Will Microsoft's next-generation licensing system make life easier for businesses?

The MPSA doesn't replace all of Microsoft's other licensing programs. For very small businesses, Croft says the Open and Open Value programmes are more relevant – "we're going to add more cloud options for very small business users through Open," he claims.

And if you're buying thousands of licences a year through an Enterprise Agreement, you're going to be doing that for a while (although Croft says the MPSA will evolve to be more attractive to large customers). If you're currently signed up for Microsoft Select Plus licensing, the MPSA is what you'll be looking at.

"The MPSA does everything that Select Plus does, it does it better and crucially it does both on premise and cloud. We've announced that we'll be retiring Select Plus over the next couple of years and that's deliberate. Of course, if you've bought through Select Plus you don't lose those rights even once it's retired, but we'll be trying to slowly bring people over onto the MPSA."

Until you move all your licences to the new agreement, you can't manage them all with the new portal (or use them to qualify for discounts).

"The challenge for a customer is going to be if they have a legacy VL agreement which uses one tool while MPSA uses another," Boulay points out. "They will need to manage two separate portals and there is no functionality at this time, nor are there any plans in the future, to incorporate old licences from legacy tools into the new MVLC platform. MPSA can only be viewed on the new Microsoft Volume Licensing Centre and the traditional volume licensing programs can only be viewed on [the current] Volume Licensing Service Centre."

250 users and up

To qualify for MPSA volume pricing, you need to be buying for at least 250 users or devices and you need to have bought 500 points worth of software by the end of your first year – as you buy more points worth of software, you qualify for bigger volume discounts (the discount levels run from A to D, with D being the highest discounts).

Microsoft products are divided into three pools (operating systems, servers and productivity software), so you have to earn 500 points in each pool to get volume discounts in that pool. "Think of it like earning airline frequent flyer miles," Croft suggests. The point system is simpler than trying to deal with multiple currencies and he says the 500 point level "is not an aggressive target".

MPSA currently covers the UK and indeed the whole of the EU, and by summer 2015 "it will be global, with the possible exception of mainland China," Croft told us. But you don't get it from Microsoft, rather, it's available through Microsoft's 400 licensing solution partners – although once you have an MPSA you can just go online and buy more licences or new online services without going back to the partner.

"If a customer is opening a new branch office over the weekend and wants to set up ten new employees with Office 365 they can log in, add those ten users on the plan they want, provision those users and have them up and running without needing to go back and forth to the licensing partner. The partner can see what the customer is doing but the customer doesn't have to wait on the partner and the customer doesn't have to micromanage the partner."

Simple and unified

You can have different licensing partners, so you could get your OS and data centre products from Dell but your productivity tools from another partner. But Microsoft partners who resell services like Office 365 with their own products – like email archiving or encryption services – aren't yet able to offer the MPSA. So this is a simpler, unified system, but unless you're buying your first Microsoft products you probably can't use it for everything.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.