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System Center 2012 licensing primer

Scott Lowe breaks down the changes in the licensing structure for Microsoft System Center 2012. Here are some of the basics.

You may have read the news that Microsoft is making major changes in the 2012 release of the System Center product lineup. First up is a name change for each product. Whereas each product used to be called something along the lines of System Center Data Protection Manager 2012, Microsoft is now re-branding these products to tie them even closer to the System Center brand. The aforementioned product, for example, is now named System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager.

This naming change wasn't arbitrary. Prior to System Center 2012, you could buy an individual System Center component such as Data Protection Manager and install it and use it separately from the remainder of the products in the lineup. Each individual product had its own licensing rules and limitations.

That's all gone.

With System Center 2012, you get a suite of products in one. You can no longer buy the individual products separately. The System Center 2012 suite includes the following products:

  • App Controller
  • Operations Manager
  • Orchestrator
  • Service Manager
  • Virtual Machine Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Endpoint Protection
  • Configuration Manager

The new suite comes in two different editions.

Editions

System Center 2012 management licenses (ML) come in two editions. The two editions are differentiated by the virtualization rights included in each. The descriptions below are from Microsoft:

  • Datacenter. Maximizes cloud capacity with unlimited Operating System Environments (OSEs) for high-density private clouds. Allows the management of an unlimited number of OSEs per license. The list price for the Datacenter ML is $3,607 per two physical server sockets. Remember, this includes unlimited OSEs running on that server. So, if you're hosting 50 Windows virtual servers on the server, those virtual OSEs are covered.
  • Standard. For lightly or non-virtualized private cloud workloads. Allows the management of up to two OSEs per license. The list price for the Standard ML is $1,323. Here's Microsoft licensing rules for the Standard Edition: "For each managed server count the number of physical processors and the number of managed OSE's. You need the number of licenses to cover the greater number (processors or OSE's)."

You may be wondering what constitutes an Operating System Environment (OSE) as described. An OSE is either a physical or virtual operating system that is running on a server. As such, if you're running five Windows Server virtual machines under Hyper-V, you have five OSEs - 1 physical and 4 virtual.

Server workload licensing

You no longer need to license any of the server software itself, but you do need to buy server management licenses (MLs) for any servers you intend to manage with products in the System Center suite. For example, if you're managing your Configuration Manager server from Configuration Manager, you'll need to get a license for that server. Licenses are processor-based, covering two processors. You can't split a two-processor license across two one-processor servers.

Further, as has always been the case for System Center components, you don't need to buy separate licensing for any SQL Server instances that support the System Center infrastructure.

Client licensing

With the combined suite, client licensing is a bit different now, too. There are three client-based management licenses. They're described below and indicate which components are included in each one:

  • System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Client ML (list price: $62)
    • Configuration Manager
    • Virtual Machine Manager
  • System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection Client ML (list price: $22)
    • Endpoint Protection
  • System Center Client Management Suite Client ML (list price: $121)
    • Service Manager
    • Operations Manager
    • Data Protection Manager
    • Orchestrator

If you want to monitor a client endpoint or back it up, you need the System Center Client Management Suite Client ML. If you'd like to add the ability to manage that endpoint with Configuration Manager, you need to add the Configuration Manager Client ML. For Forefront users, Endpoint Protection is available if you have an Endpoint Protection Client ML.

For those of you that have licensing agreements with Microsoft:

  • Core CAL Suite. Includes System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Client ML and Endpoint Protection Client ML.
  • Enterprise CAL Suite. Includes all three System Center 2012 Client MLs.

Summary

I'm not intending to cover every single use case in this post, but to introduce you to the new licensing model for System Center 2012. Microsoft makes a complete guide available for download. Bear in mind that Microsoft employs only sadists in the group that sets licensing policy (I heard a rumor that it's a job requirement). I highly recommend that you consult your Microsoft licensing specialist if you have detailed questions.

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...