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Microsoft Server 2012 Licensing Changes: 6 Key Things You Need To Know

Microsoft | Posted on July 24, 2012 by Andrea Malloni


Confused about how the new licensing model  for Windows Server 2012 works? Rest easy! The Softchoice Microsoft team has identified six key things you need to know regarding the changes, and how they’ll impact you.

Because the general release of Server 2012 is slated for September 2012, we’re encouraging all our customers to reach out to our Microsoft specialists as soon as possible. They’ll provide insight into how Software Assurance can ensure you step up your current editions now – while the opportunity is still available.

Here are the 6 Things You Should Know:

1) Changes to Windows Server Editions

Windows Server 2012  is now only available in two types of editions: Standard and Datacenter. When it comes to determining which edition is best for your enterprise, there’s one key word on everyone’s lips: virtualization.

Both Standard and Datacenter editions provide the same set of features (including high availability features like failover clustering); the only thing that differentiates the editions is the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) being used. If your strategy calls for a highly virtualized environment, Datacenter edition provides you with optimum flexibility since it allows for unlimited virtualization.

If you aren’t ready to heavily virtualize your environment, a Standard edition license entitles you to run up to two VMs on up to two processors.

2) Streamlined Licensing Model for Core Infrastructure

In short, we feel this new model provides an easier assessment and management of your server environment. Here’s why:

  • A single-licensing model makes it easier to buy the right product for your needs and to compare the cost of alternatives
  • A single, familiar and easy to track metric for all infrastructure products (reducing management overhead)
  • As part of the alignment with the Microsoft private cloud licensing model, Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, as well as Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI), have the same licensing and packaging structure
For more details on Windows Server 2012 Licensing, read the following PDFs:

3) What’s Going Away?

  • Enterprise Edition: Enterprise edition will be retired as part of the Windows Server 2012 release. Windows Server 2012 Standard edition includes all the premium features previously included in Enterprise edition.
  • Web Server: Web workloads running on a Windows Server 2012 edition will continue to receive the “CAL waiver” that’s in effect for these workloads today. Windows Server CALs will not be required to access the licensed server if it is only being used to run web workloads
  • HPC Products: Microsoft will deliver the HPC Pack 2012 as a free download that can be used with any Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter license. HPC workloads running on Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter editions will continue to receive the “CAL waiver” that is currently in effect for these workloads.

4) How Many Licences Do I Need? 

Because the Datacenter edition allows for an unlimited number of VMs, only physical processors need to be counted when establishing licences.

Quick Formula: 1 license = 2 physical processors

To determine the number of licenses needed to fully license a physical server, simply count the number of physical processors in the server and divide that number by two. That tells you the number of licenses you need. Each Standard edition license provides you with the rights to run up to two VMs. If you want to run additional VMs but do not require the highly virtualized environment that Datacenter provides (which is unlimited VMs), then you can simply purchase additional Standard edition licenses and assign them to a single physical server to increase your VM entitlements on that server.

5) What Can’t You Do? 

  • You can’t:
    •  split your Windows Server 2012 license across multiple servers (each license can only be assigned to a single physical server).
    •  assign a Windows Server 2012 license to a virtual machine (a license is assigned to the physical server and each license will cover up to two physical processors).
    •  mix Standard and Datacenter licenses on the same server (all of the processors on a given server must be licensed with the same version and edition).
    •  use your Windows Server 2008 CAL to access Windows Server 2012. The CAL accessing the instance of Windows Server must be equivalent or higher in version than the server being accessed

6) How Will SA Work With Server 2012?

SA On Datacenter Edition

If you have Software Assurance on Datacenter edition, you’re entitled to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition. Here’s how it works:

Currently: a Datacenter license covers up to 1 processor.
With Windows 2012: a Datacenter license will cover up to 2 processors.
Takeaway: For every two current Datacenter licenses with Software Assurance, you receive one Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition license.

SA on Enterprise Edition

If you have Software Assurance on Enterprise edition, you’re entitled to receive two Standard edition licenses for each Enterprise edition license you have.

SA on Standard Edition

If you have Software Assurance on Standard edition today, you’re entitled to receive Standard edition at the general availability of Windows Server 2012. You’ll receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license for each Standard edition license you have.

SA on Web Server Edition

If you have Software Assurance on Web Server edition, you’ll receive an additional Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license  to use while also maintaining your rights to run your current Web Server license. For every two Windows 2008 R2 Web Server edition licenses, you’ll receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license.

What if I want to step up to Datacenter?

If you’re moving to a more highly virtualized or private cloud environment, and since the Step-Ups from Enterprise edition to Datacenter edition are being removed from price lists, you should consider taking advantage of the Software Assurance Step-Up benefit to upgrade to Datacenter edition prior to the Windows Server 2012 General Availability.

The Softchoice Microsoft Team is standing by to help! 

It will take time for many organizations to figure out how the navigate these new licensing changes. Our Microsoft Licensing experts are standing by to help. Leave your questions below in the comments section – if you have a question, it’s likely someone else does too! Together we’ll learn how the shift in Windows Server 2012 impacts everyone, and the role SA benefits plays before this release goes wide in September.

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