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TechnologyAug 21, 2013

Windows Server 2012 R2 Licensing Changes

Paul Bell

Microsoft rolled out new licensing for Windows Server 2012 R2, which means it’s a good time to reevaluate your server software needs. The new details were quietly released last week (Aug. 9, 2013) and the latest edition of its Server OS will be released by the end of 2013.

Prices going Up!

The biggest license change is Datacenter pricing going up a significant 28% to $6,155 per two processor server.  The increase over Server 2012 Datacenter appears largely due to the increase in virtual server density on the latest hardware available.  Windows Server Essentials also has a small increase of $76 for 2012 R2.  Pricing for the Standard SKU remains the same.  This quick release cycle further promotes the benefits of Software Assurance (SA) licensing as those subscribers won’t have to purchase anything to upgrade to the latest OS and get some fantastic new features.

Comparison Table by Edition and Pricing by Release

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Density going Up!

For Windows Server 2012, the financial break-even point was 10 virtual machines (VMs).  If you planned on running 10 or more VMs on a single two-socket server, Datacenter was the license that made the most financial sense.  With the upcoming release of Windows Server 2012 R2, the break-even point increases to 14 VMs per server.  The latest Intel processors, Ivy Bridge-EP, will have up 12 cores – 24 logical cores with hyperthreading – an incredible 48 logical cores in the popular two-socket server market.  These high processor core counts will definitely encourage IT administrators to put significantly more than 14 VMs on a single server, as long as they have a solid resiliency designed into the infrastructure.

Upgrading from Windows Server 2008 R2

For the organizations who held off on Windows Server 2012 and are planning to upgrade their existing 2008 R2 servers to Windows Server 2012 R2, consider the power of your current processors before settling on an in-place upgrade to 2012 R2.  The current Xeon E5-2690 processors are about twice as powerful as the popular Xeon X5650 released in 2010.  The Haswell update to the Xeon lineup coming this fall will increase that performance gain even more.  The question to ask is do you want to spend $6,155 for a Datacenter license on your 3 or 4 year old two-socket server that cannot run near as many VMs per socket as the latest processors from Intel?  The feature gain is well worth it, but you may not capitalize on the value of unlimited VMs!  Stick with Standard Edition for $882 to get all the features of 2012 R2, and purchase additional Standard licenses (2 VMs per license) as needed until you reach a sufficient virtualization utilization on your old hardware.

Working Towards Virtualizing IT

For the organizations who continue to build new virtual servers as old physical servers retire, the datacenter consideration begins at an initial load of 8-10 VMs.  Will this host be part of a failover cluster and need to support all of the VMs in the cluster for any period of time?  Microsoft won’t authorize more VMs than you are licensed for to run on any server for any amount of time.  However, there are no alerts built in to the OS to notify Microsoft of virtual license overrun.  The Datacenter license certainly adds licensing room for a situation where you run more VMs on a host than planned, without breaching your agreement with Microsoft.

Get the full datasheet from Microsoft.

Credera believes it is imperative to approach licensing with a defined strategy, regardless of the size of your company.  A clear, crisp view of your licensing needs, approach, and long term implications will save money.  With significant features being released in both Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, it may finally be time to seriously consider the value of Software Assurance from Microsoft.  Does your organization have a formal licensing strategy in place?  Do you have specific questions we can help answer?  Contact us in a comment below, online, through Twitter, or on my LinkedIn page.