Today we need to talk about the versions and the licensing options you have for Windows Server 2012. There are some pretty significant changes to A) what you can purchase, and B) what those versions include.
“So it’s not just Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter? Are you making it even more complex?!”
Absolutely not. In fact, we’re making it much MUCH more simple. Instead of 3 versions of Windows Server (not counting our “Essentials” product for small business), we now have just two license type: Standard and Datacenter.
“Ah.. so, the Datacenter version includes all capabilities for a higher price, and Standard is a less capable version with fewer features?”
Nope. Datacenter and Standard do exactly the same things. They have the same features and scale to the biggest, most capable hardware you can purchase today (and beyond).
Then how about you let me finish by outlining the versions and how you purchase them.
“Okay. Please continue.”
(Click to see a larger version)
You now buy Windows Server licenses per TWO physical processors. Regardless of the number of cores in a processor, if you have a two processor server, then you only need to buy one copy of Windows Server 2012 – either Standard or Datacenter. If you have four processors, you buy two copies. And so on.
There is no difference. Standard and Datacenter do exactly the same thing. For example, a server running Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition is just as capable now for being a member of a Windows Failover Cluster.
This is where they differ, and really why at some point of creating more and more virtual machines, you’ll decide that buying Datacenter is more cost effective and makes more sense.
With every license of Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition, you are granted TWO (2) virtual instances of the operating system. So even though I can run as many VMs as my hardware will allow, the licensing gives you TWO virtualized server licenses. To add more VM licenses, you can buy (and stack) additional Standard licenses on a server – each one giving you the license for two more VMs.
With every license of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition, you are granted UNLIMITED virtual instances of the operating system. So, yes, it’s more expensive, but on that 2 processor / 8 core server, with one license of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, you are given the licenses for as many virtual machines as you can fit on that box. For ultimate flexibility in your virtualized datacenter, it just become a matter of having enough licenses to cover the physical processors on your server hardware, and you basically can run and migrate and use as many virtual machines as you can physically support.
For More Information
Check out the Windows Server 2012 Pricing and Licensing FAQ document (.PDF Download).
This is by no means an exhaustive description of licensing, and I’m sure you may have questions. Feel free to ask them in the comments.