Windows Server 2012–Licensing and Software Assurance Grants

Bryan Von Axelson 2010

B  V  A

I recently saw some interesting information out on the web on Windows Server 2012 and wanted to make sure everybody understands our licensing changes. 

  • We are NOT moving to core licensing with Windows Server 2012!
  • You can stack additional licenses on top of each other to add virtual licenses to Standard Edition.
    • 1 Standard – 2 Virtual
    • 2 Standard – 4 Virtual
    • 3 Standard – 6 Virtual 
  • Essentials and Foundation do NOT come with CAL’s, they come with a User Account allocation –
    • Essentials 25 Users
    • Foundation 15 Users. 
  • If you add Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter to Essentials or Foundation you will need to purchase ALL CAL’s for total number of users. 
  • Essentials and Foundation have no Virtualization rights, however Essentials has the flexibility to run in Physical or Virtual.

Edition overview

The Windows Server 2012 product line-up has been streamlined and simplified, making it easier for customers to choose the edition that is right for their needs:

Datacenter edition for highly-virtualized private cloud environments.

Standard edition for non-virtualized or lightly virtualized environments.

Essentials edition for small businesses with up to 25 users running on servers with up to two processors.

Foundation edition for small businesses with up to 15 users running on single processor servers.

Determining the number of licenses for Datacenter and Standard editions

The packaging and licensing structure for Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition and Windows Server 2012 Standard edition has been updated to simplify purchasing and reduce management requirements.  Each license covers up to two physical processors on a single server. The minimum number of licenses required for each server is determined by the number of physical processors. For Standard edition you can add more virtual instances by assigning additional licenses to the server (two incremental virtual instances are added per license).

Two editions differentiated only by virtualization rights – two virtual instances for Standard edition and unlimited virtual instances for Datacenter edition.

A consistent processor-based licensing model that covers up to two physical processors on a server.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials edition and Windows Server 2012 Foundation edition remain unchanged.

Server-based licensing model – Foundation is for single processor servers and Essentials is for either one or two processor servers.

CALs not required for access – Foundation comes with 15 user accounts and Essentials comes with 25 user accounts.


Transitioning to the new licensing model

If you have Software Assurance coverage on your current Windows Server licenses at the time of the Windows Server 2012 General Availability, you will receive the following transitional license grants to Windows Server 2012.

Current license

Conversion ratio


New license(s)


2:1 (a)








SBS Essentials



SBS Standard


Exchange Standard
SBS Premium


SQL Standard

Web Server




Windows HPC Server Suite




a) Windows Server 2012 Datacenter covers up to two processors per license, whereas Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter only covers one processor per license.

b) The grant provides you with an additional Windows Server 2012 Standard edition that you can use while maintaining rights to run your current Windows Server HPC edition, Microsoft HPC Pack Enterprise or Web Server licenses.

c) Window Server HPC edition and Microsoft HPC Pack Enterprise will receive a 2:1 (d) ratio of Windows Server 2012 Standard.

d) For these grants you will round up to the nearest whole number to determine the appropriate entitlement.

Edition comparison by server roles:

Server 2012 Role #1

Server 2012 Role #2

Server 2012 Role #3

Edition comparison by server features:

Server 2012 Feature #1

Channel Availability:


Volume Licensing












For more information download the Windows Server 2012 Licensing Guide

Still looking for some answers – try the FAQ

Windows Server Home Page -


Comments (3)

  1. Brian says:

    One of the better, succinct, explanations of the Server 2012 licensing model. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Rene Noor says:

    Windows 2008 Enterprise licenses costs 3 times Windows 2008 standard. Nevertheless 2008 Enterprise with SA grants you two (2) Windows 2012 standard licenses.

    Yet another little scam. Trying to exchange two 2008 enterprise licenses with running SA for one (1) 2012 datacenter license ? No way. While -2008-  pricing is the same.

    Microsoft SA, just say no..

  3. Nilesh says:

    Hi Bryan, thanks for the information. One quick question: Can I grant Windows Server 2012 R2 license to Windows Server Datacenter 2008 from licensing perspective. Please advice.

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