A while back, I wrote about the complex issues related to the licensing of SharePoint in an article entitled, License to Kill.  Recently, Microsoft updated its licensing information and while the information is clearly written, it’s not completely clear how it is applied, so confusion is bound to remain.

 SharePoint licensing is complex because of the number of products that are involved. It is important that you consult with your licensing representative to ensure compliance for your SharePoint implementation. But Microsoft has made a first step towards clarifying licensing with its recently updated SharePoint Licensing page .

 The most typical implementation involves purchasing licenses for Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 for each SharePoint server and a quantity of per-user client access licenses (CALs) for each SharePoint user. In most intranet scenarios, organizations typically have per-user licensing for Windows already in place for file and print servers. So as long as your per-user licenses are up to the appropriate level (WS2008 or WS2008 R2), you’ll already be good-to-go as far as Windows CALs.

 SQL Server is typically installed with a per-processor license, which does not require CALs for users.

 If you are using SharePoint Foundation 2010, no additional license is required. If you are using SharePoint Server 2010, however, you need a server product license for each SharePoint server and CALs for each user. SharePoint Standard CAL provides access to the basic level of SharePoint Server 2010 functionality including My Sites and search. With the Enterprise CAL, which is an add-on to the Standard CAL, you can deploy features such as Excel Services and Office Web Applications. You can learn more about the features of SharePoint Foundation, Standard, and Enterprise at the Editions Comparison page .

 If you provide content to users or devices that cannot be counted and assigned CALs—for example, if you expose SharePoint content to the Internet for public access—you must use the SharePoint server-only license model, in which you purchase licenses to SharePoint Server for Internet Sites, Standard or Enterprise. If the servers in the farm provide content to both public and internal users, and if the internal users can access any content that external users cannot, the licensing becomes more complex. So complex, in fact, that it took me several reads to determine that what you must do is buy two server licenses per server: one for SharePoint Server 2010 (for internal users) and one for SharePoint Server for Internet Sites (Standard or Enterprise), and then you must also buy CALs for the internal users.

 I commend Microsoft for taking a first step with the new SharePoint licensing page. It makes it clear how licenses are applied to scenarios, but the page needs to have a pivot with which you can match scenarios to licensing without having to reverse engineer the information on the page. Scenario-based licensing information would clarify just about everything!

 A key takeaway of licensing continues to be that, to minimize the cost of an enterprise SharePoint implementation, you should consider implementing multiple SharePoint farms, each with a level of functionality that supports the business requirements of users in different scenarios. For example, you might build a SharePoint farm in your enterprise datacenter on which you host your enterprise search, user My Sites, and Excel Services for business insights. This farm would support Enterprise features of SharePoint, and would be licensed accordingly.

 If you also have a remote office, at which users require support for collaboration around documents and lists, you might build a farm running SharePoint Foundation in that remote site, instead of hosting the users’ collaboration sites at the enterprise datacenter, across the wide area network link. Users in the remote office would continue to use the enterprise SharePoint farm for search and My Site functionality, but their day-to-day collaboration would take place on the local SharePoint Foundation farm, which would provide optimal performance and availability without increasing the cost of SharePoint licensing.

 A final word about multiple farms: you must have a test/development farm. It’s that simple. And test/development farms are typically covered by MSDN licenses and can run on lower-end physical or virtual machines. Be sure that you have one. I’ve said this in every presentation I’ve given for the past few years: If you tell me that you don’t have a development farm, my response is that, no, you don’t have a production farm.