In late September, Microsoft announced that it is ending its Open License program on December 31, 2021. Created over 20 years ago, the Microsoft Open License program was designed to provide small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) the opportunity to purchase multiple perpetual software licenses at volume pricing.
The decision to discontinue the Open License program is part of a broader change in license sales at Microsoft they are calling the “Enhanced Customer Experience.” Starting on January 1, 2022, commercial customers will no longer be able to purchase licenses through the old program.
Current licenses will continue to operate normally, but all new purchases after the end of the Open License program will move to a new distribution and sales model.
Moving to Cloud Solution Providers
To simplify its licensing options, Microsoft is directing SMBs to partner with a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) for purchases in 2022 and beyond. Going forward, CSP partners, which include over 90,000 participating companies, will power the marketplace for pay-once, non-subscription, non-expiring, perpetual licenses.
This change only applies to commercial customers. Microsoft has said that government, nonprofit, and academic customers are not currently affected, but new plans covering them are forthcoming.
SMBs will reap several benefits from the changeover:
- Simplified license management
- Greater access to training and deployment assistance
- Increased flexibility and partner options
- More predictable costs
Changes to Software Assurance and Open Value
Organizations that wish to purchase Software Assurance (SA) for their perpetual licenses, which adds the option to migrate to new releases, will no longer be able to obtain that service feature through the Open License program. Microsoft recommends companies instead consider using the Open Value (OV) program, which does not offer perpetual licenses but costs less, includes SA, and is suited to SMBs with five or more desktop PCs.
It should be noted that while SMBs will not be able to renew any Open License agreement after 2022, any current purchaser of a SA agreement will continue to have access to its benefits until the agreement’s term expires, even if that date occurs after the termination of the Open License program.
Companies that purchase online service tokens through the Open License program can still assign and use them after the program ends in 2022 — unless the token was purchased more than five years ago. After the Open License program sunsets, new online service subscriptions will still be available in the OV program or can be obtained via a Cloud Solution Provider.
How Should SMBs Prepare?
To get ready for the changeover in 2022, SMBs should start contacting their current technology partners to discuss their options. Some distributors already have access to the new framework.
Make sure you’re dealing with a firm that has signed the latest Microsoft Partner Agreement (which replaced the Microsoft Cloud Reseller Agreement and the Microsoft Cloud Distributor Agreement). The new agreement helps Microsoft ensure all its partners protect customer data privacy, enforce the latest security best practices, and stay in compliance.