Windows Server 2012 R2 Licensing

As usual, I am not answering any questions about licensing. That’s the job of your reseller or distributor, so ask them.

Microsoft released the updating licensing details for WS2012 R2 several weeks ago.  Remember that once released, you will be buying WS2012 R2, even if you plan to downgrade to W2008 R2.  In this post, I’m going to cover the licensing for “core” editions of Windows Server.

The Core Editions

There aren’t any huge changes to the “core” editions of Windows Server (Datacenter and Standard).  As with WS2012, the two editions are identical technically, having the same scalability and features … except one.


Both the Standard and Datacenter edition cover a licensed server for 2 processors.  Processors are CPUs or sockets.  Cores are not processors.  A server with 2 Intel Xeon E5 processors with 10 cores each has 2 processors.  It requires one Window Server license.  A server with 4 * 16 core AMD processors has 4 processors.  It needs 2 Windows Server licenses.

This applies no matter what downgraded version you plan to install.

Downgrade Rights

According to Microsoft:

If you have Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition you will have the right to downgrade software bits to any prior version or lower edition. If you have Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard edition, you will have the right to downgrade the software to use any prior version of Enterprise, Standard or Essentials editions.


The One Technical Feature That Is Unique To Datacenter Edition

Technically the Datacenter and Standard editions of WS2012 R2 are identical.  With one exception, which is really due to the exceptional virtualization licensing rights granted with the Datacenter edition.

If you use the Datacenter edition of WS2012 R2 (via any licensing program) for the management OS of your hosts Hyper-V then you get a feature called Automated Virtual Machine Activation (AVMA).  With this you get an AVMA key, that you install into your template VMs (guest OS must be WS2012 R2 DC/Std/Essentials) using SLMGR.  When that template is deployed on to the WS2012 R2 Datacenter hosts, then the guest OS will automatically activate without using KMS or online activation.  Very nice for multi-tenant or Network Virtualization-enabled clouds.

Virtualization Rights

Everything in this section applies to Windows Server licensing on all virtualization platforms on the planet outside of the SPLA (hosting) licensing program.  The key difference between Std and DC is the virtualization rights.  Any host licensed with DC gets unlimited VOSEs.  A VOSE (Virtual Operating System Environment) is licensing speak for a guest OS.  In other words:

  1. Say you license a host with the DC edition of Windows Server.
  2. You can install Windows Server (DC or Std) on an unlimited number of VMs that run on that host.
  3. You cannot transfer those VOSEs (licenses) to another host.
  4. You can transfer a volume license of DC (or Standard for that matter) once every 90 days to another host.  The VOSEs move with that host.

The Standard edition comes with 2 VOSEs.  That means you can install the Std edition of Windows Server in two VMs that run on a licensed host:

  1. Say you license a host with the Std edition of Windows Server.
  2. You can install Windows Server Standard on up to 2 VMs that run on that host.
  3. You cannot transfer those VOSEs (licenses) to another host.
  4. You can transfer a volume license of Standard (or DC for that matter) once every 90 days to another host.  The VOSEs move with that host.

You can stack Windows Server Standard edition licenses to get more VOSEs on a host:

    1. Say you license a host with 3 copies of the Std edition of Windows Server.  This is an accounting operation.  You do not install Windows 3 times on the host.  You do not install 3 license keys on the host.
    2. You can install Windows Server Standard on up to 6 (3 Std * 2 VOSEs) VMs that run on that host.
    3. You cannot transfer those VOSEs (licenses) to another host.
    4. You can transfer a volume license of Standard (or DC for that matter) once every 90 days to another host.  The VOSEs move with that host.

There is a sweet spot (different for every program/region/price band) where it is cheaper to switch from Std licensing to DC licensing for each host.

If you need HA or Live Migration then you license all hosts for the maximum number of VMs that can (not will) run on each host, even for 1 second.  The simplest solution is to license each host for the DC edition.

Upgrade Scenarios

WS2012 CALs do not need an upgrade.  WS2012 server licenses require one of the following to be upgraded:

  • Software Assurance (SA)
  • A new purchase

In my opinion anyone using virtualization is a dummy for not buying SA on their Windows Server licensing.  If you plan on availing of new Hyper-V features (assuming you are using Hyper-V) or you want to install even 1 newer edition of Windows Server, then you need to buy the licenses all over again … SA would have been cheaper, and remember that upgrades are just one of the rights included in SA.


This is what everyone wants to know about!  The $US Open NL (the most expensive volume license) pricing is shown, as it’s the most commonly used example:


The Standard edition went up a small amount from W2008 R2 to WS2012.  It has not increased with WS2012 R2.

The Datacenter edition did not increase from W2008 R2 to WS2012.  It has increased with the release of WS2012 R2.  However, think of how much you’re getting with the DC edition: unlimited VOSEs!

Reminder: There is no difference in Windows Server pricing no matter what virtualization you use.  The price of Windows Server on a Hyper-V host is the same as it is on a VMware host.  Please send me the company name/address of your employer or customers if you disagree – I’d love an easy $10,000 for reporting software piracy Open-mouthed smile

Calculating License Requirements

Do the following on a per-server basis.  This applies whether you are using virtualization or not, and no matter what virtualization you plan to use.

Step 1: Count your physical processors

If you have 1 or 2 physical processors in a server then your server needs 1 copy of Windows Server.  If your server will have 4 processors then you need 2 copies of Windows Server.  If your server will have 8 processors then you will need 4 copies of Windows Server.

Step 2: Count your virtual machines

How many virtual machines running Windows Server will possibly run on the host.  This include VMs that normally run on another host, but could be moved (Quick Migration, Live Migration, vMotion) manually or automatically, or failed over due to cluster high availability (HA).

You have 2 hosts in a cluster.  Each is running 2 VMs normally but could run 4 VMs, then you need to license each host for 4 VMs.  A copy of Windows Server Standard gives you 2 VOSEs.  Each host will need 4 VOSEs because 4 VMs could run on each host.  Therefore you need 2 copies of Standard per host.

When is the sweet spot?  That depends on your pricing.  Datacenter costs $6,155 and Standard costs $882 under US Open NL.  $6,155 / $882 = 6.97.  7 copies of Windows Std = the price of Windows DC.  Therefore the sweet spot for switching is 14 VMs per host.  Once you get close to 14 VMs that could run on a host, you would be better off economically by buying the DC edition.

Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2012 R2 Licensing Information

You can now read about the changes and non-changes to Windows Server 2012 R2 licensing.  Microsoft has released three PDFs on the WS2012 R2 site:

I’ll follow up with a deeper dive in a day or two.

Here is my follow up on licensing the core editions of Windows Server 2012 R2.

Surface RT Office & Blurring The Licensing Lines

As usual, don’t bother emailing or commenting with licensing questions. They will be deleted and ignored, no exceptions, and this includes you with your special situation.  Please ask you reseller – that’s why they exist.

As you may be aware, Windows RT (the OS installed on the Surface RT and a few other Windows tablets) comes with a copy of what is effectively (features, license-wise, and rights-wise) Office Home & Student 2013.

Office 2013 has a peculiar limitation because of its relatively low price: you cannot use it in the workplace.  To use Office Home & Student at work, it needs to be “upgraded” to a business version via a license purchase.  This isn’t actually a feature limitation – the versions of Word, Outlook (Windows 8.1 RT has Outlook), etc, all will connect to Exchange, Sharepoint, etc just fine without any upgrades.  What you need is an additional license … something you record that you’ve purchased for that device in a spread sheet (like we need more of those!).

Is there a way to mark a Windows RT device as licensed?  Nope.  I was about to write “Use a custom GPO to add a registry value” but I remembered that Windows RT cannot join a domain.  Is there a way to detect unlicensed machines?  Nope.  Can you stop end users connecting to services with their Windows RT … only if you put in networking measures (NAP, NAQ, etc) to actually prevent BYOD.

Ooooooookay then.  I guess Microsoft are pretty clear on this?  Ehhhhhh actually it’s quite the opposite.  When talking heads go on podcasts they’re saying things like “Surface RT is great in the office because you don’t need to buy additional expensive software like Office”.  That line isn’t uncommon from MSFT out in the world.

This reinforces or reminds a few things:

  • Never EVER listen to a Microsoft person when it comes to licensing Microsoft software.  If that person is allowed to talk to the public then they clearly do not work hands-on with Microsoft licensing policies (read the PUR to understand what I mean).  Taking that person’s word as policy will get you audited, stung, penalised, and fired.
  • Windows RT has no place in business.  It’s a consumer device.  In the long run it’ll be cheaper to buy an Atom tablet (yes, it’s not as powerful as a laptop, but it you want a laptop, buy a laptop instead of a tablet) + Office for business (that can also run other programs) than Surface RT + Office for business + other “paper"-based” licensing controls.
  • Microsoft licensing is a mess.  While things like Server and System Center are pretty easy (if you can’t count then may I suggest a career in drooling?) the new licensing that was added for Windows 8 is a complete and utter cluster-f**k – and yes, that is the official licensing term.

As usual, don’t bother emailing or commenting with licensing questions. They will be deleted and ignored, no exceptions, and this includes you with your special situation.  Please ask you reseller – that’s why they exist.

Windows 8 VDA Licensing For VDI

I won’t be answering any questions on this post.  If you have any questions then ask your reseller, LAR, or distributor (if you are a reseller) – that’s what you pay them for.  The other important note that this post is correct (or as correct as I can verify) based on how things are at this time (written on 14/Nov/2012).
Microsoft has made some great improvements with licensing.  Windows Server licensing is simple, and virtualisation has been simplified no end – those of you who disagree with the latter really need to stop overthinking things because it is simple.  Windows 8 started out great too; a nice small set of SKUs.  But then they started figuring out licensing for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Windows To Go … and this stuff is a mess.  Start reading and you’ll soon see why I’m redirecting everyone to bring their their unique scenarios and questions to their reseller/LAR/distributor.  I just don’t have the time.
One thing that didn’t change was the need for VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) in some form.  You cannot just buy a copy of Windows XP/Vista/7/8, install it in a VM, and let people have at it.  You need to license your VDI client devices with VDA (in some form), and that’s what has changed.
There are a number of scenarios, depending on the client device:
Windows PCs
There are two ways to license this:
  1. You attach Software Assurance (SA) to company PCs using Windows 8 Pro. This gives you Windows 8 Enterprise and the many benefits of Software Assurance.  This includes VDA.
  2. You do not attach SA to your PCs.  This might be because you don’t want to buy SA, or because the client PCs are the users’ home PCs.  In this case, you have to buy VDA for each VDI client device.
Company Owned Windows RT Tablets As Companion Devices
This is where:
  • The user uses a PC with SA as their primary device AND
  • The company supplies the user with a Windows RT device as their companion device that will be used as a VDI client.
There is a new SA benefit called Windows RT Companion VDA Rights.  With this right, the VDA granted to the primary PC that has SA is also extended to the Windows RT device.
Let me be very clear on this:
  • The VDA right does not extend to BYOD or employee-owned Windows RT devices.  It only extends to company owned Windows RT devices.
  • The VDA right does not extend to any other kind of company owned tablet, including iPad, Android, or Windows 8 (home or Pro).
Yes, I know; your company is more likely to purchase Windows 8 Pro tablets, which do not get this right, and BYOD is a hot topic, and employee owned devices (even Windows RT) also do not get this right.
Employee Owned Devices Outside The Company Firewall
This is where an employee will access the VDI VMs from personally owned devices outside of the company firewall, i.e. from the Internet, and not from inside the office.  There are two options:
  1. If you have SA for the user’s primary device (company owned PC + Windows 8 Pro), then you get a right called Roaming Use Rights at no extra cost.  To quote Microsoft: “Roaming Use Rights allow the primary user any licensed device to access a virtual instance of Windows running in the datacenter (VDI) or Windows To Go from non-corporate devices such as personally-owned or hotel business center PCs while away from the office”
  2. Without SA on a primary device, then you have no choice but to buy VDA for the employee owned devices.
Employee Owned Devices Inside The Company Firewall (BYOD To Work)
This is when an employee brings their own device to work (inside the company firewall) to access VDI.  Once again, there are two options:
  1. If you have purchased your licensing through Select, Enterprise Agreement, Enrollment For Education Solutions, or School Enrollment AND you have purchased SA for the user’s primary device (company owned PC + Windows 8 Pro), then you can purchase a Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL).  This entitles the user to bring up to 4 of their devices to work, and use them as VDI clients.  Note that an SA customer doesn’t need CSL if the devices are being used only from outside of work (the company firewall).
  2. Sorry: if you are licensed via OEM, Open, OV, or OVS, then it appears that you must not want to do BYOD.  You’ll have no choice but to buy VDA for each employee owned device being brought to work for use as a VDI client.
Everything Else
Off the top of my head, this appears to be company owned devices such as Windows 8 Pro tablets, company owned iPads or Android, company owned phones, etc, and company owned Windows RT devices where the primary device doesn’t have SA.  In this case, you need to buy VDA for each client device.
I know; it’s a mess.  What if BYOD devices are allowed in the office but must be outside the firewall?  I don’t know that one yet.  Why are company owned Windows 8 Pro tablets lesser citizens than Windows RT?  I’m guessing that MSFT must think that a Windows 8 Pro tablet would only ever be a primary device, and that’s a big generalised assumption.  You can find the information here.
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Buy Office 2010 Now, And Get A Free Upgrade to Office 2013!

To keep the Microsoft sales pipe flowing, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Office 2013 if you buy Office 2012 now:


Some notes on the Home & Student and Home & Business SKUs:


That’s a pretty nice offer!  Limited to twenty-five (25) Offer redemptions per person or organization.  So the medium/enterprise has limited usability of the offer, but the small business or SOHO can take full advantage of it.

Note the the Office Pro Plus customer can chose a year of Office 365 Home Premium which includes “Click To Run” Office 2013 (click to install it on your machine from the net).  So get Office for your computer and get email/collaboration and Lync as an optional upgrade for a year!

The Office Pre-Launch Offer has two distinct periods:

  • Eligibility Period – from October 19, 2012 to April 30, 2013: You must purchase, install, and activate your Office 2010 or Office for Mac 2011 product. You may sign up at to be notified by email when the products are ready for download.
  • Redemption Period – from the availability dates of the new Office to May 31, 2013: If you signed up, you will receive an email from Microsoft when the new Office is ready for download. You must redeem the offer at within the redemption period.

Make sure you check the offer site for the terms and conditions.

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How To Buy Windows 8 For Different Scenarios

This post mainly applies to SMEs, small/home office (SoHo), and personal usage.  The following slide describes the various scenarios where you want to buy Windows 8 and which type of package to sell/buy:



  • OEM: the manufacturer supplied installation that cannot be moved to another piece of tin.  A Windows machine must start with either OEM or Personal Use License (see later).
  • FPP Upgrade: Fully packaged product, the thing you buy off the shelf or direct from MSFT. Only Windows 8 (aka Home) and Windows 8 Pro. It is an upgrade license only.
  • VL: Volume license, which you can buy if you have more than 5 machines. It is legally an upgrade license (even though it can do a clean install). It requires the machine already has an existing license, e.g. an OEM of Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8 Pro.
  • SA: Software Assurance, an optional add-on or Open or Select (volume) license programs that offers free upgrades and additional benefits for a certain number of years, e.g. 2 years.  EA and Open Value license programs include SA.
  • Personal Usage License: The “system builder” license that is available to actual system builders. Now it is also available to enthusiasts who build their own PC an have no unassigned OEM license to start with. Not for upgrades, legalization, or businesses over 5 users.
  • Legalization: You or an auditor has found discrepancies and you need to fix your licensing


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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.

Licensing For Windows 8 Windows To Go

There are licensing requirements for Windows To Go; it is not just as simple as getting a copy of Windows 8 Enterprise and Bob’s your uncle.  Here are the licensing requirements:


The mentioned CSL is a new companion subscription license.  A companion device is a device such as a Windows 8 tablet that is the user’s secondary device, and where the PC is the primary device.

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Windows 8 for Business Licensing Guides, Including Windows To Go, App Sideloading, BYOD, and VDI

I have found 3 guides to (try) help you understand how to Windows (including Windows 8 and older versions via downgrade rights) for desktops, companion devices, and VDI via volume licensing in the business:

I actually was going to try write a longer post detailing lots of the details of Windows 8 licensing butitseemslikepunctuationandwritingunderstandableEnglishhavefallenoutoffavourinRedmondThelanguagein






That’s my own, personal, non-work-related opinion on that.

Some interesting bits:

  • If you want to dual boot a PC, then you need to cover it with Software Assurance (SA)
  • SA also gives you rights to 4 VMs on the licensed Windows 8 machine.  That’s not new; I remember it from way, way back from when I first started blogging.
  • OEM licensing can only downgrade to Windows 7 (except Ultimate) or Windows Vista.  You need a volume license upgrade to downgrade to XP.
  • You need to look at Companion Subscription Licensing (CSL – available to buy for PCs covered by VL upgrade with SA) if you’re looking at Windows To Go or VDI from additional (non primary) devices such as tablets or smartphones.

This stuff is complex.  Please consult with your LAR (if you are buying Select/Enterprise Agreement), reseller (if you are buying Open/OV/OVS) or distributor (if you are reselling Open/OV/OVS) if this stuff is unclear (which it will be if you are not an aforementioned constitutional lawyer).

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Volume Licensing for Windows Server 2012 And Windows 8 Are Now Available

Come and get ‘em while they’re hot!  The volume license price lists have been updated.  Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter are there and you can buy it today.

Windows 8 is also on the volume license price list and you can buy it today too.