Windows Server 2012 Licensing and Virtualization

A Basic Checklist to Get You Started


When you go to the grocery store, you probably bring a list of items you plan to buy. When you go on vacation, you may checkmark the sites you want to visit in a guidebook directory. If you’ve got kids involved in a variety of activities, you’re likely to fill in your weekly calendar with the dates, times, and locations of where each of them has to be at any particular moment.

It’s all about being prepared. And when it comes to your role as an IT leader, one of the biggest things you need to be prepared for is your business’s transition to Windows Server 2012 from Windows Server 2003. It sounds like it’s time to make another checklist, this time focusing on the major points you need to keep in mind for that job. This way, the rules will be laid out for you in an easy to read format when it comes time to looking at your new contract options.

The good news is that the checklist of rules to follow doesn’t need to be that extensive. In fact, you’ll rely on just three basic guides to plan the right licensing solutions for your data center. You’ll find the following points to be of huge help, particularly for licensing Windows Server 2012 for highly virtualized environments. The primary difference between Standard and Datacenter is the number of virtual machines supported on the host hardware.

Here goes:

  1. You will assign a Windows Server license to a physical piece of hardware. It could be a standalone server on which the operating system is installed or the host machine to which a virtual machine (VM) is attached. You are not assigning a Windows Server license to each Windows Server VM that you’ve stood up.   
  2. You must cover all the processors on a server. Whether you choose Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter, you must cover all the processors on a server, with each license good for up to two physical processors. If you opt to assign a host machine a two-processor Windows Server 2012 Standard software license, though, you get only two VMs with that license. If you choose a Datacenter license, you can have an unlimited number of VMs.
  3. You must avoid using Windows Server 2012 Standard in a highly virtualized environment. The better choice here is the Datacenter version with its unlimited VM licensing. This is because of Microsoft’s 90-day license transfer rule, which allows you to transfer a license from one physical host to another only every 90 days. Given that, Datacenter licensing is the only logical choice when you are dealing with a cluster of VM hosts on multiple physical machines, with VMware vMotion or Live Migration moving the VMs from one system to another as workload requirements demand. 

With this list in hand, you’ve got the information you need to make the big switch. Good luck on your Windows 2012 licensing adventures!  

With the end of support date for Windows Server 2003 fast approaching, there's never been a better time to plan your data center transformation. Our experts have designed this helpful tool to get you started on the right upgrade path for your unique environment, applications, and workloads.

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