Microsoft will re-align Windows Server 2012 across two main editions, namely Datacenter and Standard Edition.
Microsoft will continue to adopt a “per server” license model, however a single licence will support a maximum of two physical processors.
Microsoft continue to provide advantageous software use rights for customers that purchase ‘premium’ SKUs. Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions provide the same set of features; the only differentiation will be the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) that can be run on the licensed server.
- Windows Server Standard Edition will allow a limited number of 2 VMs to run on up to two processors.
- Windows Server Datacenter Edition will allow an Unlimited number of VMs to run on up to two processors.
Microsoft have now standardised the product features across the SKUs and have aligned the licensing model with System Center with a consolidation of Editions down to Datacenter and Standard; adoption of a Per Server licensing model aligned to a maximum of two processors.
Microsoft have maintained the CAL (Client Access License) model as a requirement for access to Windows Server 2012.
The advantage to Windows Server Standard customer is the increased level of functionality assigned to the SKU. This includes but is not limited to:
- Windows Server Failover Clustering
- BranchCache Hosted Cache Server
- Active Directory Federated Services
- Additional Active Directory Certificate Services
- Distributed File Services (support for more than 1 DFS root)
- DFS-R Cross-File Replication
The most cost-effective edition of Windows Server for your virtualization needs depends on the specifics of your organisation’s environment. This can also be impacted by existing license and maintenance (SA) footprint and the chosen volume agreement that windows server is procured through.
- Standard is the most cost-effective if you want to run a limited number of up to two VMs on the Server on up to two processors.
- Datacenter is most cost-effective for running a moderately or highly virtualized environment. The flexibility gained from “unlimited” virtualization rights will limit exposure to non-compliance and provide easier license management.
There are several approaches to product licensing for Windows Server.
- Procure Windows Server Standard Edition for a limited virtual environment and then “stack” additional license(s) by assigning them to the physical server.
- Microsoft incentivise procurement of the license with Software Assurance (SA) by providing an ‘upgrade path’ to Windows Server Datacenter: Microsoft provide the “Step Up” SKU to allow migration to the ‘premium’ licensing model.
- It is recommended you engage with a software licensing expert to review and plan your procurement requirements to understand the optimum procurement model for your organisation.
- This can also be impacted by existing license and maintenance (SA) footprint and the chosen volume agreement
The optimum licensing vehicle for Windows Server will be dependent on the level of virtualization in the customer datacentre. If your organisation is looking at high availability and continuity and other benefits commonly associated with Virtualization (Whether VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V), then the ‘Premium’ Edition of Windows Server will support a higher number of Virtual OSEs.
A Licensing Specialist will often state that the “optimum” licensing model is always dependent on the specifics of the organisation and ultimately that specific “Tipping Point” for that customers’ environment, including but not limited to, access to the most cost-effective Volume Agreement.
It is therefore important not to make decisions about procurement ‘in silo’ without a wider review of the existing environment and vendor contract agreement framework. There will be server licensing considerations both pre and post consolidation and it should acknowledge the impact of v-Motion running across the estate.
The advantages of a holistic approach should not be disregarded. While the cost may be higher than your initial estimated costs for the project, but over a longer period it could deliver cost savings through leveraging economies of scale through procurement on the most appropriate Volume Agreement(s) and secure against unanticipated costs from non-compliance following a vendor review (Microsoft) or independent organisation (BSA or FAST).
Software Downgrade and Licensing Implications
- Please be aware that all of the processors on a single server must be licensed with the same version and edition of Windows Server.
- Microsoft allow a user to run previous versions and editions of Windows Server software as guest VMs, but do not allow assignment of multiple licenses of different versions or editions to the same physical server.
Microsoft will support downgrade of Windows Server software (the “bits”). A customer with Windows Server Datacenter 2012 will be able to install any prior version of edition. A customer with Windows Server Standard Edition 2012 will be able to install any prior version of Standard and Enterprise Edition.
“The ability to run downgrade bits does not change the licensing or support terms in which you can use the product; the purchased product (Windows Server 2012) rights apply. This means that the license will continue to cover two physical processors and the virtualization rights do not change.” [Ref: Windows Server 2012 Licensing & Pricing FAQ]
Software Assurance Migration
A principle benefit of maintaining active Software Assurance (SA) on existing license footprint is that Microsoft usually adopt a considered approach to license migration and software use grants upon release of a new product. It is important that a customer seeks specialist advice to ensure they are aware of the licensing impact to their environment and are planning their procurement appropriately.
Upon release of Windows Server 2012, a customer with ‘active’ Software Assurance (SA) will receive use rights to 2012.
Please be aware that the licence will not be updated to the new release in VLSC unless Software Assurance (SA) is subsequently renewed at expiration. A customer will continue to have a perpetual right to the latest version, but this will only be evident upon review of the Software Assurance (SA) coverage period.
If a customer has committed to ‘active’ Software Assurance for Windows Server Enterprise 2008 R2 upon General Availability (GA) they will be entitled to receive two Standard edition licenses for each Enterprise edition license (1:2).
A customer with a current or planned highly virtualized or private cloud environment should consider taking advantage of the Software Assurance Step-Up* benefit to upgrade to Datacenter edition prior to the Windows Server 2012 General Availability since the Step-Ups from Enterprise edition to Datacenter edition will be removed from the price lists at that time.
A customer with an active Enterprise Agreement (EA) or aligned specialist enrolment with the Enterprise to Datacenter “Step Up” SKU enshrined within the CPS (Channel Price Sheet) will be able to leverage this SKU until the end of the contract term.
If a customer has active Software Assurance for Windows Server Datacenter 2008 R2 upon General Availability (GA) they will be entitled to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter.
Under the current licensing model, Datacenter license can be assigned to one processor. A Windows Server 2012 Datacenter license can be assigned to a physical server with up to two processors. Accordingly, Microsoft have adjusted the license grant: A customer with two current Datacenter licenses with Software Assurance (SA) will receive one Windows Server 2012 Datacenter server license (2:1).
If a customer has active Software Assurance for Windows Server Standard Edition 2008 R2 upon General Availability (GA) they will be entitled to one Windows Server Standard Edition license (1:1).
If a customer has active Software Assurance for Windows Server Web Edition 2008 R2 upon General Availability (GA); they will receive an additional Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license that you can use while also maintaining your rights to run your current Web Server license.
The Microsoft license grant states that for two Windows 2008 R2 Web Server Edition licenses, a customer will receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition license. If a customer retains an odd number of Windows 2008 R2 Web Server edition licenses, their grant will be based on rounding up to the next whole even number (2:1)
Microsoft have stated that a customer can continue to have the ability to host web content under the new Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license without needing a Windows Server CAL to access the server, but any other workloads that are run on the new server will follow the standard Windows Sever CAL model.
Implications of Microsoft’s acknowledgement of underlying hardware profiles (i.e. processors)
In some circumstances, moving to a new licensing metric that identifies the hardware profile (i.e. physical processors) can lead to non-compliance under the new schema. Microsoft, as the vendor, cannot apply a licensing model that retrospectively makes customers non-compliant. Accordingly, Microsoft have taken a similar approach to the release of SQL 2012 and asked customer’s to document their environment.
It is recommended that you complete your self-assessment using the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit or another inventory tool that can accurately archive a time/date-stamped inventory of your hardware with Windows Server installations.
Upon contract expiration, the customer has the option to renew Software Assurance on all licenses granted as a result of transitioning to the Windows Server 2012 licensing model. So please be aware that while there might not be a sudden increase in maintenance costs, there might be a deferred increase that will become active upon contract renewal.
Secondly, as VLSC and other online databases of Volume Licenses available to Microsoft will not record this license grant for subsequent maintenance (SA) renewal, it is recommended to keep a solid record of the time/date stamped inventory and the specific license grant you are leveraging. (You cannot rely on your future staff or all individuals who work in the Microsoft ecosystem to have a holistic knowledge of historical license grants).
As discussed, it is recommended to take specialist advice prior to any major new release (i.e. SQL 2012, System Center 2012, Windows Server 2012, Office 2013, Windows 8).
Enrolment for Core Infrastructure
The Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) is a 3 Year Volume Agreement contract that can be used primarily for purchase of Windows Server with the full management capabilities of System Center 2012.
The Volume Agreement offers an incentivised price-point for customers who choose to use Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) as their primary procurement route for their deployed server footprint (and future requirements) for Windows Server over the contract term.
The advantage of the Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) as a procurement route is primarily the opportunity to buy the 2012 System Center and Windows Server product stack with Software Assurance (SA) within a incentivised procurement model.
The advantage of the Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) is that the overall cost of procurement is essentially ‘discounted’ by Microsoft within this program to incentivise standardised procurement through this model.
This Volume Agreement is intended to provide full Software Assurance (SA) coverage for the assigned footprint for the contract term. This provides Software Assurance Benefits (SAB) and important Software Use Rights by adding maintenance (Software Assurance) within a relational annuity agreement.
It is recommended you engage with a software licensing expert to review and plan your procurement requirements to understand the optimum procurement model for your organisation.
All customers should continue to do a self-inventory, documenting the number of processors in each server in use with System Center and Windows Server. This will enable customers to receive the appropriate number of server licenses mapped to physical processors.
- Customers can approach a self-inventory using the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit or other inventory tools and processes to accurately archive a time/date stamped inventory of hardware tied to System Center and Windows Server deployments.
- Customer can also work with a Microsoft Partner to understand the current managed estate and plan for current and future requirements.
Please be aware that I now work at a Microsoft Partner – and will now be providing my licensing expertise through their services. So please do get in contact with me directly if you would like to have a bespoke review for your organisation (available to organisations with UK operations).
My team can assist you to purchase the correct licenses, at the best price, through the right program. Please email me directly to arrange a meeting or call.
– Tony Mackelworth
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