Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Licensing of CRM and external software

During Convergence 2007 in Copenhagen, it got into a discussion with some Microsoft empolyees concerning the licensing issues when creating applications that directly or indirectly access CRM-based data.

According to what I have heard, it boils down to the fact that a user license is required for all users who interact with the data in any way. This means that no user license is required for a static report displayed in, for instance, SharePoint, but, as soon as there is any interactivity with the data, as for instance, drill down, a separate user license is needed.

So, if you want to display data in SharePoint that comes in whole, or part, from the CRM-database, make sure it is a static report, so that no special user license is required. Creating a report (with for instance SQL Reporting Services) that has drill-down, will require each user to have a user license.

This rises the question of what kind of licensing is needed to access OLAP cubes that are assembled from a data warehouse based on data from many different system, among these, Microsoft CRM. As far as I have understood a full user license is required for all users who can access the OLAP-cubes.

This issue will probably change in CRM 4.0 when there will be a new "light-user-license". Exactly what this means is still unclear and I have heard no details from Microsoft.

When creating any outside interaction with CRM, like a web based tool for submitting service cases, the separate "External Connector" license is needed. This is independant of the magnitude of the application or number of external users (company employees cannot use the external connector). It is also independant of if each user actually uses a named user or some common system user. I am unsure of the exact price for the external connector, but I believe it is somewhere around $40 000.

So, what does this mean for CRM-developers? That we have to have some basic understanding of the licensing modell and what limitations there are to it, so that our customers don't have to pay unnecessary license fees just because we thought that drill-down was a nifty feature in our report that is published on a SharePoint portal.

As many of you, I think these limitations are non benificial for Microsoft since they greatly restrict the possibilities of creating nice Mash-up applications and portals, something Microsoft technology is very good at and something I would view as a great advantage in comparison to Microsofts competitors.

I would also like to point out that I might be wrong in understanding some of these details, and I would be greatful if you could leave a comment if you know or think that I might have understood something wrong.

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB / Soon Logica CMG/WM-Data


  1. I think that you are right except for one thing. As far as I understand, if you are using Microsoft CRM data purely by reading SQL tables, you do not need a CRM user license. When you touch those .NET DLLs, every user of your solution has to have a license.

  2. Hi David,
    When I asked a Microsoft Employee at Convergence EMEA about this exact question, the reply was that no license is needed if the data is used purely statically but if there is interactivity, like drill-down, then a license is needed. Have you talked to any Microsoft employee about this? I will ask the CRM Product Manager in Sweden for a comment on this subject to maybe clear some questionmarks.


  3. Hi Gustaf,

    yes, I have discussed this with a Microsoft employee. It was not exactly about Microsoft CRM, but another SQL based Dynamics product, but I have been told that this is the general way how the license issue should be taken. It makes sense to me, if you access just SQL tables, all you should need is the SQL license. Of course you should never write directly to SQL.

  4. Yes, I totally agree on the reading of SQL-tables part. That was not, however, what the Microsoft representative I met at Convergence EMEA said.

    Concerning writing to to the CRM using the web service, it seems correct, however, there are "work-arounds" like letting your application send a mail to a queue in CRM. That probably wouldn't require a license. I have sent a couple of questions to the product manager for CRM at Microsoft Sweden. I hope she will get back to me as soon as she has some good answers. I will post these as soon as I can.