Windows Server 2012 – Licensing Changes

I'm reposting this article - We lost the original when we moved website!

With the arrival of Windows Server 2012 this coming September, there has never been a better time to look at some of the key licensing changes that software procurement staff face. In September, Microsoft will transition to per processor licensing & streamline the number of Windows Server editions down to Standard & Datacenter edition. From a features prospective Windows Server 2012 Standard & Datacenter editions are both the same with the only key difference between the two being virtualisation rights:

    • One Standard edition licence will entitle you to run up to two vm’s on up to two processors
    • One Datacenter edition licence will entitle you to run an unlimited number of vm’s on up to two processors
It’s important to note that Windows Server Enterprise is no longer being offered to customers, many of the premium features associated with Enterprise are now included with Standard such as:
  • Windows Server Failover Clustering
  • BranchCache Hosted Cache Server
  • Active Directory Federated Services
  • Additional Active Directory Certificate Services capabilities
  • Distributed File Services (support for more than 1 DFS root)
  • DFS-R Cross-File Replication
As there is no difference between the features of Standard & Enterprise editions your purchasing decision needs to be based on current or future use of server virtualisation:
  • For single standalone instances of Windows Server on physical servers or where you only need limited virtualisation, Windows Server Standard should be purchased
  • For organisations that need a highly virtualised server environment, Datacenter edition should be purchased because of the ability to leverage unlimited virtualisation per physical host
  • Some customers will need to buy new Windows Server Standard licences for standalone physical servers, that may need to be virtualised in the future. Where this is the case it may be worth buying Software Assurance “SA”.
  • By having valid SA attached to the Windows Server Standard licence, customers can at a later date purchase a step-up licence that will allow them to migrate to Windows Server Datacenter edition
It is important to note that by moving to a processor model for Windows Server you now need to purchase licences based on, the number of physical processors on the server and the number of server instances running on the same server.
To understand the number of server licences required you must:
  1. Count the number of physical processors on the server
  2. Then divide the number by two
Example on how to calculate number of licences
  • You have a 2 processor server – 2 physical processors / 2 (number of processors covered by a license) equals 1. You need one Windows Server license to cover a 2-processor server
  • You have a 4 processor server – 4 physical processors / 2 (number of processors covered by a license) equals 2. You need two Windows Server licenses to cover a 4-processor server.
Should your organisation currently have active software assurance when Windows Server 2012 is launched you will be entitled to the following:
  • 1 x Windows Server Datatcenter processor licence will transition to 1 x Windows Server Datacenter that covers two physical processors per server
  • 1 x Windows Server Enterprise will transition to 2 x Windows Server Standard licences
  • 1 x Windows Server Standard will transition to 1 x Windows Server Standard licence
*Note for Enterprise, Standard,  or HPC editions of Windows Server that the SA transition does not cover all of your current physical processors you can qualify for additional licences by date stamping and documenting your environment.
On downgrade rights with Windows Server 2012 you have the following rights:
  • Windows Server Datacenter includes rights to downgrade to any previous version of Windows Server Datacenter, Enterprise or Standard
  • Windows Server Standard includes rights to downgrade to any previous version of Windows Server Enterprise or Standard
For more detail on key licensing changes please see link below for Microsoft licensing FAQ & pricing - Link


Karl is our resident licensing guru. He has over 10 years experience of practising the dark arts of software licensing and software asset management. Karl is a founding partner of Sam360.

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