Licensing isn't the easiest thing to get your head around at the best of times, hence we release cool tools that enable you to build your virtual infrastructure and price it all up. We also release really long white papers which detail everything, but what if you want a quick glance at a table to see what's what with virtualisation? Well, read on:
So, what does this table mean? Well, you have your desktop OS on the left, and as you can see, with XP Pro, for every Virtual Machine you deploy with Windows XP, you need 1 licence. So, if I have a physical host running XP Pro, and I install Virtual PC, or VMware Workstation, and create 3 more XP Virtual Machines, I need a total of 4 XP licenses. However, if you look at the column on the far right, you can see that if you have Software Assurance, you can have a maximum of 1 'free' (hence the 0) XP Virtual Machine per physical XP Host.
Home Basic and Home Premium come with no virtualisation licensing configurations, so let's nip past those.
Looking at Vista Business, again, without SA, I'm afraid it's 1 licence per install, regardless of it being in a VM or not, however, looking at the right hand column, you can see that you can have up to 4 VM's installed on that physical host. There is a caveat, and that's why it's got a *. If you have Vista Business with SA, you can upgrade to Vista Enterprise for free anyway (plus get things like BitLocker!) and take advantage of the 4 VM's, however if you choose to stay with Vista Business, you can't take advantage of the 4 VM's.
What about the Servers?
OK, so looking at the Server side of things, you can see the number of CPU's that SBS and Server 2003 Standard both support; 2 and 4 respectively, and that they both require a single licence of the Server OS per physical host. For every Virtual Machine Guest that they install, they will require a licence for that guest OS. So essentially, both Server OS's come with no additional virtualisation benefits. If, for example, I installed Windows Server 2003 Standard R2 on my physical box, then installed Virtual Server, and created 3 XP Virtual Machines...yep, that means 3 XP licenses are required.
Moving to Enterprise, you obviously need the licence on the physical box, but, similar to Vista Enterprise, this gives you the option to run up to 4 Windows Server VM's. That gets even better with Datacenter edition. Although you need a licence per physical processor, which could get expensive, you don't need any more licenses for your virtual machines, so essentially, you could save a fortune with this method, and consolidate your infrastructure. Makes sense to me!
If you want to do any more calculating, you'd be hard pressed to find a better way to do it than use the Virtualization Calculator.
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What's the story with Vista Home and Virtual PC?
I ask, because VPC is a great way to get home users off old Win9x systems while keeping thier old Lotus Smartsuite, Corel Word Perfect, etc. alive, and this is a concern for a quarter of the folks for whom I've built Vista PCs.
We specifically want to avoid Vista Business, as trhe feature set is inappropriate for home use; all things considerd, Vista Home Basic meets our needs.... but these needs do include Virtual PC.
The story around Home, both Basic and Premium isn't great around Virtualisation. Microsoft were all set to announce changes to allow these products to be licensed in a VPC, but not any longer.
I guess the thinking around it is that Virtualisation is seen not as a home technology (apart from IT Pro's like ourselves) but as a business technology, so why offer any connection to the Home versions at all. Not a great decision in my eyes, but I can understand the reasoning.
I completely agree about using VPC to get people off the old systems, while keeping the legacy apps - you could try running the legacy apps in compatibility mode?