Migrating to Windows Server 2012 after the retirement of Win2k3? Read this first.

 In Microsoft, Software, Volume Licensing

Organizations should be starting to plan their move off of Windows Server 2003 in anticipation of its end of support on July 14, 2015. As they evaluate their options, a key decision will be identifying the migration destination for applications and workloads.

Microsoft has three target migration destinations: Windows Server 2012, Microsoft Azure, and Office 365. Each target destination will have various licensing implications and costs that need to be examined as part of the overall migration process.

We’ll cover all of these options in a three-part series on licensing considerations for Windows Server 2003 migrations, starting now with Windows Server 2012 — a logical choice if you’re looking to simply upgrade your systems. Read on to learn more about the Windows Server 2012 migration option, including its virtual environment rights and other key licensing considerations.


Datacenter versus Standard edition

Windows Server 2012 R2 is offered in four editions: Standard, Datacenter, Essentials, and Foundation. Here’s a quick look at the licensing model and virtualization rights for each edition:

Windows Server 2012*Each license covers two processors

Because the Standard and Datacenter editions are the two most widely used, we’ll focus on those. Windows Server Standard and Datacenter are only differentiated by virtualization rights, whereas previous editions were differentiated by features and functionality as well. Because of feature parity between the two editions, an organization’s decision for one over the other depends largely on its virtualization strategy.

What’s the role of virtual environments in your organization?

To reach a decision, an organization’s IT team must consider the role of virtual machines (VMs) in their company as well as the number of VMs that will be used. Organizations that rely on highly virtualized environments are better suited for the Datacenter edition, since the licensing of all the physical processors on the server will provide the right to run Windows in an unlimited number of VMs. While this option is more expensive than Standard, it’s the better choice for organizations reliant on VMs.

If you do not plan on working in a highly virtualized environment, Standard edition is the better fit for your needs. Each Standard edition license provides the right to access two VMs. If later you develop a need to run Windows in additional VMs on that server, you can purchase an additional license to stack for additional use rights.

In addition, an organization that purchases Software Assurance (SA) on the Windows Server Standard license can step up the license to Datacenter at any time if it requires a highly virtualized environment. All you pay is the difference between the two editions, making it more cost-effective than purchasing brand new licenses.

Consider your CALs

Although Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter are licensed per processor, Client Access Licenses (CALs) are still required for every user or device accessing features of the server software. Many organizations license their Windows Server CAL as part of the Core CAL or Enterprise CAL suite, which are typically sold as part of an Enterprise Agreement (EA) offering. This method of procurement ensures an organization’s users and devices are covered for the current version of the CAL accessing their server OS and applications. As part of the migration process, it’s important to ensure all users and devices are properly licensed for the 2012 Windows Server CAL.

But it’s important to note that there are two technologies included in the Windows Server 2012 software that, if accessed, require additional CALs. These two technologies are Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Active Directory Rights Management Services (RMS). If users or devices access these features, a CAL is required for the most current version of the server software they’re accessing. Typically, the Windows Server CAL attached to users or devices will match that of the Windows RDS and/or Windows RMS version.

Windows Server 2012 is a viable option for a migration from Windows Server 2003. Which version you choose, however, depends on the role of virtual machines in your organization. Also keep in mind the features and functionality your users or devices will be accessing to remain compliant in terms of licensing.

Stay tuned for an exploration of Microsoft Azure and Office 365 as two other options for your migration. In the meantime, if you have any questions about licensing Windows Server 2012, contact your SHI Account Executive or leave a comment below.

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