Windows

Microsoft announces four Windows Server 2012 editions: What you need to know

Scott Lowe explains Microsoft's new licensing for the four editions of Windows Server 2012. Here is what you need to know about upgrading and choosing the right edition.

For years, as Microsoft has released new versions of Windows Server, the world has waited with anticipation while Redmond attempted to figure out the exact mix of editions that it would sell to various customer segments. This fragmentation of the Windows Server line has been the butt of jokes and the stuff of confusion as customers attempted to make the best possible economic decision for their organizations while, at the same time, making sure that their needs would be met with whatever edition was selected.

How times change!

This week, Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2012 would be released in just four editions -- Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. Note that the previously popular Enterprise edition is one of the editions that didn't make the 2012 cut.

Each edition brings something different to the table and it's going to be easier than ever for organizations to pick the best edition to suit its needs. Here's a look at the four editions:

Edition Intent Major feature Licensing Clients List price
Datacenter Highly virtualized environments Unlimited virtual instance rights Processor x 2 Per CAL $4,809 per 2 procs
Standard Little virtualization, low density Two virtual instances Processor x 2 Per CAL $882

per 2 procs

Essentials Small business Simple administration, no virtualization rights Per Server 25 accounts $425
Foundation Entry level, economy server General purpose server, no virtualization rights Per Server 15 accounts OEM only

It's important to note that, for the Standard and Datacenter editions, the pricing is based on per two processors, not per processor. Since most servers today are dual processor servers, this licensing strategy makes sense. However, if you do decide to buy single processor servers, understand that you can't split licenses between servers. You will need to buy two of the dual processor licenses.

On the flip side, if you have an eight processor server, you will need to buy four of the dual processor licenses to cover all eight processors.

You might note that there are no major feature columns listed as there were in older versions of Windows Server. For example, in the past, if you wanted failover clustering, you needed to go with either the Enterprise or Data Center editions of Windows Server. With Windows Server, the only difference between Standard and Datacenter revolves around virtualization rights. Otherwise, both editions have the same exact feature sets and include:

  • Windows Server Failover Clustering
  • BranchCache Hosted Cache Server
  • Active Directory Federated Services
  • Additional Active Directory Certificate Services capabilities
  • Distributed File Services (support for more than 1 DFS root)
  • DFS-R Cross-File Replication

Note that you still need to obtain separate licenses to take advantage of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Active Directory Rights Management Service (ADRMS).

You should also take note that there are no more hardware limitation differences between Standard and Datacenter. Standard is no longer limited to 32 GB of RAM, nor is it limited to 4 CPUs. Of course, if you go beyond 2 CPUs, you will need to buy additional processor licenses.

Upgrade license trade in

If you're a Software Assurance subscriber, and you're planning to upgrade your licenses to Windows Server 2012, you have a number of items to take into consideration. Further, if you're concerned that you're now running an edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 or below that no longer has a corresponding edition in Windows Server 2012, don't worry. Microsoft has made the following entitlements available in Windows Server 2012.

Old edition 2012 Edition Information and License Disposition SA req'd?
Datacenter Datacenter Convert every two 2008 R2 DC licenses into one dual processor 2012 license.

Yes

Enterprise Standard Replaced by Standard with all former Enterprise features now included in Standard.  You can convert each existing 2008 R2 Enterprise license into two 2012 Standard licenses.

Yes

Standard Standard Convert each 2008 R2 Standard license into one 2012 Standard licenses

Yes

Web (no SA) See notes No direct replacement, but web workloads running on any Windows Server 2012 edition receive a "CAL waiver."

No

Web (SA) Standard Those with SA are entitled to receive a Standard Edition replacement and can still run the existing workloads on the 2008 Web server.

Yes

HPC editions Standard No direct replacement, but Microsoft will be making freely available the HPC Pack 2012 that works with Standard or Datacenter, HPC workloads also receive a "CAL waiver."  Existing HPC edition users will also receive a Windows Server 2012 Standard license.

Yes

Small Business Server 2011 Essentials Essentials Small Business Server has been fully discontinued.  You will receive one Windows Server 2012 Essentials license.

Yes

Small Business Server 2011 Standard Standard + Exchange Small Business Server has been fully discontinued.  You will receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license and one Exchange Server Standard 2010 license.

Yes

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-on Standard + SQL Server Small Business Server has been fully discontinued. You will receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license and one SQL Server 2012 Standard edition license

Yes

Summary

Once the transition to Windows Server 2012 is complete, organizations will be able to simplify their Windows edition strategy in favor of far fewer options. Personally, I believe that Microsoft has taken a great step forward by simplifying their editions structures and that they are being relatively generous with regard to the opportunity for organizations to move away from now-discontinued editions to current ones.

What do you think? Do you think that Microsoft has made a bold move forward or do you think they've blown it?

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

14 comments
vilcadude
vilcadude

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if52s9wH_U0 Microsoft need to get out of Redmond and go smell the Ethernet - the lack of it! I support businesses in the rural area that don't have high seed internet. When SBS standard disappears from my wholesalers - my allegiance with MS goes with it! It is just a money grabbing exercise!

Orld
Orld

So there is no upgrade path for SBS at all...

hscox030
hscox030

If by Open Source you are referring to any flavor of Linux then I'm sorry but they are FAR from 'Ready'. They are no where near on par with Microsoft products and cannot even see the benchmark on any enterprise category. I laughed out loud when I read your comment!

pethers
pethers

I see that your article talks about physical sockets on server hardware. How does this apply to Virtualised instances of servers on a host? How many vProcessors? vProcessors are in reality Cores and not sockets - so what is the story here? These questions are not addressed and this is always the sticking point when talking about licensing per processor - as soon as you virtualise a server it all gets messy and is not clear at all.

Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com
Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com

As "simplified" as Microsoft tries to become, just the licensing alone is confusing! What with the Software Assurance vs. the Non-Software Assurance, what WILL be covered from what WON'T be covered? It's still a mystery as to what an admin is supposed to do. Continue on with the version you have and miss out on updates and service packs? Try to upgrade to one of these versions and possible "break" something that was once working fine? I have been working with a company now for upwards of 3 years, and you know what THEIR solution was? Ubuntu Server...Apache Server...Open-XChange Server (for e-mail) And there's no licensing fees, no tiered structure regarding fees or anythingt else of that nature. I think Microsoft is grasping at straws, trying to hold on to a dwindling market, as CTO's / CIO's Network Admins, Architects, and anyone else involved in the day-to-day maintenance, and upkeep of an orgnization's server backend, are discovering that the Open Source community is finally "ready"....they've finally risen to become on par with the Microsoft products and they're exceeding the benchmark in almost ALL categories! But at least I gotta give 'em credit, they've never been one for quitting! SO let's see just how much longer they can maintain their hold on the server market...good luck to 'em!

jfuller05
jfuller05

However, I do not like this [i]Note that you still need to obtain separate licenses to take advantage of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Active Directory Rights Management Service (ADRMS).[/i] Why would Microsoft do that?

gijoe30
gijoe30

Now why would i waste my time typing a command for almost 3 minutes to run an installer when i can just double click the installer. seriously Microsoft If you want to compete with linux ( who is turning to GUI anyway) offer your server free. Now system administrator have to manage network while learning Programing and remembering command lines. I like Power shell to run automated script but don't expect me to manage the network using command line. seriously whoever is recommending these changes at Microsoft have never managed a network in his life.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

It looks like SBS is history... which is a shame.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

If you buy Datacenter, it's very clear. You license per pair of host physical processors. If you install Windows-based VMs, those fall under the Datacenter's license and don't need to be licensed separately.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

For RDS, I'm not sure, but they might still be tied up with Citrix in some regard on that product, hence the separate licensing.

PaleRider1861
PaleRider1861

You are so right, Scott. I have installed and maintained different versions of SBS for years, and each one gets better --- am using SBS 2011 Std since it came out. I like the integration, and ease of maintenace, and am shocked that they are ending this line! I know that the Server and Exchange licenses will carryover to Windows Server 2012 Std and Exchange, but what about services like RWW, for instance? And further, I am supposing that Exchange will have to be installed separately, as will others not included in core Server 2012. I don't get it, Microsoft.

Maury Markowitz
Maury Markowitz

Perhaps "Essentials" is the new SBS? SBS was great, but without Remote Desktop it was a problem for me.

Editor's Picks