Changes to Microsoft SPLA Licensing


  1. What's Going To Happen?

  2. What are the Options?

  3. Licensing with Microsoft

  4. SPLA Outsourcing

  5. Docx to PDF for Archiving

  6. Docx to HTML for Structuring Data

  7. OSDC for Conversion

Introduction: In September 2025, Microsoft is implementing significant changes to its Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) program, aiming to address misuse and align the program with its original intent. These changes will have far-reaching implications for various stakeholders in the hosting ecosystem, including Microsoft itself, listed providers like AWS and Azure, SPLA partners, and users. Understanding these changes and planning accordingly is crucial for businesses to ensure a smooth transition and mitigate potential disruptions.

Problem Statement: Microsoft has identified misuse of the SPLA program, particularly by managed service providers, who are hosting customer workloads on third-party data centers instead of their own. This misuse has led to revenue loss for Microsoft, as it cannot directly license these workloads to the listed providers.

Solution: To address this issue, Microsoft will restrict the outsourcing of SPLA licenses to listed provider data centers starting October 2022. Existing deployments have until September 30, 2025, to transition either by moving workloads to their own data centers or licensing directly from the listed provider outside of SPLA.



What's Going to Happen?

  • Restricting SPLA Licensing: Starting October 2022, Microsoft will no longer allow SPLA licenses to be used for running workloads on Listed Provider data centers for new deployments.
  • Deadline for Transition: Existing deployments using SPLA on Listed Providers have a grace period until September 30, 2025, to transition. They can either:
    • Move workloads to their own data centers.
    • License directly from the Listed Provider (not using SPLA).

Microsoft believes the SPLA program, originally intended for partners offering hosted services from their own data centers, is being misused by managed service providers. These providers are purchasing SPLA licenses and then hosting customer workloads on third-party data centers like AWS, Azure, or others ("Listed Providers") instead of their own.


Quote: "At its inception, SPLA was intended to allow partners to offer hosted services from their own datacenters, not for managed service providers buying through SPLA to host on others’ datacenters. We are making changes to the SPLA program, starting in October 2022, to better align with the program’s intent, and with other commercial licensing programs. To strengthen the hoster ecosystem by focusing the program on breadth hosters and encourage traditional outsourcers and datacenter providers, we are changing the SPLA terms to remove the ability to outsource SPLA licenses on Listed Provider datacenters. Traditional outsourcers and datacenter providers will benefit from this change, and it will help foster the hosting partner ecosystem. Any SPLA partner impacted by this change has until September 30, 2025 to transition from a Listed Provider for SPLA outsourced hosting or to license directly from the Listed Provider outside of their SPLA."


What are the Options?


Microsoft Product Licensing will no longer be provided as a service through SPLA from the listed providers:

Alibaba, Amazon (AWS), Google, Microsoft (Azure)

Solutions and Implications:

  1. Relicense with listed Providers outside of SPLA.

    License your Microsoft products in compliance with the new standards and continuing to use your listed Provider.

  2. Transition from Listed Provider for SPLA Outsourcing.

    End Users can continue to use Microsoft Products through an SPLA agreement if they migrate to a non-listed provider.

  3. Opt out of licensing agreements by migrating away from Microsoft.

    While Word and other Microsoft applications are widely used, they might not be the optimal choice for cloud hosting. Although Word documents are convenient for editing, PDF format is often preferable for archiving purposes.

    PDF files tend to be smaller and offer more robust security and compliance features, such as those required by standards like 508 & WCAG. Alternatively, converting files to HTML could streamline web hosting and facilitate the structuring of content for reuse or automation, as seen in systems like DITA."

Non-SPLA Licensing with Microsoft & Cloud Hosts


These changes aim to transfer licensing responsibility to end users, discontinuing the practice of sharing licenses through SPLA programs. For many, the most straightforward option will be to comply with the new licensing requirements and continue using Microsoft products. Microsoft asserts that this shift in the SPLA license model will simplify software deployment in cloud environments.

However, it's important to note that some end users may have been accustomed to utilizing Microsoft products under existing arrangements, and the new licensing requirements could result in unforeseen costs, especially for large servers.


SPLA Outsourcing

Migrating to a Non-Listed Provider for SPLA Hosting:

As Microsoft restricts the use of SPLA licenses on listed provider data centers, businesses may consider migrating to non-listed providers to continue leveraging SPLA for their hosting needs.

When considering the switch to a non-listed provider for hosting services, there are several potential advantages to weigh. Compliance with Microsoft's updated licensing terms is a significant pro, ensuring businesses avoid penalties and legal complications while still utilizing SPLA licenses. Cost savings can also be a factor, with some non-listed providers offering competitive pricing, particularly for smaller deployments. Moreover, the shift opens up a wider array of hosting options and providers to choose from, enabling businesses to find the best fit for their requirements and budget.

However, there are also drawbacks to consider. Listed providers like AWS and Azure are renowned for their reliability, scalability, and comprehensive hosting capabilities, which may not be matched by non-listed providers. Non-listed providers may also have a more limited range of services and features, potentially restricting access to advanced hosting solutions or integrated cloud services.


Transitioning to PDF for Document Archival:

While many businesses may choose to abide by the new licensing terms set by Microsoft, some organizations, particularly those focused on archival purposes with a vast array of documents, may find it advantageous to transition away from DOCX formats to PDF. Here are some reasons why:

  • Cost Savings:
    PDF files do not require licensing fees for viewing or sharing, unlike DOCX files which may necessitate licenses for Microsoft Office suite.
  • Long-Term Compatibility:
    PDF is a widely accepted format for long-term archival, ensuring that documents remain accessible and readable even as technology evolves.

  • Preservation of Formatting:
    PDF files preserve document formatting across different platforms and devices, guaranteeing that archived documents retain their original layout and appearance.

  • Structured Format:
    PDFs can be structured using tags, which define the logical order of content (headings, paragraphs, tables, etc.). This allows assistive technologies like screen readers to navigate the document effectively and provide a clear understanding of the content for visually impaired users.

  • Text Accessibility:
    Text within a PDF can be extracted and converted to speech by screen readers, enabling visually impaired users to access the document's content. DOCX files, while containing text, might not be readily accessible to screen readers if the format isn't properly structured.

  •  Alternative Text Descriptions:
    PDFs allow embedding descriptions for images and other non-text elements. This provides context for users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies.

  • Enhanced Security:
    PDF files can be password-protected and encrypted, providing an additional layer of security for sensitive documents stored in archives.
  • Smaller File Size:
    PDF files are generally smaller in size compared to DOCX files, making them easier to store, share, and archive without consuming excessive storage space.
  • Searchable and Indexable:
    PDF files can be easily searched, indexed, and archived, simplifying the retrieval of specific information within large document collections.
  • Universal Accessibility:
    PDF readers are available for free on most devices and operating systems, ensuring universal accessibility to archived documents without the need for specific software.

By transitioning to PDF for document archival purposes, businesses can enjoy cost savings, ensure long-term compatibility, enhance document security, and simplify document management processes. Moreover, PDF's ability to preserve formatting, reduce file size, and facilitate searchability makes it an ideal choice for businesses with extensive archival needs.


Transitioning to HTML for Content Publishing and Structured Data:

In light of the upcoming changes to Microsoft SPLA licensing terms, businesses engaged in frequent publishing of content may find it advantageous to consider transitioning away from DOCX formats to HTML. Here are some reasons why:

  • Avoidance of Licensing Issues:
    HTML content does not require licensing fees for creation, viewing, or sharing, offering businesses a cost-effective alternative to DOCX formats.

  • Structured Data Possibilities:
    HTML content can be structured using markup languages like DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture), allowing businesses to organize their content into structured data sets. This structured approach enables content reuse, automation, and dynamic publishing.

  • Content Reusability:
    Structured HTML content can be easily reused across various platforms, channels, and outputs, streamlining content management processes and ensuring consistency across multiple channels.
  • Automation Opportunities:
    With structured HTML content, businesses can implement automation workflows for content creation, management, and publishing. This automation can significantly reduce manual effort and streamline content production cycles.
  • Enhanced Searchability:
    Structured HTML content, especially when organized using DITA or similar standards, facilitates enhanced searchability and discoverability of information within documents, improving the overall user experience.
  • Dynamic Publishing Capabilities:
    HTML-based content can be dynamically generated and published, allowing businesses to deliver personalized and targeted content to their audience in real-time.

By transitioning to HTML for content publishing and structured data, businesses can not only avoid potential licensing issues but also unlock opportunities for content reuse, automation, and dynamic publishing. Embracing structured data standards like DITA enables businesses to organize their content effectively, streamline workflows, and deliver content in a more efficient and impactful manner.


OSDC for Conversion

Antenna House OSDC (Office Server Document Converter) is a versatile document conversion solution designed to seamlessly convert various document formats, including DOCX, to PDF or HTML. With its robust capabilities, OSDC offers businesses a flexible and efficient way to store their files as PDF or HTML on cloud server environments. Here's an overview of OSDC and its potential benefits:

  1. Document Conversion Flexibility:

    • OSDC provides comprehensive support for converting DOCX files, along with other popular document formats, into HTML or PDF and more! This flexibility enables businesses to transform their documents into widely accessible and platform-independent formats suitable for cloud storage.
  2. High-Quality Output:

    • Antenna House is renowned for its commitment to producing high-quality document output. With OSDC, businesses can expect accurate and visually appealing PDF and HTML files that preserve the integrity of the original documents, including formatting, images, and other elements.
  3. Batch Processing Capabilities:

    • OSDC supports batch processing, allowing businesses to convert multiple DOCX files to PDF or HTML in a single operation. This capability streamlines document conversion workflows and improves productivity, especially for organizations with large volumes of documents to process.
  4. Scalability and Performance:

    • Antenna House OSDC is designed to handle large-scale document conversion tasks with efficiency and reliability. Its scalable architecture ensures consistent performance, even when processing a high volume of documents, making it suitable for enterprise-level deployments. Conversions can be queued scaled up for instantaneous conversions in an application.

By leveraging Antenna House OSDC for document conversion, businesses can effectively store their files as PDF or HTML on cloud server environments, ensuring compatibility, accessibility, and long-term preservation of their documents. With its advanced features, flexibility, and seamless integration with cloud platforms, OSDC offers a compelling solution for businesses seeking efficient document management in the cloud era.