With organizations of any size, there will be situations that require certain versions of software and operating systems to function correctly. In the client space, we frequently use Windows Vista’s XP downgrade rights to address issues on the client. For servers, Windows Server 2008 R2 has a rather flexible downgrade schedule that you can use to fit your needs.

Downgrade rights exist so you can still purchase software, and the sales outlets don’t have to manage myriad versions and editions. There are two directives that Microsoft provides for utilizing your downgrade rights options. The first scenario is for existing licenses of earlier versions of Windows Server that are not ready to migrate to Windows Server 2008 R2; you can license that installation as a precursor to an upgrade or new installation. The other scenario is for specific application requirements that do not support current versions of Windows Server.

The rule of thumb for downgrade rights on Windows Server is “like-for-like.” This means that if there was an equivalent offering in a prior version of Windows Server, you have an option to downgrade the current edition. For the mainstream Windows Server Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions, these offerings align nicely through Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 with the exception of Advanced being exchanged for Enterprise on Windows 2000. For installations where x86 and x64 differences apply, downgrade rights allow x64 purchases to use x86 installations.

Some downgrade entitlements examples include the following:

  • A purchase of Windows Server 2008 Standard entitles use of Windows Server 2003 Standard and Windows 2000 Server. The R2 release of Windows Server 2003 is also available.
  • A purchase of Windows Web Server 2008 entitles use of Windows Server 2003 Web Edition. No equivalent is available on Windows 2000.
  • A purchase of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise entitles use of Windows Server 2003 (including R2) Enterprise Edition and Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

The caveat is that, even though the licensing permits a prior version of Windows Server, it doesn’t inherently entitle you to access to the media for the installations. This is particularly the case for retail purchases of Windows Server. For customers with enterprise Microsoft agreements (Software Assurances, Select, Premeir, MSDN, etc.), there are download options available. Microsoft explains the downgrade rights on the Windows Server 2008 Downgrade page.

Chances are, the downgrade option doesn’t impact your server practice too much, but it is nice to know to maintain correct licensing.

Does the downgrade option make you feel as if you have more options? Share your comments in the discussion.

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