Dynamics AX 2012 licensing

Every company must cope with software licenses these days. Good understanding of license programs can bring significant savings; unawareness can comprises needless expenditures or leads up to violating license agreements and relevant consequences.

Dynamics AX 2012 comes with a new license model, which is similar to licensing of other Microsoft products and it brings also other advantages. This article has set a target to introduce basic concepts of Dynamics AX 2012 licensing and to quote links to sources of more detailed information.


The main change lies in the fact that licensing is not based on individual application modules (e.g. HRM) anymore – customers can automatically use all functionality (the license naturally doesn’t apply to extensions supplied by third party companies).

There are two models for Dynamics AX 2012 licensing:

  1. On-demand installations – model using server and client licenses
  2. Hosted solutions – Per Subscriber model

Hosted solutions are out of scope of this article – find more information in Dynamics AX 2012 Licensing Guide – Partner Edition (see links at the end of the post).

Server license covers one instance of application server (AOS) and the whole business logic of Dynamics AX 2012. More AOSes logically require more server licenses.

Client Access Licenses (CAL) are divided to two basic types:

  1. User CAL – license for a concrete, named user
  2. Device CAL – license for a device, which can be used by various users

Notice that there is no license based on concurrent user licensing. Each user, who is obliged to have a user license (external users don’t have to have a license; more below), has to hold his own license. It also means that all licensed users can use the system in the same time.

The External Connector license also doesn’t exist in the new license model (which probably pleases many people).

Licenses for related software, including software necessary to run Dynamics AX (Windows, SQL Server, eventually SharePoint Server), are not included in licenses for Dynamics AX 2012. Don’t forget that an efficient licensing requires also planning and knowledge of licensing models of these products.

User CALs are divides into four types, based on their level of permissions:

  • Enterprise User
  • Functional User
  • Task User
  • Self Serve User

Lower licenses than Enterprise User can use only some of Dynamics AX functions. Each type covers permissions of all lower types, for example Task User includes permissions for Self Serve User too.

Of course, higher license means higher price. Lower license can be later converted to higher license by paying the difference in price (so-called step-up). A reverse process is not possible.

User CAL allows user to access Dynamics AX regardless of the way of access – he can use AX client, web portal, other product communicating with Dynamics AX over web service and so on.

Description of particular User CAL types, including examples, can be found in Apendix A of the License Guide.

Who doesn’t need a license?

I rather quote the License Guide here:

External (third party) users do not require licenses. Third party users are users that are not either (i) your or your affiliates’ employees, or (ii) your or your affiliates’ contractors or agents. In this sense, the definition of third party users does not extend to onsite contractors, vendors and users performing business processes on your behalf.

Menu items

The required type of license is assigned in the AOT to entry points of the functionality, e.g. to menu items. Entry points are then aggregated to privileges, duties and security roles.

Microsoft published an Excel sheet with a list of menu items grouped by required CAL type. It can be useful when planning new roles and so on.

If you want quickly find out which roles have access to a menu item, you can also use the View related security roles function in the context menu in the AOT.

Security roles

Every user must have assigned at least one role in Dynamics AX. The role defines which tasks can be executed by the given user and consequently also the required license. A user must have such a license, which covers all permissions assigned to his roles. For example, if the user has two roles, one containing just permissions requiring Functional User license and the second role containing also elements requiring Enterprise User license, the user must have the Enterprise User license.

Dynamics AX contains a range of predefined roles (e.g. Accountant or Security administrator) and you can adjust these roles or create new ones.

For a basic idea about needed licenses, it would be useful to know which license is required for each predefined role. Curiously, I wasn’t able to find such a list anywhere, nevertheless I generated it from AX2012 (downloadable from here) by a simple script. If the output is correct, there are not really many roles requiring just Self Serve User or Task User license.

Device licenses

Device license allow to license physical devices and avoid the need to obtain a license for every single user. Device licenses are two:

  • Device CAL
  • Limited Device CAL

Despite similar names these are two separate licenses and they don’t have to much in common.

Device CAL allows to use functions of a Warehouse Management System or a call-centre system. No other system are supported and it isn’t also allowed to use other functions of Dynamics AX. For example, if a user wanted to insert his travel expenses to the system, he would need the Self Serve User license.

Limited Device CAL“Permits a single-purpose device, used by any user, to indirectly access the ERP solution to asynchronously feed data utilizing a staging data repository.” All sources state just two examples: barcode readers and RFID devices.

License wording – in my interpretation – means that any solution, that sends data directly to Dynamics AX, doesn’t satisfy conditions of this license. The device must save data somewhere (directly in the barcode reader, for example) and only then send them to the ERP system.

Every multi-purpose device is also disqualified automatically.

User Count Report

Dynamics AX 2012 contains a report, which compares number and types of owned licenses with permissions of users defined in the system. For example, if ten users have access to functions requiring Enterprise User license and just eight licenses were obtained, it is necessary to buy two additional Enterprise User licenses or restrict permissions for two users. Just don’t forget that the report doesn’t include device licenses.

The report can be run in Dynamics AX from System administration > Reports > Licensing > Named User License Counts and its output looks like this:

Named User Count Report

The report shows that I have seven users in my system, who need Enterprise User CAL and one who has access to a more limited set of functions and who needs just a Functional User CAL.

To get the report to show current data, it is necessary to run a batch job called Named user license count reports processing. It can be added to planned batch jobs by calling SysUserLicenseMiner::createBatchJob().

Upgrade to AX2012

Customers using Business Ready Enhancement Plan don’t have to invest to licenses again. Their existing licenses can be converted to Dynamics AX 2012 licenses by one of the following options:

  • Credit Based Upgrade – customer receives new licenses in the financial value of previously purchased licenses
  • Formula Based Upgrade – existing licenses will be transferred to AX2012 licenses by a special conversion (available only for customers who purchase Dynamics AX before November 1st 2011)

See more in Upgrade Policy.


Licensing model of Dynamics AX make all functionality available to customers, which is really good news. It will be important to properly define roles and permissions of particular users, because it has (among other things) impact on a price of necessary licenses. In some cases device licenses (notice that their definition is different than for AX2009) can be used, but they have numerous limitations.

I hope this post helps to understand the Dynamics AX 2012 licensing. However, don’t forget this is just brief and non-authoritative summary. Be sure to study at least the License Guide and FAQ.


PartnerSource – Pricing and Licensing
Licensing Guide – partner edition
Licensing Guide – customer edition
Pricing and Licensing FAQ
License Terms
Menu Items – Defining User Client Access Licenses
Security roles mapping to CAL types
Upgrade Policy