Technology is a fickle beast. One minute you’re the darling of everyone’s delight and the next you’re a has been. While Windows Server 2008 R2 is a very capable operating system, being years old it was time for its successor to make an appearance. Let me introduce you to Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC).

The previous complicated license structure has been simplified and it’s easier than ever to determine the right Windows Server edition for you. Choose from just four editions of Windows Server 2012, based on the size of your organization and your requirements for virtualization and cloud computing.

As you can see from the following table, the Datacenter edition with unlimited virtualization rights provides the benefits of cloud-level scale with predictable, lower costs. Standard edition now offers all of the same enterprise-class features as Datacenter and is differentiated only by virtualization rights.

Editions Overview

Edition

Ideal for…

High Level Feature Comparison

Licensing Model

Pricing Open NL (US$)

Datacenter

Highly virtualized private & hybrid cloud environments

Full Windows Server functionality with unlimited virtual instances

Processor + CAL*

$4,809**

Standard

Low density or non-virtualized environments

Full Windows Server functionality with two virtual instances

Processor + CAL*

$882**

Essentials

Small business environments

Simpler interface, pre-configured connectivity to cloud based services; no virtualization rights

Server (25 User Account Limit)

$425**

Foundation

Economical general purpose server

General purpose server functionality with no virtualization rights

Server (15 User Account Limit)

OEM Only

 * CALs are required for every user or device accessing a server directly or indirectly. See the Product Use Rights for details.

** Pricing represents Open No Level (NL) ERP. For your specific pricing, contact your Microsoft reseller.

I’m a big proponent of Virtual Labs and here again they shine. If you don’t have the time to download, install and configure Windows Server 2012 or if you just want to explore certain features then you should definitely visit the Windows Server 2012 Virtual Labs. There are 16 quality labs to choose from and taken in 90 minute blocks shouldn’t overwhelm your senses.

There are literally hundreds of new features and enhancements spanning virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. All of these capabilities can be found here along with the bits here.