Virtualization drives new Windows Server 2012 pricing

Simplified licensing model centered on virtualization, users

Virtualization is playing a big role in the rationale behind the streamlining of the product and pricing structure for the new Windows Server 2012.

Microsoft has put forward the simplified licensing structure that includes just four individual products: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation.

The new licensing structure is a far cry from the rather convoluted structure for Windows Server 2008, where features were mixed with hardware capabilities (like processor types and RAM) to create Special Purpose editions.

The new pricing, Microsoft states, is now "based on the size of your organization and your requirements for virtualization and cloud computing."

Datacenter and Standard will be the two main products in the new Windows Server 2012 product line, each offering the same on-board features. The key differences will be in licensing: Client Access Licenses will be needed for server access, and will be licensed on a per-socket-pair scale. Virtualization is the key differentiator, with the Standard edition running on up to host plus two VMs and the Datacenter edition available for any number of VMs.

Pricing will reflect this scalability, too: Standard starts at $882, and Datacenter at $4,809.

Microsoft is clearly setting virtualization as the dividing line here. The Essentials edition, which, um, essentially replaces the Small Business edition of Windows Server and the OEM-licensed Foundation edition will have no virtualization rights associated with their respective license models.

The pricing puts Windows Server in the ballpark with one of its primary competitors: Red Hat's Red hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). A two-socket, unlimited-virtual-guest Standard subscription for RHEL 6 is only $1,999, but in two years that's $3,998, and in three years, a RHEL subscription will run you $5,997. The simplified Windows Server model also meshes better with the RHEL pricing model, which will undoubtedly make it easier for sales teams from both companies to make their pitches better.

But while Windows Server 2012 may have the name recognition and the smoother pricing and licensing model, it will still have to contend with SUSE Linux and Canonical's Ubuntu--and that's just the commercial vendors. All manner of community-driven Linux distributions, such as CentOS and Scientific Linux, are making big inroads in cloud and virtualization space.

The streamlining is no doubt a welcome change for system admins and developers still committed to the Windows platform, and will make Windows Server 2012 a stronger contender at a time when Microsoft needs a better performance in the marketplace.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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