License to Kill: Licensing Windows SharePoint Services for the Extranet

ToTheSharePoint Newsletter
May 19, 2008

Dan Holme
Office & SharePoint Pro
Community Manager

License to Kill: Licensing Windows SharePoint Services for the Extranet

There are a number of technical articles about how to configure Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 to serve as both a local, intranet collaboration site and an extranet portal for clients, partners, vendors, etc. There are issues relating to URL namespaces and Web applications, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and other security concerns, and using multiple authentication providers - using Windows authentication for your employees and forms-based authentication (FBA) for your extranet, for example. You also need to know that, generally, you'll want a unique site collection for each constituency (e.g., for each client) for user and group management reasons.

There are lots of ways to make WSS work, technically, for an extranet. However, there should be only one set of guidelines for how to license an extranet server. It should be easy to figure out, so that everyone who cares about being "legal" can be so easily, and so that Microsoft can make every dollar it deserves from the product. Unfortunately, it is not easy to figure out, partly because there are several moving parts to a WSS extranet and Microsoft does not clearly lay out the interaction of the parts, from a licensing perspective. To make matters worse, different Microsoft offices around the world are giving customers different guidance, and software vendors and implementers, some unscrupulous and some just as confused as the rest of us, provide further, different guidance.

This week, the lack of licensing clarity became particularly salient as my peers went around and around trying to make sense of it and as several customers complained to me about the crazy and confusing issues.

So I'm going to step into the ugly, sticky, dark, slimy place that I as a consultant try to avoid like the black plague it is: licensing. Over the next two weeks, I'm going to lay out the concerns as I see them and summarize what I have gleaned from Microsoft (from its Web site) and from peers and customers. I will tell you right now, and I emphasize: This stuff *is* insanely stupidly confusing, so my guidance is just that - guidance. You must consult with your Microsoft reps to make sure you are compliant. I hope this discussion will help you carry on an intelligent conversation with Microsoft. I'm also hoping that the high visibility of this newsletter prompts a clear response from Microsoft, which I'll obviously pass on to you if it contains clarification or corrections.

Identify the Components You Must License
These are the components of a WSS implementation that you must license or purchase:

• Windows Server (2003 or 2008): The server OS on which the WSS front-end runs or on which the storage (SQL Server) runs.
• Client access licenses (CALs) for access to Windows Server
• CALs for access to SQL Server

An important note is that the server and client licensing for Windows 2003 R2 and Windows Server 2008 has not changed. However, I found the Web pages describing licensing in Server 2008 were generally easier to understand.

Windows Server (2003 or 2008) Server

Details are at Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008

You must purchase or otherwise license Windows 2003 or Server 2008 as an OS. The server license allows you to install the server, but doesn't in itself allow users to access it - that's where CALs come in. Of course, sometimes this includes a certain number of CALs.

You will need the license for the server running the WSS front-end. If you are running SQL Server on a separate system, you will also need a license for that instance of Windows Server.

Of course, there are now licensing options for virtualization. If you are licensed for Windows 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition or Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, you can run one instance of Windows Server on the physical system and up to four instances in virtual machines (VMs) on that physical system. With Server 2008 Standard Edition, you can run one instance on the physical system and one in a VM on that system. Both Windows 2003 and 2008 Datacenter provide unlimited server instances in VMs.

So, if you have a single license for Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition (or better) or Server 2008 Standard Edition (or better), you could run SQL on the physical system and WSS in a VM, or vice versa. Of course you'd also need to have appropriate licenses for virtualization software, but that's another story and there are plenty of free options (e.g., Microsoft Virtual Server, VMware Server, Server 2008 Hyper-V.

You can also use your downgrade rights to run a version of Windows Server prior to your licensed version. For example, if you have a Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise Edition server license, you could run the WSS front end on the physical system, leveraging the strengths of IIS 7.0 on Server 2008, and you could run SQL Server 2005 in a VM running Windows 2003 R2, because SQL Server 2005 doesn't gain a tremendous advantage from Server 2008, and since it's easier to install on Windows 2003, requiring fewer patches.

Bottom line
You'll need one or two Windows Server licenses. With virtualization and a Windows 2003 Enterprise or Server 2008 Standard license, you can save yourself one server license. Whether that makes sense from a performance perspective is left to your analysis.

Next week, I'll delve further into the WSS licensing quagmire with a discussion about client licensing and SQL Server licensing. Stay tuned...

Until next week, all the best!

Dan Holme
danh at intelliem dot (top level commercial domain)

P.S. And thanks to all the SharePoint MVPs for their lively discussion about licensing, and especially to Spencer Harbar (check out his blog at for helping untangle the web!

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