Microsoft anounces new virtualization friendly licensing

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Woo Hoo!

I love days like today :-).  Today we have announced new licensing plans for our server software which is much more virtualization friendly.  I quick summary of the changes is as follows:

  • New virtualization use rights for Windows Server™ 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition and Windows Server “Longhorn” Datacenter Edition enable cost-effective consolidation.  Licenses for the upcoming Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition will allow customers to run up to four virtual instances on one physical server at no additional cost. Licenses for the Datacenter Edition of the version of Windows Server, code-named “Longhorn,” will give customers the right to run an unlimited number of virtual instances on one physical server.

  • Licensing by running instance improves the value and flexibility of Windows Server System products. Customers will no longer license every inactive or stored instance of a Windows Server System product. Customers can now create and store unlimited numbers of instances, including those for backup and recovery, and pay only for the maximum number of running instances at any given time.

  • Portable licensing for the dynamic enterprise allows customers to easily deploy and run Windows Server System products on any physical server licensed for the software. Customers can move active instances from one licensed server box to another without limitation, as long as the physical server is licensed for the Windows Server System product.

  • Per-processor licensing better aligns with resources used.  With Windows Server System products that are licensed per processor, such as Microsoft SQL Server™, BizTalk® Server, and Internet Security & Acceleration Server, customers will have greater flexibility to stack multiple instances on a machine by licensing for the number of virtual processors being used.

For more details checkout:

You should note that these changes only apply to our server software.  Licensing for desktop software remains unchanged at the moment.


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  • OK - I'll be the first to ask. Do these changes apply to any virtualization environment, or only Virtual Server 2005+? My current customer is running VMware ESX, and this change could save them a lot of money if it is extended to non-Microsoft VM environments.

    Thanks in advance for your response.
  • Hahahahahha


    Ummm... I'm afraid Microsoft's hand isn't that far reaching.

  • By the wording I expect this really means it allows for up to 4 virtual copies of the Window Server OS to run on a server running the Windows Server OS. Or unlimited virtuals on LH Windows Data Center edition. It probably wouldn't make much sense to run multiple versions of Data Center server on a single physical but it would make sense to run multiple versions of regular Windows Server on a machine running Data Center which is what I think they are covering.

    ESX doesn't run on Windows. There would still be an open question in my mind though for the other VMWARE products as well as the other virtualization solutions though. I certainly wouldn't expect to see pricing breaks for the use of ESX.
  • Well,

    the question is, if I have one Win 2003 R2 License for a system, if I then can run 4 VMWare Guestes with the same License (no matter if the host is Linux/ESX or Windows).

  • So what exactly is the desktop licensing? According to
    we need one license per copy. But it's not clear whether that's installed or running (if I copy a VPC, do I need another licnese? Or only if both run at the same time?). Then there's the MS radio interview last summer where they said licensing has changed to allow one virtual copy per physically installed license. But I can't find the link now.
  • Here's the virtualization-friendly licensing I'm looking for: No XP product activation inside a virtual machine. VMs used for testing purposes are created and destroyed pretty rapidly, and Microsoft gives you no way to transfer the Windows license from one machine to another other than to waste 45 minutes on the phone with a disgruntled employee who whinks you're trying to pirate Windows.
  • Jeremy, Then you should be using the version of XP that doesn't require activation.....

    The only way that your suggestion could possibly be implemented is a version of XP tied into the virtual VPC BIOS.....and would anyone actually want it? I suppose if it was drastically reduced in price and bundled with VPC people might go for it....of course that doesn't help people who already own XP and don't want to that case MS could probably provide an XP slipstream update to update your current version of XP to a tied-to-VPC BIOS version of XP....wouldn't take that much effort either since this is done already with OEM's.
  • The changes apply to any VM provider. If you by WS03 R2 EE, you can run 4 guests on ESX. If you were using Windows hosted GSX, you can run the host and the 4 guests.
  • Howdy all...

    To answer a couple of questions:

    1) This licensing applies to any virtualization software - not just ours.

    2) Desktop licensing is per installation, with the exception of users with a volume license agreement who can have two installations per device.

    3) If you are using virtual machines in development / testing and the above client licensing chaffs - get an MSDN subscription and you will be covered for everything you want.

  • I doubt very much about the term "per installation" for desktop licensing. In fact if using differencing disks, only one OS installation is actually needed to run any number of instances simultaneously.
  • DosFreak, I don't work in an organization that's large enough to have a volume license agreement. However, David's suggestion of differencing disks is a GREAT idea. I should be able to make a clean install, activate Windows once, and make any number of derivative machines that can come and go at will. I'm going to give that a try. Thanks.
  • Differencing disks are just slow. I find it easier to activate Windows, then copy the whole image. Works just the same, but that's why I keep asking about the legality of the licensing rather than the "how do I do it". Doing it is easy... working out how the licensing works is a whole 'nother ball game. But since at work we have MSDN we're apparently covered even when the test team are running a couple of VMs each. I note that wondows update doesn't (appear to) track how many times a given signature/registration is updated.

    Some people are much easier with licensing - Textpad, for instance, just go: either you personally are licensed to run as many copies on as many machines as you like; or your site is licensed ditto for X number of heads (too bad about the guy with two heads). Uninstalling it does a complete removal, unlike (say) BrteezeBrowser that leaves the registration info behind, so if you reinstall it it comes up registered (bad if you visit somewhere and install it temporarily).

  • Even though only one installation instance of an OS is needed to run multiple VMs via diff-disks, you still need as many licenses as working VMs you have. Differencing disks do not provide a way around legally licensing your VMs.

    For every installed, run-able OS, like 3 children, you need 1 license for each child.

    Its just like installing one VM, then making 3 copies of it, you still need 4 licenses, even though the VMs are copies.
  • I agree with SJ's statement that "for every installed, run-able OS, like 3 children, you need 1 license for each child", but since there is only ONE physical installation for ALL instances of guests, I can't understand why one license "IS NOT" enough. Just as the case of MS-Word, I can install once on my desktop machine, and then run as many instances as I like legally using the same CPU, with only one license. Windows (or other similar OS) is just a special software that normally cannot run as multiple instances techinally using a single CPU, but from EULA I can't find a clause (IIRC) stating that one license can only run one instance. VS is just a software tool, not CPU or hardware, and techinally the "single installed guest OS" is still being run by the single CPU as multiple instances. Right ?
  • So: do I need one license per copy of the VM in existance; or one license per running copy? Viz, if I copy the files do I need another license?

    The reason I ask is because the language used is consistently non-specific. "copy of" "install of" "working VM" can all apply to the 15 or so virtual machines that I have lying on my hard disk just as well as to the one copy I have running at any given time. The examples in the downloadable Word document are equally ambiguous.

    To date I've been acting as though static copies don't count, only running ones. Anything else seems stupid, but then INAL.
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Microsoft anounces new virtualization friendly licensing