Still No News On Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 Licensing

Microsoft since released the information and you can find my summary on the core editions here.

As you may know, customers with Windows 8 will be getting a free update to Windows 8.1 via the Windows Store.  That’s a nice deal.  There is no news on what will happen with Windows Server 2012 R2 or System Center 2012 R2 (WSSC 2012 R2).  Note that WS2012 news came out very late in the day.  I heard nothing was presented at WPC on the topic.  So we don’t know:

  • Will WS2012 R2 be a new server OS license, where upgrade rights are only granted to Software Assurance (SA) customers?
  • Will WS2012 CALs be good for WS2012 R2, as I am told W2008 CALs were for W2008 R2?
  • Will WS2012 customers get a free upgrade?
  • Anything about the licensing of WSSC 2012 R2.

Microsoft has to be careful here.  There has been a certain amount of customer/partner alienation over the past year or two.  If they said “no upgrade rights” then Microsoft would piss off a lot of customers.  It would also fragment the install base significantly.  This isn’t just an accounting issue; how many of you working on current OSs feel as comfortable with an OS that’s 2-3 generations old?  I know I lose touch very quickly.

On another point, their field staff are probably fretting right now.  Pretty much everyone in Microsoft field has a sales target of some kind.  How many customers have read about the wonders of WSSC 2012 R2, and are deciding to hold off on buying for 6 months because a purchase now might not give them upgrade rights.  While that doesn’t impact the EA customer (who has upgrade rights through SA), not all large enterprises have SA, and a huge number of businesses are too small to qualify for SA.  All sales are measured!

Microsoft could score big by providing free upgrade rights to all WS2012 customers.  It would be a PR coup and prospective customers could be talked into buying now (the important thing for MSFT), start deploying the core pieces, and upgrade where/when appropriate.

If I could make a recommendation I would say:

  • Allow customers free upgrades to Server/CAL within a major release boundary.  For example, any customer who buys within the 2012 generation (2012, 2012 R2, 2012 R3 if there is one) should get free upgrades within that generation.  If we are getting annual or near annual releases then it makes no financial difference to MSFT, and they’re still getting the same amount of revenue for the same amount of development (note that pre- and release costs have probably increased by a factor of 2 or 3).
  • Do the same for CALs.  A 2012 CAL should be good for 2012 R2 and 2012 R3 – likewise a 2012 R2 CAL should be good for 2012 R2 (if there will be one).
  • In summary, treat R2, R3, etc as if they were service packs, license-wise.  Nice and simple.
  • Keep it simple: Any effort to implement “Dungeons and Dragons” rules (like with Office 365) creates chaos, discontent, ill-will, and accidental software pirates (those who think they are legit but are not – only because of Microsoft-created complexity).

FYI, W2008 R2 customers without SA will have to buy new licenses/CALs, no matter what.  Those with current SA at the time of WSSC 2012 R2 release will be entitled to upgrades, just as they are now to WS2012 2012 and SysCtr 2012.

And before you ask, no, I don’t expect any changes with System Center licensing, and yes, System Center Essentials is a dead-end product.


I was told via Twitter by Ryan Boud (@HmmConfused) that an announcement was made on the Microsoft Virtualization Academy Jump Start regarding CALs.  Microsoft will follow the W2008 R2 precedent and enable WS2012 CALs to be used with WS2012 R2.

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6 Replies to “Still No News On Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2 Licensing”

  1. In the MVA Jump Start it was said that WS2012 R2 would be a new server OS license, where upgrade rights are only granted to Software Assurance (SA) customers.

    • Ah OK, same as the W2008/R2 model:
      – If you have SA on the OS you can upgrade.
      – You can buy a new OS to upgrade.
      – W2008 CALs will be ok on WS2012 R2.

  2. Too bad, we’ve got SA on our DCE (from 2008 R2, bought 10 days before the 2012 release) but a good friend of mine bought a straight out 2012 DCE license. Even with his CAL’s transferring, he won’t likely upgrade. At least it’s not as bad as for SQL Server people, no R2 and straight to a new 2014 with new CAL’s! What a drag!

  3. Fragmentation will come to Hyper V if Microsoft does not come up with an easier way to upgrade clusters. The current method is horrible (building a new cluster).

    After migrating 4 clusters from 2008 R2 to 2012 (8 node, 3 node, and 2 – 2 nodes). There currently is no “must have” feature in 2012 R2 that makes me want to go through that process again any time soon.

    • Remember that if you have enough disk space, Cross-Version Live Migration will allow you to do this swing migration with zero VM service downtime.

  4. Thanks for this info. I was hoping 2012 R2 was going to be a service pack-like thing, now we’ll have to do in-place upgrades which I don’t like.

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