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The most critical requirement in an Enterprise Agreement

img of The most critical requirement in an Enterprise Agreement

Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) has a fundamental requirement known as a “platform commitment.”

It has its cons and pros. It streamlines license management but, if not carefully considered, also carries the potential risk of overpayment.

What is a Platform Commitment?

A platform commitment requires you to select and license a specific Microsoft product (or set of products) across your entire organisation.

In an EA, there are two enrollments:

  • Enterprise Enrollment: This fundamental enrollment type is for desktop software and related products. It’s a standard component of most EAs. In an Enterprise Enrollment, you commit to license all users or all computers with a set of desktop products.
  • Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE): This optional enrollment is for licensing Microsoft’s server and cloud technologies. You may choose to “standardise” on operating systems (Core Infrastructure Suite), databases (SQL Server), development tools (Visual Studio Enterprise) or a combination of these.

How Platform Commitment Works

Before signing any Enterprise Agreement, you must commit to licensing a specific “platform product” or a set of products within each enrollment type.

“Committing” means that you must acquire the chosen products for your entire organisation:

  • Desktop products for all users or desktops,
  • Server products for all servers.

Enterprise Enrollment: Historically, before Microsoft 365 online subscriptions, standardisation within an Enterprise Enrollment meant committing to a set of products (e.g., Windows OS + Office Professional Plus + Enterprise CAL) for all desktops. Nowadays, with Office 365 and Microsoft 365, you must ensure every user has a suitable subscription, even though you might choose different packages for different users.

Server and Cloud Enrollment: In an SCE, if you choose a platform product like Core Infrastructure Suite, you must license it for all your servers.

And importantly, you must stick to this promise for the entire agreement term.

The Two Financial Pitfalls

With the simplicity of the platform commitment comes the risk of duplicate licensing costs, particularly if your organisation has already invested in licenses through alternative agreements like Select or MPSA.

Since the proliferation of Microsoft 365, such risks are less relevant to desktop products, but organisations still make the same mistakes with server licenses.

There are two scenarios in which you may lose money:

  • Loss of Existing Investments (at signing): If you currently have substantial server licenses purchased through Select or MPSA agreements, an SCE’s platform commitment mandates re-purchasing those licenses. While standardisation can bring benefits such as simplified licensing, access to newer versions, enhanced security features, and up to 15% additional discounts, it renders your existing licenses redundant, wasting prior investments.
  • Unintentional Licensing Waste (during the agreement): Without proper awareness, your procurement team might continue purchasing new server licenses through alternative agreements. Such incidents are especially prevalent in independent departments and subsidiaries that are unaware of the platform commitment requirements. While legitimate, these licenses are useless—a costly mistake.

Mitigating The Duplicate Licensing Risk

  • Strategic Assessment: Conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis before committing to an SCE. Weigh the advantages of an SCE against the potential loss of existing license investments. Define the primary motivations for an SCE (upgrade, security, standardisation, etc.) to guide your decision.
  • Centralise and Educate: Centralise all license procurement and establish clear guidance for procurement teams to prevent accidental purchases of licenses made redundant by an SCE.