VSTS/Team Foundation Server Licensing


Recently I’ve been in "interpret draconian license" mode. 

For a V2 product (Team Foundation Server 2008), Microsoft has not held back in ensuring that everyone pays to use TFS (regardless really of the how and why factors).

Personally, I think that making the licensing open and fair ought to be a higher priority for a suite of products which have plenty of potential, but a modicum of market penetration.

We can do wonderful things with a VSTS/TFS installation, but the licensing is super scary and overbearing.  Most SMBs (small to medium businesses) and many enterprises will shy away from the licensing cost and for good reason.  TFS licensing is pretty ugly.  I’ll discuss MSDN licensing and volume licensing at another time.

Note: CAL = Client Access License

The following information is quoted from the April 2008 White Paper on Team Foundation Server Licensing.

Here are some licensing "gems":

Team Foundation Server Dual-Server Deployment

You can deploy Team Foundation Server using a dual-server configuration, whereby one server is the application tier that hosts the Team Foundation Server Web Services, and another server is the data tier that hosts the SQL Server back-end. In a dual-server deployment a Team Foundation Server license is required for the application tier and a SQL Server Standard Edition (or higher) license is required for the data tier. Customers may choose to purchase a second Team Foundation Server license and utilize the embedded SQL Server license for the data tier, or purchase a separate SQL Server license for this purpose.

Yes, you read it correctly.  A dual tier deployment requires a separate license for SQL Server!

There are some licensing changes to TFS 2008 though, which gives us some hope for the future:

Licensing Changes for Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server

Microsoft has made one licensing change in the Team Foundation Server CAL requirement with the release of Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server. The change is as follows:

“A user does not need a CAL to create new work items or to view and update work items that user has created. This waiver applies only to work items related to defect filing or enhancement requests.  All other access to work item tracking functionality requires CALs.”

With Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server a user may now do the following:

· Open a new work item of any type within the system. 

· Access to work items opened only by that user.  A user cannot view or access a work item opened by anyone else unless that user has a Team Foundation Server CAL.

· Edit any work item you opened to clarify the original entry, change work item fields, or make annotations to the discussion of the opened work item

This CAL licensing exception is limited to defect filing and enhancement request scenarios only.

However, there’s more.  The licensing folks want to make it very clear that anyone who accesses TFS data needs a license (except for the exclusion noted above):

Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server Multiplexing Licensing Requirements

Multiplexing does not reduce the number of Microsoft licenses required. End users are required to have the appropriate licenses, regardless of their direct or indirect connection to the product. Any user or device that accesses the server, files, or data or content provided by the server that is made available through an automated process requires a CAL.

Microsoft is generous though, witness the following with regard to Team Foundation Server CALs:

"A Team Foundation Server CAL is not required for users who:

· View static data that has been manually distributed outside of Team Foundation Server.

· Receive Team Foundation Server reports through e-mail and do not directly/indirectly access the server to refresh, create, or update data.

· Receive printed Team Foundation Server reports."

…but you have to pay for your own paper :)


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 18 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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