Windows Server 2012–Won’t Somebody Think Of The CALs?!?!

After all the chat about Windows Server 2012 licensing and how to license WS2012 for virtualised environments, how many times have you seen a mention of CALs?  Not very often, I’d say.

Windows Server does require you to count processors (2 at a time) but it is not per-processor licensing like with SQL Server.  Unlike SQL Server per proc, you still need to buy CALs for any users/devices (depending on your CAL type choice) that authenticate against Windows Server.

Note: this post is about volume licensing, and not OEM and not SPLA.

For example, you have 1000 users.  Your 50 servers are running Windows Server 2008 R2 and you have 1000 user CALs for Windows Server 2008 R2.  If you decide to upgrade your 2 DCs to WS2012 then you need to 1000 WS2012 CALs.

The cheapest way to “upgrade” CALs is to purchase them with SA.  Some will look at the cost and balk at it.  But go ahead and buy them without SA.  You’ll soon find an LOB app that requires WS2012 and you’ll have to “upgrade”.  And then you’ll find that there is no upgrade.  It’ll be a flat-out repurchase, and SA will look pretty good then, especially when you look at all the additional benefits in includes.

What about virtualisation?  You only buy CALs for the services your users/devices are accessing.  Your users don’t access Hyper-V.  You can buy WS2012 for your hosts, and continue to run WS2008 R2 in your VMs.  If no VM runs WS2012 as the guest OS, then your W2008 R2 CALs are OK.  But upgrade a virtual Exchange, a virtual SharePoint, or a virtual file server to WS2012 and you’ll need WS2012 CALs.

9 thoughts on “Windows Server 2012–Won’t Somebody Think Of The CALs?!?!”

  1. Thanks for the special note about CALs not being required if just Hyper-V is using 2012. I was not aware, and it makes a huge difference!

  2. Very good point, Aidan. I am seeing some blog posts here and there where people are skipping over the entire CAL issue. I guess they think those CALS are free or will magically just appear?


  3. Good info!

    I’ve seen iPads coming into a few of our environments now (our clients are usually not that tech savvy and the LOB apps, such as one we sell, don’t always lend themselves to tablets so tablets are still a rarity for the time being).
    Anyway, the IT guys there just hook them up to terminal server without a second thought.
    If there are device CALs in use then they ought to be getting a CAL for the iPad, without exception, correct?
    If it’s a Windows RT tablet then I believe that changes somewhat. Could you confirm that? I know back in the old days a Windows 2000 client automatically gave you TS access rights for Windows 2000 Terminal Services but that stopped with XP. Is that coming back with Windows 8 in any shape or form?


  4. Core CAL suite baby! One of the best investments you can make imho. I wonder how you can get the message out however, seems so many people license server CALS, then go and do the other stuff, paying way too much

    1. John,
      The CAL Suite page on Microsoft is probably the worst page I’ve seen of theirs. It doesn’t even describe what products are covered! It looks like a “landing page” with no actual content useful to IT pros.

      I’m somewhat familiar with CAL Suites (Core & Enterprise), but their page was not helpful whatsoever.

      – Ryan P

  5. Hey Aidan:
    Quick questions regarding CALs. We are a linux shop, and run Ubuntu 12.04LTS and CentOS. The good thing about Hyper-V 2012 is that it is free. But the live migration and live migration without shared storage features require the domain controller. If we need HA on the domain controllers, we need to run 2 instances of Windows Server 2012 as active active domain controllers, then which version of the Windows Server 2012 is the cheapest way to have a pair of highly available DC? Will foundation or essential editions allow clustering of domain controller function? I am thinking to license it by user CAL and we can limit users on the production cluster to just a few admins. I know foundation or essentials editions have connection limits. Will we run into its limitations?


    1. You cannot run Hyper-V on Essentials or Foundation and those two SKUs therefore have no virtualization rights. You’ll need Standard at least. Consult a reseller.

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