• Kent Scrymgeour

Benefits of a Microsoft SAM Baseline Review for SQL Server

There are four types of Microsoft Software License Assessments, three are initiated by Microsoft at their cost and can result in an un-budgeted licensing true-up cost to the customer. The fourth is where at a minimal cost the customer takes the initiative and conducts a MSFT Baseline SAM review, taking control of the business and legal risks related to improper software deployment based on accurate and detailed inventory and user data.


Pebble IT helps customers manage their Microsoft SQL Server estate. A fantastic aspect of SQL Server is its ease of deployment. This is great for Microsoft but sometimes not so great for organisations looking to control costs. SQL Server and Windows Server have been shown to make up the bulk of an organisation’s annual MSFT Software Support cost yet rationalising and consolidating these products often receives little attention.


Fortunately, most organisations are investigating migrating to Azure and a great starting point for this or any SQL Server migration, or rationalisation project is having an accurate SQL Server Inventory complimented with an understanding of what MSFT Software Licenses are being used compared to what an organisation owns. Obtaining an accurate inventory and license compliance position can be obtained through the modest investment in a Microsoft SAM Baseline Review.


Types of Microsoft Software License Assessment

There are four potential types of MSFT Licensing Assessment engagements an organisation could encounter, three are reactive and potentially costly while the fourth is proactive and can help you to minimise un-budgeted licensing cost surprises and true-ups:

  1. License Contracts and Compliance (LCC) Audit: Microsoft engages independent 3rd party internationally certified accounting firms to conduct these. This is formal, mandatory compliance review. Penalties applied and these vary depending on the region and agreement, and there is the possibility that an auditor fee and penalties may be charged to the customer.

  2. MSFT Initiated SAM Baseline Review: Microsoft engages independent 3rd party or a SAM partner. This is a collaborative review. The cost of the review is covered by Microsoft. If any anomalies are found the customer is required to purchase necessary licenses and rectify the licensing position.

  3. 1) Tele SAM: A Microsoft internal team send requests to several customers to complete the deployment information in an excel spreadsheet. Microsoft then compare the deployment with the licenses owned and request partner to rectify the license position if required.

  4. Customer Initiated MSFT SAM Baseline Review: this is initiated by the customer and is a ‘paid’ engagement delivered by a Microsoft SAM Certified Partner. The findings are at the customers discretion to rectify if shortfalls are found and the content of the exercise remains confidential. It is assumed the client will work to remediate shortfalls and should “true up” in good faith prior to or at the next Renewal. However, the customer has time to assess the environment and potentially move to a beneficial future state and right size software licensing accordingly.

Why conduct a SAM Baseline Review

In situations when co-operation with software vendors is required our advice is to politely delay agreeing to immediately supply software vendors with full access to your environment to run all the scripts and tools they have provided, as often this enables vendors to gather a lot more information than you may have intended to share. This information is of great interest to vendor auditors and weakens your position in any true up negotiation. Often explaining that your team is busy, but that you are happy to comply within a few months is acceptable to most vendors and gives you the time to assess your situation.


A proactive Microsoft SAM Baseline Review typically affords all the benefits of a Microsoft funded SAM review while providing the company with the maximum flexibility to resolve the findings. Furthermore, once the internal review is complete, the company will be in an excellent position to respond to any contractual audit demands.


A SAM Baseline Review engagement prepares you for migration projects and software audits by giving you a complete view of your current Microsoft product deployment and licenses. In summary the benefits of a SAM Baseline Review engagement include:

  • Control business and legal risks related to improper software deployment

  • Optimize hardware and software investments based on accurate and detailed inventory and user data

  • Align IT with organizational goals

  • Highlight migration and consolidation opportunities


How a typical SAM Baseline Review engagement works

A typical SAM Baseline Review engagement can be broken down into four phases:


1. Planning

  • Review your current IT environment and licensing

  • Identify your needs and goals

  • Arrange access to available data relative to the needs of the SAM engagement process


2. Data collection

  • Take inventory of your hardware, software, licensing, and SPLA reporting using tools, questionnaires, and stakeholder interviews.

  • Gather information on process, procedures and actual usage and consumption


3. Data analysis

  • Review and validate all collected data

  • Compare deployed assets to entitlements and usage to reporting

  • Gain a view of your entire IT estate

  • Map to an optimized environment based on your goals


4. Final recommendations

Share final recommendations and engage in data-driven discussions to ensure your business needs are met.

Key considerations when choosing a SAM Baseline Review provider

As you consider undertaking a SAM Baseline Review engagement, it is important to consider partnering with the right advisor. This decision can impact the success of your engagement and position your business for ongoing success and management of your technology investments. When you evaluate a SAM partner, do not hesitate to ask questions like does the partner:

  • Provide valuable experience and knowledge about SAM?

  • Have an in-depth understanding of software licensing for many scenarios?

  • Have a solid IT background, enabling them to evaluate the pros and cons of different SAM tools?

  • Provide other services such as migration and implementation? If not, do they have relationships with other partners who do?


Pebble IT has deep experience helping organisations to create an inventory of their SQL Server estate and to review this with the findings of a Microsoft SAM Baseline Review to then assess what efficiencies, and performance gains can be made through consolidation and modernisation. We are Australian owned and based specialist Database Services business. Contact us at hello@pebbleit.com.au for a no obligations discussion on your SQL Server environment and situation.

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