Windows Server 2012 Licensing – Which Edition Is Right for You?

There is only one way of licensing Server 2012, so as long as you understand how the licensing works, the real decision you are faced with is picking the Standard or Data Center Edition.

Windows Server 2012 is only licensed in 2-processor licenses. This means that for every two physical processors on a host running Windows Server, you must own one Server 2012 license. There is no licensing of Virtual Machines or Virtual CPUs. The only way to license Server 2012 is by the number of physical processors on your servers.

So, if you have a 2-proc server, you only need 1 license. And if you have a 4-proc server, you need 2 licenses, and so on. Licenses cannot be split across multiple servers.

Standard Edition vs. Data Center Edition

Standard Edition

  • Has all the same features as Data Center edition!
  • Gives you the rights to run up to 2 Virtual Machines on up to 2 Processors
  • Still requires Server 2012 CAL (same CAL for either Edition)

Data Center Edition

  • Has all the same features as Standard edition!
  • Gives you the rights to run Unlimited Virtual Machines on up to 2 Processors.
  • Still requires Server 2012 CAL (same CAL for either Edition)

If you aren’t using Virtualization at all, use Standard licenses.

If you are highly Virtualized, most organizations will want to standardize on Data Center edition. The limit of 2 Virtual Machines on Standard is rather low, as most organizations assign many more VMs to each set of 2 physical processors.

If you are lightly Virtualized, and the limitations of Standard work for you today, but you plan on growing your Virtualized environment in the future, you will have options to upgrade to Data Center Edition:

1.Purchase additional Standard edition licenses and assign them to the same physical server giving you the rights to run additional instances of Windows Server, or

2. If you have Software Assurance on your Standard license you can purchase a Software Assurance Step-Up and migrate to a Datacenter edition license on that server

Mixing License Editions

  • You cannot mix Standard / Data Center Editions on the same physical host.
  • Your environment can have some physical hosts running Standard and others running Data Center
  • It may make sense to strategize the best way to provision your VMs across physical hosts – if you have a beefy VM that requires 1 CPU, and another VM that requires 1 CPU, put them together on a single dual-proc server and save the money with Standard.

Software Assurance

NOTE: Software Assurance is NOT required to do a vMotion (Live Migration in Microsoft terms).

Benefits of Software Assurance with Server 2012

  • Upgrade Rights – For the duration of your Software Assurance subscription, you are entitled to upgrade any new Versions of Server that are released (i.e. Server 2012 R2, Server 2015, etc.)
  • Cold Backups – For every Server license you own, you can have rights to install a “Cold Spare” on a server that isn’t powered on, in case something happens to your main server
  • Technet Professional Subscription + Online Concierge + Forum Account
  • Unlimited 24×7 Web Support + 1 free phone support incident + another free phone support incident for every $20,000 spent in Server with SA + CAL licensing
  • Option to do spread payments – pay the cost of the License+SoftwareAssurance Subscription over 3 years in equal, annuitized payments rather than one upfront cost

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TNS is a leading Value Added Reseller providing secure network systems and solutions to the SMB and enterprise markets. TNS offers best-of-breed technical solutions acquired, installed, secured, and maintained using the most cost effective methods available.


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