License Windows Server 2012 editions in virtual environments

As virtualization consultant I got frequently questions about Windows Server 2012 licensing in virtual environments such as VMware and Hyper-V.  Here is a short blog about Windows Server 2012 licensing in virtual environments.

What about the Windows Server 2012 license:

  • The Windows Server 2012 licenses are based on the physical processor
  • A single license covers two physical processors.

There are two license editions available:

  • Windows Server 2012 Standard edition. A Standard edition license will entitle you to run up to two VMs on up to two processors.
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition.  A Datacenter edition license will entitle you to run an unlimited number of VMs on up to two processors

The  only difference between the two editions are the virtualization rights.  All the features that are available, are the same in both editions for example Windows Server Failover Clustering! The Enterprise edition is retired in Windows Server 2012 licensing.

Windows Server 2012 license examples:

  • For a 2 processor VMware or Hyper-V host with 8 VM’s you need 4 Standard edition licenses
  • For a 4 processor VMware or Hyper-V host with 4 VM’s you need 2 Standard edition licenses

The retail list prices of Windows Server 2012 are:

EditionRetail list price ($)
Standard882
Datacenter4809

Client Access Licenses (CALs) will be needed to access to Windows Server 2012 servers.

The decision to use the standard of datacenter edition licensing depends on the total number of VMs on your hosts. On hosts with more than 11 VMs the datacenter license will be cost effective.

It is allowed to reassign a Windows Server 2012 license from one server to another server but more often than every 90 days. There are some expectations of the 90 days rule to assign the license sooner for example:

  • When having a permanent hardware failure
  • Reallocate processors from one host to another

What about moving a VM?

When using a dynamic move a Windows Server VM to another node for example with Windows Server Clustering, VMware vMotion or Live Migration, the other node needs to be have sufficient Microsoft Windows Server 2012 licenses. So in most cases an Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition license is recommend.

6 thoughts on “License Windows Server 2012 editions in virtual environments

  1. Don’t forget about license mobility when talking about whether to decide between Standard or Datacenter. Unless the rules have changed with Windows Server 2012 (and I don’t believe they have), you can only reassign the Windows license once every 90 days with the Standard edition. That applies to using technologies like vMotion on your virtual machines. If you license Datacenter then you have unlimited virtualization rights and do not have to worry about reassigning Windows licenses.

    Would you only want to be able to use vMotion once every 90 days with Standard? It comes down to more than just the cost of the license when deciding which license is right for your organization.

    Matt

  2. I have a customer that purchased a 2012 Datacenter license for their vsphere hosts, what license key are they suppose to use when registering each of the VM’s they install on the hosts running vsphere?

  3. What about HA? if you have a cluster of 2 ESX servers, 25VM in total, just HA enabled (DRS no licensed) do i have to license both host to cover the 25VM? or just for the VM they have running on top.

  4. @Andres It is allowed to reassign a Windows Server 2012 license from one server to another server but more often than every 90 days. So if the second host does not contain any VM and the HA event does not occur within 90 days it’s okay to license 25 VMs else you must license the VMs on both hosts.

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