Microsoft has continued its push to move their customers to Office 365, this is not a big surprise.  I have been thinking for some time that Microsoft would however continue to make a push to move away from Perpetual licensing models and move everyone to Subscription based licensing (especially considering that’s how Office 365 licensing works).  While today I may have found an indication of this happening, in my review of the recently released Microsoft Product Terms document on August 1st (located here:, I have noticed a change in both the Core and Enterprise Bridge CALs.

What has changed?

On page 14 and 15 you will see the following chart: You will notice that any of the Bridge CALs have the following noted behind them – (User SL).  This is a distinct difference from the Core CAL or Enterprise CAL that is noted with (Device and User).

What is a SL?

From August 1, 2015 Product Terms:

SL means subscription License that allows access to software or a hosted service for a defined period of time.

An SL is a subscription license, not a perpetual license.  In other words, when your contract expires you no longer have the rights to use the product unless you renew and you do not retain a perpetual license.

And just what is a Bridge CAL?

Microsoft Client Access License (CAL) Suite Bridges are used when you are transitioning from a CAL Suite (on premises) to a comparable Product and Online Service combination.

CAL Suite Bridges have the following three primary benefits:

  • Retain On-Premises Access Rights: Current CAL Suite customers (Core CAL Suite and Enterprise CAL Suite with Software Assurance) retain access rights to CAL Suite workloads that are not included in Windows Intune or Office 365 online services.
  • Satisfy Company-wide Commitment: CAL Suite Bridges satisfy the enterprise-wide requirement for Core CAL and Enterprise CAL Suite when paired with corresponding Enterprise Online Services.
  • Retain Enterprise Discounts: With CAL Suite Bridges, customers receive enterprise and platform discounts at a level that is comparable to the replaced suite.

Source: Microsoft CAL Suite Bridges overview 2014

This means that all enterprises who want to keep the components of the Bridge CAL current (e.g. Windows Server CAL, SCCM ML, etc.) needs to acquire a Bridge CAL to go along with their Office 365 subscription.

So what changed on August 1, 2015?

  • On-Premises Access Rights replaced with “Per-User” subscription
  • Removal of Device based licensing options for Client Access License (CAL) Suite Bridges

Who is impacted by this change?

Any client who is considering moving to Office 365 or who has purchased Office 365 will eventually be impacted by this change since Bridge CALs are purchased in conjunction with Office 365 E Plan SLs.   Those impacted (in order of impact are as follows):

  • EA customers that are up for renewal and considering moving to Office 365
  • Current Office 365 customers with Bridge CALs when their agreement expires
  • Current Bridge CAL Customers that are device based

Customers who do not currently have a Core or Enterprise CAL and who are looking to move to Office 365 may actually see a slight benefit during the initial term of their purchase as the subscription costs should be less than a new purchase of License and Software Assurance (SA).

What is the impact?

I see an impact to clients in two different areas:

  1. Renewal costs of SA versus Subscription Costs – a Core CAL Bridge SA costs approximately 1/3 the price of a subscription Core CAL Bridge
  2. Device Based licensing scenarios – e.g. a call center with 100 devices and 3 shifts may now require 300 Bridge CAL SLs versus 100 Bridge CAL Device Licenses (effectively more than triple the costs in this scenario)

What to do?

If your agreement is coming up for renewal shortly and you are considering moving to (or are already there) Office 365 you should review your requirements for the components of the Bridge CAL.  There is a potential that you may not need to renew SA on these products depending on your usage and technology roadmaps.  Another option may be to consider purchasing the components of Select or the MPSA program if you require SA on these products.

Click below if you would like to walk through your options as more options may be available to you depending on your unique situation.

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