Microsoft goes public with Windows Server 2012 versions, licensing

Microsoft goes public with Windows Server 2012 versions, licensing

Summary: Enterprise and Small Business Server are both going away; four new versions of Windows Server remain with the new release, which could be released to manufacturing real soon now.


There will be four versions of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft officials revealed on July 5, two of which will be licensed to customers on a per-processor basis.

The four SKUs are Foundation (available to OEMs only); Essentials; Standard and Datacenter. The Essentials SKU is for small/mid-size businesses and is limited to 25 users. The Standard and Datacenter SKUs round out the line-up. The former Windows Server Enterprise SKU is gone from the set of offered options.

Here's Microsoft's new SKU/licensing chart for the four editions of Windows Server 2012:


"There were about a dozen SKUs in Server 2008 R2 including SBS (small business server) and HPC (high performance computing). Now we have 4 SKUs in WS2012," said Aidan Finn, a Microsoft Valuable Professional (MVP) with an expertise in Virtual Machine who works for MicroWarehouse Ltd, an Irish Value Added Distributor, as a Technical Sales Lead. (Finn has more on these changes in a new post on his blog.)

Finn explained that Standard covers 2 CPUs in a host, and goes from one VOSE (virtual operating system environment - 1 free Std install in a VM on that host) to two, and "now has all the features and scalability of Datacenter." He noted there will be a small price increase, but said he thought that wouldn't matter, as it "should be virtualised anyway and the VOSE rights doubling will compensate.

Windows Server Datacenter was a minimum of two 1-CPU licenses with unlimited VOSEs.  "Now it is a simpler SKU that covers two CPUs in a host with unlimited VOSEs," Finn said.

"The news is good for 99.5% of people.  It's all getting simpler, and matching the model of the System Center 2012 Server Management License (SML)," Finn claimed.

Microsoft delivered the last public test version of Windows Server 2012, known as the Release Candidate, in late May. The product is expected to be released to manufacturing the same time that Windows 8 client is -- which could be this month or next.

Update: There's a lengthy frequently asked questions document from Microsoft about the new SKU/licensing line-up. As a couple of my readers noted, the document makes it plain that there will be no more Small Business Server versions of Windows, going forward. That's not making some folks very happy.

The FAQ says: "Windows Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-on, which includes SQL Server and Windows Server as component products, will be the final such Windows Server offering."

Update No. 2: Folks are asking whether today is also the official acknowledgement of no more Windows Home Server releases. I am asking Microsoft to see if officials will say anything on this (finally), one way or the other....

And the official answer on WHS is: It's dead.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Office 365

    With Office 365, does a small business need a dedicated Exchange server any more? If you needed the SQL Server functionality, you were already into more IT than the average small business anyway... I can see partners being unhappy but I'm not sure small businesses are losing out.
    • Yes and no

      Yes, for businesses that are heavily regulated and need to keep their data on-site. No, if you're using Office 365 (see point 1 again).

      The cloud isn't do-able for smaller businesses like professional services where customer data can't be relegated to distributed computing....and then there's the problem with WHO and WHERE your cloud actually is operating. Remember that the Patriot Act is a big problem for any company outside of the US.
      • small subset?

        Is the intersection of businesses too small to run standard server infrastructure AND so heavily regulated they can't use a FISMA/HIPAA/ISO 27001/EU Safe Harbour/EU Model Clause/geo-located cloud service really big enough to justify a whole product? The extra-territoriality of the Patriot Act is a concern even though Office 365 has data centres outside the US, but I see small businesses using Google Apps & Gmail commonly (I wouldn't advice it for a range of reasons, but I offer it as evidence of the lack of concern about data location).
    • Office 365 versus an onsite Exchange is not the same

      I've run both Office 365 in various needs and an on premise Exchange. Office 365 has had down time, I've needed to open trouble tickets, and I have to find new ways of doing things that I can merely just RDP to the server and fix in two seconds. I'm a small business owner who has partners that refuse to have email in the cloud.

      A hosted Exchange with a third party vendor who has a faster support response is a better solution. The Office 365 P plan gives you community/forum support only. When a small business needs support.... you NEED support.
      • @bitzie

        My clients have run both on-premise Exchange servers and Office 365.

        Office 365 has had down time, as has my clients' on-premise Exchange infrastructure.

        Some of my clients have experienced several days' down-time when their Exchange servers' hardware has failed necessitating a server rebuild/replacement and data store recovery. Most recently, a clients' Exchange & AD servers HDD's crashed when they lost power in an electrical storm: It took more than 10 days to fully restore service causing MAJOR disruption to their business.

        Sure, Azure went offline for 24hours. But the Office365 Op's team is FAR more capable compared to my clients' IT "teams".

        Most of my clients are now more than happy to host their business email in the cloud operated by vendors that they trust. Most of my clients trust Microsoft because they have proven to be HIGHLY capable. They trust Microsoft FAR more than they trust smaller operators with less substantial infrastructure, history and capabilities.

        When a small business needs support.... you NEED support. In my extensive experience, Microsoft's BPOS and Office365 support has been exemplary. They respond quickly and authoritatively to the (very few) issues we or our clients have had and follow-up with regular updates and follow-on checkups.
        • @bitcrazed,

          Why would your server's HDDs crash due to a power failure? Aren't they connected to UPS's? Why would it take days to get your servers back up? Don't you have 4 hour response warranties on your hardware?

          I think people put in the cheapest servers they can find, with substandard parts, little redundancy, and bad warranties, and then expect them to be reliable. Sure, I've had customers with harddisk failures. They didn't miss a minute of work. They are setup on RAID 1. I had the vendor send out a new harddisk, I pushed the release button, took out the defective harddisk, slid in the new one, and let it automatically rebuild the RAID, all while the server was running and people working. No down time. Same thing with a failed power supply.

          I've taken all my customers off the cloud with their crummy service, and poorly trained/lazy techs. Now they are on to their own reliable servers. They are happy again. The cloud is a fancy name for a server located who knows where, serviced by who knows who. I've seen the work these cloud techs do. It stinks. The whole concept is completely oversold.
    • Yes

      The idea that cloud services make in-house obsolete is a sales pitch, not a technical decision point. You might as well argue that the availability and relative ease of configuration/maintenance for open-source alternatives makes Exchange obsolete.

      For that matter, why not just say Office 365 makes Exchange obsolete for any company? Hey, if the small companies don't need internal servers why should the big ones?

      Bottom line is many factors come into play when deciding if an application -- any application -- should be maintained internally or relegated to a Cloud service.
  • Home server is toast

    ..and not sure why I can't read the comments to the post, but yes Home server is no longer a product.
  • "Real soon now" - Hmmm

    Generally, when you see "Real Soon Now" (which is usually capitalized) applied to software, it's the Jerry Pournelle definition, which roughly means "the vendor says it's soon, but no one really believes it" (give or take, more or less, your mileage may vary). In this case, the vendor (Microsoft) isn't really saying anything, but everyone else figures RTM will happen in July.
  • Clarification on Datacenter pricing

    The chart shows "Processor + CAL" (singular "Processor") for $4,809. Just so there isn't any confusion (I checked, worrying that they had raised the price), $4,809 is for two CPUs, not one.
  • Microsoft goes public with Windows Server 2012 versions, licensing

    Its only a matter of time before we upgrade the office to Windows Server 2012. Good times ahead for us!
    Loverock Davidson-
  • So long, SBS

    The company I work for has used SBS 2003 and SBS 2008, and I've never really been a fan of it. It does put a helpful spin on some common tasks, but the complexity of running Exchange + WSUS + Sharepoint + AD on a single machine quickly launches it into the realm of IT guy / consultant territory. It doesn't help that Windows Updates (especially in 2003) would break a default configuration of the server periodically. We never could figure out a reason to use Sharepoint in a company of our size, especially when there are less complicated collaboration tools out there.

    Our SBS 2008 server is now getting long in the tooth, and I was thinking about what are upgrade options are. We came to the conclusion that in 2012 there is no real sense for us to run our own Exchange server; it's generally just a PITA and there are real, grown-up cloud offerings out there that can satisfy our needs. (Although, we plan on trusting but verifying with our own periodic backups.) That leaves just running AD and DNS on a simple Server 2008 R2 Foundation machine -- a standard set up without the complexity of SBS.

    I think Microsoft just came to the same realization that we did.
    • Foundation is only 15 users

      One of the prob with foundation is that it's 15 users only/no virtualization and OEM. So if you have a firm larger than 15/less than 75, you are back to looking at traditional Windows Server.
  • Web edition?

    No CAL free web version, Foundation? OEM only?

    SBS dead? What it's too complicated for MS to look after such a large market with a simple product.

    CALs for a server is commercial these days anyway.

    The bizarre behaviour of MS continues.
    Richard Flude
    • Bring back editing

      CALs for a server is comical these days anyway.
      Richard Flude