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Today we need to talk about the versions and the licensing options you have for Windows Server 2012. There are some pretty significant changes to A) what you can purchase, and B) what those versions include.
“So it’s not just Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter? Are you making it even more complex?!”
Absolutely not. In fact, we’re making it much MUCH more simple. Instead of 3 versions of Windows Server (not counting our “Essentials” product for small business), we now have just two license type: Standard and Datacenter.
“Ah.. so, the Datacenter version includes all capabilities for a higher price, and Standard is a less capable version with fewer features?”
Nope. Datacenter and Standard do exactly the same things. They have the same features and scale to the biggest, most capable hardware you can purchase today (and beyond).
Then how about you let me finish by outlining the versions and how you purchase them.
“Okay. Please continue.”
(Click to see a larger version)
You now buy Windows Server licenses per TWO physical processors. Regardless of the number of cores in a processor, if you have a two processor server, then you only need to buy one copy of Windows Server 2012 – either Standard or Datacenter. If you have four processors, you buy two copies. And so on.
There is no difference. Standard and Datacenter do exactly the same thing. For example, a server running Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition is just as capable now for being a member of a Windows Failover Cluster.
This is where they differ, and really why at some point of creating more and more virtual machines, you’ll decide that buying Datacenter is more cost effective and makes more sense.
With every license of Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition, you are granted TWO (2) virtual instances of the operating system. So even though I can run as many VMs as my hardware will allow, the licensing gives you TWO virtualized server licenses. To add more VM licenses, you can buy (and stack) additional Standard licenses on a server – each one giving you the license for two more VMs.
With every license of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition, you are granted UNLIMITED virtual instances of the operating system. So, yes, it’s more expensive, but on that 2 processor / 8 core server, with one license of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, you are given the licenses for as many virtual machines as you can fit on that box. For ultimate flexibility in your virtualized datacenter, it just become a matter of having enough licenses to cover the physical processors on your server hardware, and you basically can run and migrate and use as many virtual machines as you can physically support.
For More Information
See the Windows Server 2012 “how to buy” page.
Check out the Windows Server 2012 Pricing and Licensing FAQ document (.PDF Download).
Also read Aidan Finn’s excellent blog post on Windows Server 2012 Licensing in Detail
In summary – Microsoft has greatly simplified the choices, making it easier for you to determine and select the appropriate purchase choices of Windows Server 2012.
CLICK HERE for the full recap of our "31 Days of our Favorite Things".
This is by no means an exhaustive description of licensing, and I’m sure you may have questions. Feel free to ask them in the comments.
Here's an obvious question. If except for the virtualization rights which are enforced only on paper anyway, the two editions are functionally identical, why include both of them on the install media? Why not just one "Windows Server 2012" that you install and be done with it?
I did a little research (meaning: I asked some folks who asked some other folks who replied with the answer) and learned that it really is just for the sake of allowing businesses to track what they've purchased. Install what you've got the key for, and then later if you have to verify your inventory of what you've purchased, it's easier to do.