Server 2012 Licensing Explained

With the recent move to Server 2012 and the change in Microsoft’s traditional licensing model have come a slew of questions.  The change in the licensing model has been driven largely by trends in the industry for data centralization and cloud centric computing.  There are actually some nice benefits that the new licensing model offers to those who are currently using a hypervisor such as VMware or HyperV.  The licensing model is also simplified so that there are now really only 2 versions of Microsoft server OS where there were previously many.  Here’s how it all breaks down.

There are basically 2 version of Microsoft Sever licensing that will be commonly used in businesses.  One is Server 2012 Standard, and the other is Server 2012 Datacenter.  One of the big changes with 2012 is that there is no difference in feature sets between the two versions.  Standard now has all of the great features that were previously only available with a more expensive server OS.

The main difference with these two licenses is the licensing model.  A datacenter license is good for unlimited virtual instances on a single physical piece of hardware with up to two processors.  That makes it ideal for heavily virtualized datacenter environments.  The standard license is good for two virtual instances on a single piece of hardware with up to two processors.  This is a fit for lighter virtualization installments, and for most small businesses that have a few servers and are using a hypervisor.  The new standard licenses cost approximately 30% more than the previous standard license, but with the ability to do 2 installs.  This can reflect significant licensing savings for businesses leveraging the benefits of virtualization.  Both datacenter and standard licenses will still require the use of Server CALS for every user or device that will be accessing a server.

As always, when planning a move to a new server OS it’s important to check your available server resources and compatibility with your main business applications.  Many of the applications that you’re currently using may not be ready for the move just yet.  It’s recommended that you test thoroughly and know compatibility before doing a migration of a live server environment.

For questions or to learn more specifics feel free to call the experts at i.t.NOW who can help you with your licensing questions.  There are also some great resources available online from Microsoft that can help with your licensing questions.