Microsoft Kicks Off New Licensing Model with SharePoint Server Subscription Edition Preview

SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, a new product sold by subscription, was released as a preview on Monday.

New features in the SharePoint Server Subscription Edition product were briefly described by Bill Baer, a Microsoft senior product marketing manager for SharePoint, in this Tuesday announcement. However, the potentially important licensing and support changes associated with the subscription model weren't described.

'Continuous Updates'
Microsoft is promising that SharePoint Server Subscription Edition will always be up to date. Product updates still need to be installed by IT pros, but Microsoft implied it might be easier to do it.

Here's how Baer expressed it:

With SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, you'll end the cycle of long and costly major version upgrades to get new features and remain in support. Microsoft will deliver our latest innovations to customers through updates that can be installed on your SharePoint Server Subscription Edition farms.

The software bits of SharePoint Server Subscription Edition get installed at a customer's facilities, and Microsoft designed it toward that use case.

"SharePoint Server Subscription Edition has been designed around the unique needs of on-premises scenarios, delivering the security, reliability, and management improvements specific to those needs," Baer indicated.

New Features
The new SharePoint Server Subscription Edition product will benefit by using Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 by default, or at least TLS 1.2. However, to get its encrypted traffic benefits, organizations will need to use Windows Server 2022 with the product.

SharePoint Server Subscription Edition adds support for the OpenID Connect (OIDC) 1.0 authentication protocol, which makes it easier to enforce policies on clients prior to access, such as requiring multifactor authentication and setting conditional access preconditions. The OIDC 1.0 support enables "authentication with identity providers, such as Azure Active Directory (AAD), Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2016 or higher, and third-party identity providers that implement the OIDC 1.0 protocol," Microsoft explained in this new features document.

Microsoft addressed an issue with the People Picker feature in the SharePoint Server Subscription Edition when working with SAML 1.1 or OIDC 1.0 as identity providers. Previously, organizations have had to write a custom claims provider in C#. A custom claims provider is not required with the SharePoint Server Subscription Edition product, though.

Product Upgrades from SharePoint Server 2016
Users of SharePoint Server 2016 or later can upgrade to SharePoint Server Subscription Edition.

Users of earlier editions of SharePoint Server would first need to upgrade to SharePoint Server 2016 or SharePoint Server 2019 in order to make the hop to SharePoint Server Subscription Edition.

Software and Hardware Requirements
SharePoint Server Subscription Edition will require using Windows Server 2019 or Windows Server 2022, either Standard or Datacenter edition, according to this Microsoft document on software requirements. Both Server Core and Desktop implementations of those Windows Server products are supported.

SharePoint Server Subscription Edition server farms will need to be located such that they have "a highly consistent intra-farm latency of <1 ms one way, 99.9% of the time over a period of 10 minutes." Additionally, the "bandwidth speed must be at least 1 gigabit per second," per this Microsoft document on hardware requirements.

SharePoint Server PowerShell
Users of SharePoint Server Subscription Edition will need to install SharePoint Server PowerShell via a module, rather than a snap-in. It'll make the commandlets "automatically available in all Windows PowerShell consoles." Moreover, help content will be downloadable from the Internet.

Oddly, though, organizations will still need the old Windows PowerShell.

"The SharePoint Server PowerShell cmdlets will continue to require Windows PowerShell," Microsoft explained in its new features document. "These cmdlets will not be compatible with PowerShell Core 6.x or PowerShell 7.x."

No Licensing or Support Details Disclosed
SharePoint Server licensing typically hasn't been purchased via recurring subscription fees. Organizations using the server paid once for a license that had 10 years of product support under Microsoft's Fixed Policy.

In contrast, most subscription-based Microsoft products follow the Modern Policy, which lacks long-term support assurances from Microsoft. The Modern Policy offers 30 days (at best) advance notice of major product changes and sometimes just three years (at best) of patch support.

Microsoft last talked about shifting its new application server products to a subscription model back in October. At that time, nothing said about licensing or support under the new and coming subscription model. The subscription model change is not just for the next SharePoint Server product. The next Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server and Project Server products are also designated to be sold by subscription.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.