Microsoft Server Licensing Rules (re: CALs)

When trying to quote a customer on a new server installation, you have some important numbers you need to consider, and one of those is definitely how licensing works for server licenses.  A co-worker and I ran into a scenario the other day where we weren’t entirely sure of the rules for licensing once we got down to the server level.  We were quoting for a new SharePoint install, and of course, every SharePoint user is considered a server user as well.  As such, we wanted to know how the licensing model worked for a multi-server farm (2 WFEs, 1 APP, 1 SQL) when it got right down to the server level.

Our assumption from the beginning was that for every SP user (300) we’d need 1 CAL for each user, for each server – minus the SQL server, which was being licensed by processor/core and therefore, CALs were irrelevant. That meant that our server CALs were assumed to be 300 x 3 SharePoint servers = 900 CALs.  This (thankfully) was wrong.  As it turns out, server CALs are (seemingly most often) licensed by the individual user, not by the number of servers that an individual accesses.  This form of licensing is known as licensing by “User CALs”.  This reduced our server CAL count down to only 300, the number of users who would be accessing SharePoint.

Client Access License based on user


Of course, this also means that if your 300 users already had CALs allocated to them by means of other windows servers already present in their network, then the total number of new CALs you’d require is 0.  Yay user CALs!

This isn’t the only form of licensing a Windows Server, there’s also Device CALs, core licensing, processor licensing, and more.  You can learn more about licensing from this link to Microsoft here.

3 responses to “Microsoft Server Licensing Rules (re: CALs)

  1. Colin good post as this not obvious esp in intranet and extranet scenarios. I am still unsure as to what determines the standard or enterprise features a user can access. Is it the user cal or server cal . if so would the user with the standard cal accessing the server with the enterprise cal have limited access to the features.

  2. Regarding your question about user vs server licensing, a server must have a license in order to be valid. A user must have a cal in order to use a server. If a user doesn’t have a cal, or a server doesn’t have a license, that user or that server is not legitimate in your licensing model.

    As for SP Standard vs Enterprise features, this differs in 2010 than in 2013. In 2013 you can assign features to users and allow different levels of users to have access to Std or Ent features, depending on how many licenses of each you have. In other words, the user experience can be different for one user than a different user on the same page. In 2010, if you have 1 user with the enterprise CAL, all users must have the enterprise CAL, or you’re violating the licensing terms (since users with only a Standard license would be able to access Enterprise features).

  3. Thanks so much for a your response. I am starting to see clarity. Essentially , when the User License Enforcement you are referring to, is enabled and mappings added. You can determine which set of users has std v Ent features based on the quantities of Std & Ent cals you have deployed across the farm. One final question: how do you “name” an external user? Since both internal and external users will be authenticated via my AD.

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