What is an MSDN Subscription... Really?


An MSDN Subscription often is the source of confusion for both IT Professionals and IT Purchasing folks, so this post will attempt “Demystify the MSDN Subscription” into terms that all parties can understand.  Here we go…


1) Visual Studio’s Software Assurance - MSDN is only purchased as an add-on to a Visual Studio license.  Having an active MSDN Subscription with Visual Studio means that you have access to all past & future versions of Visual Studio (i.e. 2003-2005-2008-2010-20??) *Note that Software Assurance is a requirement for all purchases on a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA), thus MSDN is a requirement for all Visual Studio licenses purchased on an EA.


2) Dev/Test Environment licenses- MSDN gives the user the ability to access/use any Microsoft Enterprise product for Dev/Test purposes (i.e. WinServer, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, Dynamics, Visio, MSProject, Office, etc).   This allows you to build out robust dev/test environments without having to pay for any of the individual software… Rather just give each of the Developers/Testers an MSDN Subscription and you’re fully covered for any products.  Explore this in more detail here!


3) Team Foundation Server (TFS) – As of April 2010… a full TFS license AND TFS CAL is now included within all levels of MSDN Subscriptions.  Thus if you are purchasing MSDN with Visual Studio, everyone is licensed for TFS.   For folks on the SDLC team that do not have MSDN subs (i.e. PMs, Bus Analysts, etc), you can still buy stand-alone CALs for TFS.  More here.


4)    Team Foundation Service - Launched in October 2012, TF-Service is full Team Foundation Server 2012 functionality delivered via the cloud.  Full licensing for the service is provided in Vs/MSDN Premium & Ultimate.  Learn more and start a new project here.


5) eLearning Classes – User gets approx. 20-40 Hours of online training per calendar year.  (~$3500 value)


6) Tech Support Calls - Each MSDN includes 2-4 tech support incidents. ($250 each value)


7) Azure Development: Wana get on the Cloud?  MSDN includes a monthly allowance of Azure compute and storage.



So as you can see, there is a lot there!   The value of point #2 is almost impossible to quantify because there are literally thousands of software titles available, not to mention, early access to new products and tools. 


Finally, the Visual Studio & MSDN Licensing WhitePaper is a great resource for answering many of your licensing questions.   To understand the difference between MSDN and TechNet, see here.