Today, Microsoft announced the different editions that will ship for Windows Server 2012 when it is released. Guess we’re getting close to RTM (or so Mary Jo Foley says). There’s a bit of a change in what will be available which you should be aware of. We will have:

  • Foundation (OEM only, so not really something you can buy per se)
  • Essentials
  • Standard
  • Datacenter

You may notice one major edition has been eliminated: Enterprise. I find this pretty funny and ironic since SQL Server 2012 made the opposite decision – axe Datacenter and just keep Enterprise. Looks like the two marketing organizations didn’t have a pow-wow ūüôā Also of note is that Small Business Server is kaput as well, and apparently, not to return. That won’t make some happy.

Licensing wise, this also changes the landscape a little. Here’s a quick comparison table with 2008 R2:


Windows Server 2008 R2 ERP
(US $)

Windows Server 2012 ERP
(US $)



 $425 (up to 25 users)


 $1,029 (w/ 5 CALs)

 $882 (Processor + CAL)


 $3,919 (w/ 25 CALs)



 $2,999 per processor (min. 2; unlimited virtualisation)

 $4,809 (Processor + CAL; minimum of 2 processors; unlimited virtualization)

Here is the link to the Windows Server 2008/R2 licensing guide in PDF format  and here is the link to its 2012 counterpart if you want to see things in gory detail.  The biggest change is that things across the board seem to be going per-processor instead of, say, a single server license fee (no matter how may processors/cores you had).

From my perspective the most important change is this: Windows Server failover clustering (WSFC) is now included in Windows Server 2012 Standard (this is in that 2012 document I link previously). As of writing this blog post, I don’t know if Windows will limit the total number of nodes like SQL Server does with Standard edition and installing FCIs. I will update accordingly when I get a definitive answer. Stay tuned …

UPDATE 2:30PM Some of this change seems to be directly due to feedback from customers. The goal apparently¬†was to simplify things and not make licensing the confusing mess it sometimes has been (my opinion on the confusing mess part, of course). While doing things per proc may anger some, it standardizes things across the board. Whether or not you agree with it is a total different story. With having the same feature sets and yes – including up to the maximum number of nodes in a WSFC allowed with NO restrictions – it really boils down to the best licensing scheme for your needs. The value prop is there regardless of which edition you choose. If you’re going to be doing a lot of virtualization, Datacenter is your ticket to paradise. That’s the biggest difference here. And really, what that translates to is if you’re not using VMs, you can probably go with Standard all the way. $882 per processor¬†for four sockets is $3528, which is still cheaper than Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise.

BIG DISCLAIMER: I don’t play a licensing expert on TV or in real life. It can get complicated – especially if you’re, say, looking at a multi-site, multi-instance availability group scenario with SQL Server 2012. Your best bet to find out how this will impact you is to not only read the PDFs linked above, but talk to those who actually acquire licenses for your deployments.