How Does a Microsoft SAM Audit Differ From a Review?

Microsoft SAM vs Audit

Aah, the Microsoft SAM. I’m sure by now that you have been offered a Microsoft SAM Engagement by your “friendly neighbourhood” Account Team. If not, it’s likely coming. It seems that just about everyone has had the offer of a Microsoft SAM Engagement dropped in their lap, and clients are not sure if this is a friendly engagement or a full-blown Audit.

Let’s be honest, NOBODY likes the prospect of an Audit, but an Audit certainly does generate a TON of revenue for all software vendors. Of course, Microsoft will tell you that a Microsoft SAM Engagement is not a full-blown Audit, because Audit’s don’t sit well with customers. However, it may seem that a Microsoft SAM Engagement is indeed a warm and fuzzy way of telling you that you are about to be Audited.  I’m going to explain some of the similarities and differences, so you can be the judge.

  • A Microsoft SAM Engagement is usually completed by Microsoft or a trusted Partner. The Microsoft Audit is conducted by a 3rd party auditing firm.
  • The Process between a Microsoft SAM and a Microsoft Audit are the same. In both situations, the auditors will look to run the same tools, pulling the same data (often more than is required), and making the same assumptions based on that data.
  • Under a Microsoft SAM Engagement, if potential licensing gaps are found, a client can deal with any gaps by making purchases under their existing agreements. In an official Audit, the vendor often has the right to push that any licensing gaps be addressed at list price plus an uplift (usually 15%).
  • Under a full-blown Microsoft Audit, you may be required to pay for the 3rd party Auditor fees in full. Under a Microsoft SAM Engagement, you will not have to pay for the process.
  • Clients ask if they can decline a Microsoft SAM Engagement. The simple answer is “yes”, but I stress that this is generally NOT a good idea. If you have been selected for a full-blown Microsoft Audit, you cannot decline.
  • Both the Microsoft SAM and the Microsoft Audit are huge revenue generating tools for Microsoft. While the Microsoft SAM approach tends to be softer than a full-blown Audit, the end result is often a sizable check being written to Microsoft.

The best way to prepare for a SAM Engagement or Microsoft Audit is to not face them alone. MetrixData360 specializes in helping our clients through the process while freeing up your resources.

Looking for more Information on Microsoft SAM Audits or Engagements?

What to Google When You’re Being Audited by Microsoft

What Triggers a Microsoft Audit

Negotiating a Microsoft Audit or SAM Engagement

Microsoft True Up – The Best Way to Deal With One – Video

Microsoft True Ups are an annual event for most of us. Do you know how to optimize your True Up and avoid over paying for licenses you don’t require? On this webinar MetrixData360 shares best practices to avoid overpaying on a True Up.  On this video we will show you how to interpret Microsoft’s licensing rules, examine your deployment data and understand how to reduce your True Up costs.

Join Mike Austin as he shares his insights and cuts through the confusing jargon with straight talk! Mike Austin has been involved in countless Microsoft negotiations and audits and has negotiated over $1B in software cost reductions.



Microsoft Windows Server 2016. Are you Prepared?

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 has been available for a while and will have an impact on your licensing costs and models.   To help understand what has changed I had the opportunity to speak with our senior analyst Danny Bedard.  Danny lives and breathes software licensing and spent several years working at Microsoft in licensing related roles.

Danny, what’s new with Microsoft Windows Server 2016?

 With Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Microsoft has made a big licensing change.  Windows Server is transitioning from a Processor or Server/Client Access License model to a Core and Client Access License model similar to Microsoft SQL Server.  The big different from the Microsoft SQL Server model is that with Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Client Access licenses are still required.

Link to Microsoft Brief on Windows Server Core/Client Access Licensing:

 Why is Microsoft making these changes?

 Clearly Microsoft wants to take advantage of the additional revenue which can be gained from licensing by computing power as opposed to physical processors.   Over the years servers have gained computing power and become more robust and Microsoft wants to capitalize on this opportunity to increase their revenue.

How does this increase Microsoft Windows Server 2016 costs?

 A typical server that we see has 2 physical CPU’s.  Under the old (Pre-Windows Server 2016) model you would need one CPU license (sold in a pack of two).  This server is, in Microsoft’s view, equivalent to 16 Cores as this is standard transition that Microsoft is offering.  The standard conversion that Microsoft is offering is 2 CPU licenses of Windows Server converts to 16 cores and in this situation the client’s costs stay flat.

 2 CPU -> 16 Cores

What happens if you have more than 16 Cores per server?

 If your core count exceeds the standard Microsoft conversion model of 2 CPU -> 16 Cores then this is where your licensing and future Software Assurance costs start to go up.   It’s important to remember that it’s not just the costs of acquiring the additional new licenses but it’s the ongoing Software Assurance costs that you have to factor in.

Related Content – Migrating Microsoft SQL Server to the Cloud  

When does this impact people?

 The licensing model changes to cores when two events occur.  The first event happens as soon as you deploy Microsoft Windows Server 2016.  The second situation occurs if you have a current shortfall of Microsoft Windows Server 2015 R2 (or earlier) licenses.   Microsoft has removed the old products from the price lists which means you can only purchase core based Microsoft Windows Server 2016 licenses.  You can of course deploy older versions of Microsoft Windows Server but any new licences you require will have to be purchased on a per core basis.

What Can Clients Do To Prepare?

 I recommend that people access their Microsoft Windows Server estate/physical footprint to maintain any installations which are not the 2016 version for as long as possible.  Try to leverage legacy entitlements wherever possible.   On the virtual side of things there are other considerations.   In a VMware environment, there are additional considerations as once you add a single Windows Server 2016 virtual machine, your legacy licenses are no longer sufficient to provide coverage.   In this case, you would have to convert all other Windows Server licenses to cores.  You could mitigate this by locking the environment down via a cluster or a VMware process to a dedicated host for Windows Server 2016.  The best way to mitigate unfortunately is to migrate to cores for Windows Server 2016 hosts.

How Can We Help?

 MetrixData360 has a Windows Server Assessment offering.  We will review your environments and your business requirements and provide a detailed report with your licensing position and your licensing options.   If a client has active Software Assurance and has a Microsoft contract which is near renewal this is a really important exercise.   The assessment is needed to capture the server with greater than 16 cores so that the client can push Microsoft for increased core grants.  Without a solid case Microsoft will default to their standard 16 core conversion we have talked about.


Non-Disclosure Agreements in Software Audits

Software Audit? Non-Disclosure Agreements Are A Must

Non-Disclosure agreements in a software audit are one of the most important things you need to get in place if you are being audited.  With more and more software vendors utilizing third party auditors to compile the actual audits and create the Effective License Position (ELP) having a Non-Disclosure agreement in place is essential.

It’s not new news that software audits are becoming more common and aggressive.  In fact, here at MetrixData360, we’ve been beating this drum for years. One of the patterns we have seen emerge is that various vendors are utilizing third-party auditors to compile the licensing position.  These third-party auditors can be accounting firms or just partners of the software vendor.  In either case, it’s critical that you get specific non-disclosure agreements in place to protect yourself as in many cases they are incentivized to drive a licensing gap.

Software Auditors Don’t Work For You

It’s important to remember that these third-party auditors work for the vendor and are paid by them as well.  In most cases, we understand that they are rewarded for driving licensing gaps.  They will run their scripts, request various deployment data from you and present you with an ELP which shows your entitlements juxtaposed with your deployments and identifies any gaps in licensing.  It is important to note that the first few ELPs that they present to you will be error-filled and will include incorrect assumptions.  You will then present evidence and work to ensure that it is correct.  In our experience these first few ELP’s skew heavily in the vendor’s favor.  You don’t want them to assume that these early ELP’s are representative of your true licensing position.  This is where the non-disclosure agreement comes in.

Make Sure Your Data Stays Yours

The most important thing that you want to achieve in this non-disclosure agreement is to ensure that they (the third-party auditor) cannot share data with the organization that has commissioned the audit without your approval.   This seems straight forward but in our experience without a non-disclosure agreement in place, these third-party auditors will often share data before it has been signed off on by your team.  The result is that the vendor will see early, incorrect versions of the ELP.  This may include development and test environments, out-of-scope products, etc. This often will cause them to forecast purchases for you based on incorrect data and it makes it harder to get them to accept the correct data when it is ready.

The goal will be to ensure that when the ELP finally is released to the vendor it contains clean, correct data that you are comfortable with. This will help to make any negotiations smoother and eliminate misunderstandings.  If you have any questions about this process, contact us to book a free consultation