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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Longhorn Terminal Server Licensing

As you may know, the Microsoft Terminal server Licensing model is largely based on the Microsoft Certificate Infrastructure Model.

These likening are becoming more apparent in the new beta versions of Longhorn.

"Terminal Services Licensing in Longhorn Beta 3 has several new features that will enable better deployment and management of Licensing environments. We addressed several customer requests in this new release of Longhorn such as per-user tracking and reporting, manual revocation of licenses, better diagnostics and support for WMI providers. I'll discuss each of these separately in the next few days.

Per-User Tracking and Reporting

Prior to Longhorn, per-user licenses were not issued. Thus there was no easy way to track if the usage of per-user licenses was in line with the EULA and the licensing agreements. With Longhorn, you can easily track usage and create reports of how many per-user licenses were issued. Reports can be accessed both through the License Manager UI as well as the WMI providers.

Note that in Longhorn, per-user licenses are only tracked and not enforced.

Support for manual revocation of licenses

Earlier, it was not possible to revoke a license issued to a client. Issued licenses would automatically expire after a random period between 52-89 days and become part of the available license pool. Some customers wanted to have the ability to revoke a license and make it available immediately. The typical scenario is where a particular machine would no longer be used (e.g.: a machine was getting formatted) and the license had to be made available immediately to another client without waiting for the expiration period. To address this, we now have support for revoking a license. Through the License Manager UI or the new WMI providers in Longhorn, you can select a per-device CAL that was issued to a particular client machine and choose to revoke it.

Note that you can only revoke 20% of a specific version of a CAL at a time. So if there were 100 Windows Server 2003 per-device CALs installed, you could revoke only 10 of them at a time. Also note that revocation support is currently only for per-device CALs."

As you can see the Licensing model is more flexible and manageable. People who have experience with the Microsoft PKI infrastructure might see the stunning resemblance.

Improvements to the License Manager User Interface to easily spot configuration issues

When you are setting up a license server in the Domain or Enterprise mode, you could run into configuration errors. Currently there is no easy way to find such errors. With the improvements we have made to License Manager, you will be alerted in the License Manager UI if there are errors in your configuration. In addition you will also be pointed to ways in which you can remedy this situation. Examples of configuration errors that the License Manager will help point out are –

  1. The License Server is in the Enterprise mode but not published in Active Directory. This means that the License Server will not be auto-discoverable.
  2. The License Server has a Group Policy set to “Restrict Access to specified Terminal Servers”. However, the local group “Terminal Server Computers” is not present.
  3. The License Server is in Domain mode but not installed on a Domain Controller. This means that the License Server will not be auto-discoverable.
  4. The License Server is not part of the “Terminal Server License Servers” group in Active Directory. This would prevent per-user licensing from working.

Diagnosing issues in the Licensing environment

Prior to Longhorn, there was no easy way to see which License Servers a Terminal Server would contact and whether those License Servers had enough CALs available for consumption. If connections got denied, it was neither easy to find out where the problem was happening nor could you proactively monitor and prevent it. Terminal Services Configuration has now been enhanced to provide support for diagnosing licensing related problems both on the Terminal Server and the License Servers that it talks to. In the diagnostic pane of Terminal Services Configuration, you will be able to see a summary view of information related to the Terminal Server and the License Servers it can contact. Listed below are examples of the type of information available through this capability -

  1. Any configuration problems on the Terminal Server side e.g.: Terminal Server running out of grace period
  2. A list of License Servers that the Terminal Server will contact for licenses. This list will include both auto-discovered license servers as well as manually configured license servers
  3. For each License Server that the Terminal Server can contact,
    a. A list of configuration problems with the License Server
    b. Type and number of CALs issued and available on the server
  4. Total number of available CALs the Terminal Server can get from the contactable License Servers

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