Virtualization and MS Windows Server Licensing


There are a lot of companies that are using virtualization today and in most of those environments will have Microsoft Windows Server products. If your in this boat I hope that you have changed from the old per server licensing model you may have used back in the day. If not, your probably missing out on some cost savings. There are many Microsoft licensing benefits which can be realized when using virtualization from their server and desktop OS’es to their management software. I will only focus on the server licensing.

Here is how Microsoft licensing for Windows Server breaks down.

Microsoft License Tier
Operating System Installed in VM
Licenses Required
Windows Server Enterprise with SA
(4x vm guest installs per license)
MS Windows Server Standard
MS Windows Server Enterprise
(2000, 2003, & 2008) including R2
VM_Count/4 = Total licenses needed
Windows Server Datacenter with SA
(per processor of esx host)
MS Windows Server Standard
MS Windows Server Enterprise
MS Windows Server Datacenter
(2000, 2003, & 2008) including R2
Server_Processor_Count x Total_Servers = Total licenses needed

Let take an example environment and do some numbers. This is a pretty large environment but it’s probably a common one today. Either way you should do your own cost analysis using real costs and quantities.

vCenter Count
Host (2 Processors)
VM Guests
1 38 432

This is comparison of MS Server licensing comparing the per server module used with physical, and the different options using virtualization model. The pricing in this chart is for licenses with Software Assurance (SA) included for 1 year. Note: The per license cost used in this example is using average costs based on what I have seen in the past. They are NOT costs you will see since this varies all the time.

The pricing in this chart is for licenses with Software Assurance (SA) included for 1 year.

License Model Unit Cost VM Guests Total ESX
Hosts Processors
Licenses
Needed
Total
Cost
Per VM (Standard with SA)
$588.65 432 N/A 432 $254,296.80
Virtualized (Enterprise with SA) $1,912.84 432 N/A 108 $206,586.72
Virtualized (Datacenter with SA) $1,951.31 N/A 76 76 $148,299.56

This chart shows the difference in pricing between the different licensing models.

License Model Total
Cost
Savings
versus
Standard
Savings
versus
Enterprise
#1- Per VM (Standard) $254,296.80 None None
#2- Virtualized (Enterprise) $206,586.72 -$47,710.08 None
#3- Virtualized (Datacenter) $148,299.56 -$105,997.24 -$58,287.16

This chart shows the Software Assurance renewal pricing when renewal comes around each year for this example environment.

License Model Software
Assurance
(1yr)
Savings
versus
Standard
Savings
versus
Enterprise
#1- Per VM (Standard) $61,776.00 None None
#2- Virtualized (Enterprise) $41,109.12 -$20,666.88 None
#3- Virtualized (Datacenter) $29,512.32 -$32,263.68 -$11,596.80

Compared to the physical way of licensing Windows Server systems you could realize a savings of $105,997.24 in upfront licensing costs and $32,263.68 in yearly Software Assurance costs for this example environment. If you plan on putting more than 8 vm guest per host then it will typically start to make sense to just pay for the Datacenter license per processor when using a 2x processor system in my experience. Giving the ease to deploy when virtualizing you’ll more than likely end up with more vm guests than you originally planned. So you’ll want to make sure your compliant.

Reference:

Microsoft Volume Licensing Brief: Licensing Microsoft Server Products in Virtual Environments – Licensing_Microsoft_Server_Products_Virtual_Environments.docx, December 2009, 1/20/2010.