or users that directly access, use a server product.

It is the personal view of the author, that an organisation should ensure that the technical reality conforms to the reasonable IT industry interpretation of the terminology of the publicly available binding documentation (where specific vendor definitions are not publicly available) of the Vendor.

The interpretation and application of this rule for External Users as well as Internal Users must be independently and respectively assessed based on the technical reality of the server infrastructure, to identify how the licensing requirements for both External Users and Internal Users impact the licensing models available for Microsoft Server products.


About

This website is a way to give back to the licensing community and as an information resource for all customers that work with Microsoft software and licensing. I hope you find it of value.

Tony Mackelworth is a Senior Licensing Specialist at SoftwareONE 

If you would like to book an in-depth Licensing Workshop / Microsoft Strategy Workshop please drop me an email or connect with me on Twitter

Tony lives with his wife in Oxford, England.


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