Aug 09, 2012

Windows Server 2012 Licensing Overview

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With the transition to Windows Server 2012, Enterprise Edition is no more[i]. Neither is Web Server Edition. Neither is HPC Edition. Neither is Small Business Server Edition. When the product is released to manufacturer in August 2012 many editions that previously represented a crowded and complex product lineup of 12 distinct versions and distribution channels Microsoft have been condensed to just 4 versions.  In addition to the consolidation of versions Microsoft has moved all versions of the product to “processor + client access license (CAL)” model in the hope that simplifying the license options will benefit a majority of their existing and potential customers. Microsoft now provides only 4 products, with only 3 available through volume licensing and 1 available through Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) channels.

For many technical staff, the most visible and easily overlooked product change is that with Standard and Datacenter editions you no longer have to select specific editions to gain access to the desired features and functionality in the enterprise.

All features are available in either product edition.

This is no small detail, and we believe this change represents a dramatic improvement that has been a long time coming. As we saw with the launch of System Center 2012, Microsoft is continuing their transition from an overabundance of product versions to a simplified, consistent architecture that provides amazing features and capabilities that are available based upon the licensing and scale of the organization’s physical and virtual footprint.

For Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the most dramatic change is that you are now limited in the number of supported users to a maximum of 25 users per server, creating a clear line of delineation for when Microsoft believes their SMB customers should transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard. For organizations purchasing an OEM solution for Windows Server 2012 Foundation the number of supported users is limited to a maximum of 15 users per appliance.

What hasn’t changed as part of the Windows Server 2012 launch is the requirement to maintain a Client Access Licenses (CAL) that matches the version of the server platform in use. While Microsoft has shifted the server side licensing model exclusively to per processor[ii] to utilize these products in compliance with licensing rules you are still required to maintain a CAL for accessing any server running the Windows Server 2012 product directly or indirectly[iii]. There are a handful of exceptions[iv] for products such as Remote Desktop Services and Active Directory Rights Management Services that must be purchased in addition to the base Server CAL, representing no change in the current licensing standards.  What this means for most organizations that have not maintained Software Assurance for the CALs either through a Suite or for individual products is, prior to deploying your first Windows Server 2012 product you will need to purchase new CALs for Windows Server 2012 before you can legally begin utilizing Windows Server 2012 services such as Active Directory, File Services, DirectAccess Network Services, or other features that are provided directly to users of the new operating system.

For customers who had previously purchased Software Assurance (SA) prior to the general availability date for Windows Server 2012 there are a number of conversion scenarios[v] that will come into play that your Microsoft license specialist, Value Added Reseller (VAR), or Large Account Reseller (LAR) can review in detail. At a high level, the vast majority of previous server products that have been maintained with SA benefits through the general availability date for the new server platform will transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard. Exceptions to this general rule of thumb would include Windows Server 2008R2 Datacenter Edition and Small Business Server Edition 2011 that will transition to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and Windows Server Essentials respectively.

At Credera we believe it is imperative that every organization regardless of size has a clear and concise view of their Microsoft license management strategy prior to beginning the implementation or evaluation process for the new products being released by Microsoft this year. We are excited about the new capabilities and features available with Windows Server 2012 and are already working with numerous clients to evaluate and prepare for the transition. How prepared are you for the upcoming changes? What are your next steps?

Need help? Learn more about Credera’s Microsoft Solutions Practice.

[i] Windows Server 2012 Licensing Details

[ii] Windows Server 2012 Essentials & Windows Server 2012 Foundation are purchased with CALs included

[iii] Microsoft Produce Use Rights

[iv] Microsoft CAL Whitepaper

[v] Windows Server 2012 Licensing FAQ

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