Different ways to acquire Microsoft software and services

In this article, you will learn about some different ways Microsoft sells software traditionally through Volume Licensing Agreements. These include Microsoft Office products. Microsoft has many agreements to suit different categories of customers and their purchasing preferences. These agreements are aimed at smaller customers whilst others target larger customers. Customers can make a purchase based on “transactional basis” whiles other purchases require “some sort of commitment.” Some customers can also buy what they like when they like. Customers can buy On-Premises Software through traditional Volume Licensing Agreements. 

Volume Licensing Agreements were originally designed to enable customers buy licenses for On-Premises Products. Examples of some Microsoft products are Windows Server, Microsoft Office, Exchange Server and SQL Server. Volume Licensing Agreements were originally built about 30 years ago to enable customers to purchase quantities of licenses for software. 

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Customers were offered a choice of acquiring Perpetual or Subscription Licenses for products.

Customers who acquired Perpetual Licenses own those licenses and can use the associated software forever. Those who acquired the Subscription Licenses just have rights to use the software while their agreement is active.


Two agreement forms offer Microsoft Office products Subscription Licenses. The Open Value Subscription Agreement and the Enterprise Subscription Agreement. These agreements last for three years. Customers have a decision to make at the end of the agreement term to either renew the agreement and carry on using the products or install the software or use a special option called Buyout. The Buyout option allows the customer to convert the Subscription License to a Perpetual License. 


There is also Software Assurance (SA) that can be added to a License purchased. Microsoft calls this L&SA. This typically adds deployment flexibility for example. In running Windows and a virtual desktop or to enjoy unlimited virtualization rights with SQL Server or to use your Windows Server licenses in Azure, you will need Software Assurance. In other programs, it’s a mandatory part of the agreement. 

There is also an Open License program that is a completely transactional program. In January 2022, Microsoft ended the Open License Program where customers would no longer be able to make changes to purchases. Purchase as few as five licenses and decide not to buy Software Assurance. The Open Value Non Company Wide is transactional, but two require the purchase of SA for all licenses. Open Value Organization Wide requires a commitment both to the desktop devices and Software Assurance and Open Value Subscription requires the same commitment, but the licenses for the software are subscriptions. 

The world of technology and Microsoft licensing is always changing. Licenses for online services are always subscription licenses. Online services like Office 365 were made available   14 years ago. However, customers could not purchase subscription licenses for the online services through Select Plus Agreement. The Azure services were invented and the facility to pay for those through an existing Volume Licensing Agreement was added to many of the agreements. 

Different software and services are available through the programs and there are different rules governing them. Customers are given flexibility, but it does also become quite complicated, especially when customers have more than one agreement to meet their needs. Purchase software through an Enterprise Agreement can be committed to a Desktop Licensing Agreement and still need to buy software licenses without Enterprise Subscription Agreement on a transactional basis. 

To support customers and the changing demands of the world, agreements over time have developed. Microsoft is saying that they are simplifying the purchase experience for customers which is a core element of making it easier to do business, thus a new way to purchase is introduced. We think that customers think otherwise. These will eventually replace the complicated set of Volume Licensing Agreements.  Some of these new ways to buy are already active for some products and services, and others will become available in the coming months and years. 

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One of the first new ways to buy that’s become available is the Cloud Solution Provider Program. This is where customers can buy through partners who have an opportunity to deliver a solution to a customer, which can be both the licenses themselves and complementary partner services and the way it works. The partner bills the customer for everything together. For customers who are happy to self-serve, they may buy directly from the Microsoft website. 

Also, a credit card can be used to purchase certain licenses for a project on the Microsoft website. 

Customers can also purchase directly through the Microsoft field sales teams. In terms of a Cloud Solution Provider, licenses for On-Premises Software can be purchased without Software Assurance and also Server Subscriptions for Windows and SQL Server. This is the first service available to customers through the new channel when customers engage directly with Microsoft salespeople. 

Microsoft offers three ways to buy through a partner self-serving via the website or for larger or more strategic customers directly from a Microsoft salesperson. There will be a new agreement to facilitate this: a single Microsoft customer agreement. 

A customer agrees to the terms once, then buys through the channel of his choice. This agreement is already available in the Cloud Solution Provider Program. When customers buy direct from Microsoft there is an immediate simplification and the different agreements with their different terms and rules will no longer be required.  In reality, this way of buying Microsoft software can be helpful for smaller organizations. When you are an Enterprise organization with many users your situation is more complex. Advice on how to buy your licenses and how to optimize your on-premises and Cloud services needs your attention. And we can help. 

For more up-to-date licensing information about the different ways Microsoft sells software and services, contact our licensing experts at Q-Advise. 

As an independent licensing company we combine in-depth knowledge of the software licensing & Cloud services market to help you resolve licensing issues and help you save on your Microsoft products purchases and carry out cost reduction actions. 

Contact us and talk to an independent Microsoft expert. 

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