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Microsoft Robotic Process Automation (RPA) licensing

Microsoft Robotic Process Automation (RPA) licensing

Microsoft admit the robots are coming!

The Microsoft Product Terms for April 2020 contained a little gem of information that, despite the lack of associated fanfare, is actually pretty significant. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a growing area of business – the idea of using bots, rather than humans, to perform repetitive tasks to increase efficiency and, when used properly, job satisfaction. However, it’s Robotic Process Automation licensing minefield – and Microsoft have been very quiet on this subject…until now!

What have they added?

The Product Terms now contains:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/A3 – Unattended license
  • Power Automate per user with attended RPA plan
  • Power Automate unattended RPA add-on

The “Power Automate unattended RPA add-on” can be added onto the “Power Automate per user with attended RPA” plan and “Power Automate per flow” plan.

There’s not a huge amount of extra info in the Product Terms but it does say that the E3/A3 unattended license includes Office 365 E3/A3, Windows 10 E3/A3, and EMS E3/A3 – no mention of them being restricted or limited at all.

Some Microsoft Robotic Process Automation licensing definitions

Luckily, the OST (Online Service Terms) give more information. We can see in there that Microsoft’s definition of RPA is:

“An application (or set of applications) used to capture data and manipulate applications to perform repetitive tasks. Bots operate upon any UI element of Windows 10 within an OSE and/or operates upon any Office application in any OSE.”

Attended bot = This is a bot that “assists a person to execute automation on the person’s local and/or remote workstations“. They go on to say that “it operates concurrently with the person on the same workstation/s to accomplish repetitive tasks and is triggered by explicit actions of that person“.

In this scenario, it sounds like you would assign a regular M365 license to both the user and the bot?

Unattended bot = “Any bot that doesn’t strictly conform to the definition of an attended bot“.

Use Rights & Restrictions

  • The unattended bot must be running on hardware dedicated to the customer
  • Each license allows use of Microsoft E3 in 1 physical or virtual OSE
  • The regular license re-assignment rules apply

This is one that may require certain designs to be re-thought:

Unattended bots may not create or replicate activities/workflows on behalf of an unlicensed user or device

This sounds like every user will need a Microsoft 365 license and then the bots will be licensed on top of that, so no scenarios of replacing 1000 M365 E3 user licenses with 10 bot licenses and just giving the humans an F3, for example.

It’s interesting to see Microsoft make this move as Robotic Process Automation licensing is going to keep us all busy for years to come, so it’s good that they’re at least making some changes in this space.

Further Reading

Microsoft announcement
Potential technical issues
ITAM & AI

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About Rich Gibbons

Rich has been in the world of IT and software licensing since 2003, having been a software sales manager for a VAR, a Microsoft licensing endorsed trainer, and now an ITAM analyst looking at software licensing and cloud.

A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!

Connect with Rich on Twitter or LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. Brent Jarnell says:

    It’s not really a bot though is it? A few years ago it would just have been called code. Looks to me like Microsoft have just seen an opportunity to double dip on Power Automate – buy the license to develop the “bot” then get the pleasure of paying for the “bot” you created. Will this push people to reconsider Power Automate and look at 3rd party equivalents? Will Microsoft see 3rd party automation as licensable “bots”? Keen to see how they propose to manage compliance on this too, given the idea of the Power tools is to allow your average punters to create their own “bots”.

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