Level 2 Contributor

Licensing Questions


I have been facing a major issue and Microsoft is not helping me at all!
We are a CSP partner and I have some Licensing Questions that require confirmation so we ensure that our customer is compliant with what Microsoft is enforcing the partners to follow!

I have shared those questions with my Distributor who told me to get the final confirmation from Microsoft therefore I have been contacting Microsoft through different channels over a week now, all of them directed me to the Partner center to create a support ticket and when I tried to submit a ticket, I cannot find any Licensing Topics that allows me to create a ticket, all of them directs me to read the documentations!

Last ticket I have created, Microsoft told me you should contact your Distributor and they closed the ticket!
I would like to ask how could a CSP get assistance from Microsoft around Licensing if the Distributor doesn't know the answer and how to create an escalation within Microsoft?

Thanks in advancce


@ybarakat : I'm sorry to hear that the distributor was not able to answer your question, Microsoft is actually investing in Distributors to enable them to answer those questions, and Distributors generally have options to contact Microsoft on some questions via special channels. Unfortunately this does not always work as intended, sometimes the specific person within the Disti does simply not know the right escalation path they can use.

Microsoft does not have a dedicated team that is available for any Partner to contact to discuss all kinds of licensing questions - some more "technical" licensing questions can be discussed with Technical Presales & deployment Services team: (the team I'm working in).


Also, a Microsoft employee is not allowed to officially confirm compliance or non-compliance (for legal reasons, since those statements are not part of any agreement). However, what we can do is explain which sections of the applicable agreements (e.g. MCA in case of CSP) and license terms contain the relevant terms for a specific customer scenario. So, we can give context on how those rules apply to your scenario which should enable you to to give a stisfying answer to the customer, backed up by the official terms in the agreements.


Can you post the specific question you have? You can also send my a private message if your questions includes customer details that should not be shared publicly.




Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn:
Level 2 Contributor

Hello Janosch,

Thank you very much for your response, I really appreciate it!
I understand now that my Distributor should have satisfied my request in a better way, is there a statement from Microsoft or is there a guidance from Microsoft on the relevant channels that the Distributor could use so I could share them with my Distributor?

I have already reached out to Microsoft Technical Pre-sales and Deployment Team regarding the licenses required to deploy O365 on RDS environment for one of our customers since his employees are using Thin Clients, the TP&D advised that in order to be compliant, the customer needs to have at least M365 Business Premium, Windows Server CAL and RDS CAL Licenses!
However, as per my discussion with our Distributor, they told me that if the customer has Windows Server per core model instead of Windows Server CAL, he could still be compliant if we just provide him with M365 Business Premium and RDS CAL!
Therefore when I asked my distributor for confirmation on this scenario, they told that the final confirmation should be from Microsoft and this is where I am stuck at the moment for more than a week!

Thanks in advance


@ybarakat : My colleagues in TP&D were correct on this, if this is about an on-premise deployment on the customer's servers.

The distributor, or anybody sending this kind of information, should refer to the official licensing terms when giving those answers, this is where the "final" confirmation can be found since only this document is part of the contract the customer has agreed to, respectively will agree to and the only place where Microsoft documents the requirements officially. Any other information, like an Email from Microsoft or (DISCLAIMER) this post is not part of the agreement and should not be understand as a legally binding statement, contract amendment or official statement of compliance or non-compliance. 


In order to answer this, first it needs to be determined what the license agreement is we are talking about, and this depends on the technical scenario:

  • If the customer runs Windows Server on his own servers on-premises, then the customer will probably obtain the Windows Server license via Open Agreement, EA or MCA (MCA e.g. wen using CSP Software subscriptions or CSP Perpetual licenses).
    • The product license terms are published here: Commercial Licensing Terms ( (chosen MCA for this example, but for other agreement types mentioned above it is the same basic ruling reg. license models - you can switch agreement types on this page).
    • As you can see, there is inly one license model for this: "Per Core/CAL" - meaning you need to get licenses for each core on the physical hardware AND license access via CALs. There is no "per core (only)" license model for Windows Server, at least not for Editions that can be used as RDS Host.
    • This is why the terms require the customer to have Windows Server Core licenses, Windows Server CALs (for general access to the server - e.g. for accessing a DC there would need to be CALs anyway) and RDS CALs additionally to access Remote Desktop roles on the server.
  • If the customer runs Windows Server RDS in Azure, e.g. within Azure Virtual Desktop, only RDS CALs with active active Software assurance are needed as per the Azure use terms: Commercial Licensing Terms (
  • If you provide hosted servers for the customer, and customers are on shared hardware (e.g. each customer has their own VM, but multiple customer VMs are potentially running on the same server, so server hardware is not dedicated to a single customer), then you as Partner need to license the server via SPLA:
    • See for specific terms Licensing Documents (
    • In SPLA, you as hoster would license per (physical) server core as outlined in the Service Provider use Rights (SPUR) , and for providing RDS  there are RDS SALs as mentioned in the SPUR as well.
    • In this scenario the customer would only be allowed to use Microsoft 365 Apps for Business from M365 Business Premium with a hoster that has the QMTH status (see the product terms applicable to the customer for M365Apps, e.g. Commercial Licensing Terms ( ).

One other general note: Windows Server 2022 does NOT support M365 Apps, only WS2019 would support this, until 2025.


The distributor should have options to escalate to Microsoft via their account team, some larger Partners have access to a team called LicenseQ which will help them. However, I would have expected that the distributor can provide the same information as I did and prove this by the specific, official license terms applicable to the scenario/agreement type.




Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn:
Level 2 Contributor

Hello Janosch,

Thank you very much for your response and explanation, I just wanted to highlight a couple of points:
1) The feedback I got from TP&D was to ensure that the customer has M365 Business Premium, Windows Server CAL and RDS CAL, no one mentioned to me that I need to get Windows Server per core AND Windows Server CAL, so that's brand new information to me while the Distributor told me that we just need Windows Server per Core and disregarded the Windows Server CAL option.

Now, just to confirm my understanding because I could now see three opinions, from TP&D, Distributor and from your side, the customer would need both Windows Server per core and Windows Server CAL?

2) If the answer is yes, may I ask why because I cannot understand the need for both licensing models or is it because Microsoft now is applying Per Core/CAL licenses on any Windows Server?

3) You mentioned if the customer's RDS Environment is on Azure for example Azure Virtual Desktop, but if we took into consideration that the RDS Environment of the customer is on Azure and is not built on top of AVD, I mean it is just a normal RDS environment but instead of hosting it on premise, it is on the cloud, which licenses are required from his side? Still The RDS CAL only?

4) Are TP&D Team allowed to provide Licensing Session for partners, covering the difference between each licensing terms/Guidance or it is out of their scope?

Thanks again for everything!


@ybarakat :


First - again a Disclaimer that any statement reg. licensing below is solely based on my understanding of the given technical scenario at the time of writing and in no way a binding licensing statement or contract amendment. Refer to the respective license agreement and applicable product Terms at Commercial Licensing Terms (


On 1 - well, it might simply depend on how you did ask - maybe my colleagues were just responding to the question on "what do I need to access" instead of "what licenses do I need for every item in the customers network?". E.g. I did also not explain that you might need SQL licenses when a SQL Server is running as database for RD connection broker, we did not talk about Windows Core license that might be required for additional servers like RD Gateway, RD Connection Broker, DCs and File Servers in the network. 

And while you might have heard different statements (maybe based on how the question was phrased ), there is only one set of official licensing terms (for Windows Server running on on-premises hardware), and those say that Windows Server is licensed in the "PerCore/CAL" model, there is neither a per-core only model, not a model where you just license the server by having CALs. 



So, reg. 2) - because this is what is documented at 

(Not answering on the philosophical aspect of "why" though)


Actually I'm a bit surprised that this is big news, but it it may be just die to myself working with those questions since over 15 years 😀 - Windows Server was always licensed to have a base license for the machine where you install Windows Server, and access requires CALs on top. Before Windows Server 2012 it was a Server-based license, since Server 2016 it is licensed per Core. 


For clarity, a user or device that is assigned a CAL can access multiple servers. So, you don't need a separate set of CALs for each server you deploy, but when accessing any server that is deployed you need to make sure each user or each device accessing this has a CAL assigned (for exceptions, see the licensing terms mentioned above).


3) If it is on Azure, there is literally no reason to not run it in AVD. Since one of the main benefits is that with AVD the RDS CAL +SA would be sufficient to run the RD Session host, there is no need to pay for the Windows Server base license in this case. See also Apply Windows license to session host virtual machines - Azure | Microsoft Docs.

Besides that, it provides a secure option to connect (RD gateway) without requiring to pay for additional VMs to run those roles. 

However, if you really want to run it without AVD, you would need to pay for the Windows Server license (either pay-as-you-go when you deploy the VM, or you apply Windows Hybrid Use benefit and obtain the required number of core licenses with SA separately) and you would need the RDS CAL + SA. Indeed no Windows Server CAL is required, this is because for running Windows Server on an Azure VM the normal Windows Server license terms do not apply, the Azure license terms do apply (which do not require to license normal access via CALs). RDS CALs are required for technical reasons as well, without the RD licensing server would not work. And the license terms for RDS CALs (Windows Server) require you to have Software Assurance if you want to run them on Azure.

If you do not use Hybrid Benefit for Windows Server, indeed the answer "you only need RDS CALs with SA" would also be correct, since when you provision an Azure VM you automatically pay for the Windows license as well.


4) Difficult answer - TP&D will focus on technical licensing (e.g. how to make RDS CALs work in RD licensing, how to use hybrid benefit in Azure, what are licensing options for Azure VMs), but there is no training available on general licensing terms. Honestly, the exact boundaries are not always clear, usually TP&D will provide guidance on best effort basis when it comes to licensing - the issue is that giving licensing guidance can quickly turn into a legal discussion giving legal guidance is not something they are allowed to cover - this is also why I refer to the agreement and licensing terms in my answer since only those are part of the agreement. 

You can find general trainings for licensing here: Get Licensing Ready




Kind regards, Janosch (Note: Leaving role as of March 2023, don't expect further answers. Connect with me via LinkedIn: