Microsoft is unraveling the tangle of licensing options that have come to characterize Windows Server.
With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft claims that its licensing strategy boils down to three words: simple, economical and cloud-optimized. Judging by the streamlined new purchasing options, the software giant is at least living up to the 'simple' part of its plan.
IT managers will be faced with just four versions of Windows Server 2012 when it launches this year. Technically three, since the Foundation edition is a general purpose, OEM-only version of the server OS with a 15 user account limits and no native virtualization support. Foundation works only on single processor systems.
Microsoft is betting that small businesses will embrace the cloud and forgo expansive -- and expensive -- IT setups with the $425 Essentials edition. It ships with pre-configured hooks to cloud services and a simplified user interface, according to the company. Like Foundation, Essentials does not support virtualization natively and only supports one processor. The user account limit gets a bump to 25.
Things get interesting when deciding between the Standard and Data Center editions. This requires longtime Windows Server buyers to get used to the new per-processor licensing scheme.
Microsoft explains, "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."
It may take some getting used to, but the software giant is taking steps to help customers navigate the transition. In one example, Microsoft offers the following upgrade path advice: "For Standard edition you can add more virtual instances by assigning additional licenses to the server (two incremental virtual instances are added per license)."
Windows Server 2012 Standard is meant for "low density or non-virtualized environments," according to Microsoft. Priced at $882, it offers the full set of Windows Server functionality but is limited to two virtual instances.
Lastly, there's the $4,809 Datacenter edition. Aimed at private and hybrid cloud implementations, this version offers support for an unlimited number of virtual instances. The Datacenter version best reflects the "cloud-optimized" goal Microsoft set for the venerable server operating system, which finds itself competing in an increasingly cloud-enabled IT solutions ecosystem.
Microsoft put a lot of work into making Windows Server 2012 its most cloud-friendly OS yet. That means being able to handle big virtual workloads.
Hyper-V, the company’s virtualization platform, was given added muscle with support for up to 1 TB of memory per virtual machine and 64 TB of storage per virtual disk. Microsoft also spent considerable time optimizing the operating system’s Live Migration, Live Storage Migration and Hyper-V Network Virtualization capabilities to shift workloads non-disruptively across a Windows Server environment.