Updated Windows Server Virtualization licensing calculator

Updated Windows Server Virtualization licensing calculator

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A while ago I posted about the Windows Server Virtualization calculator - well it has been updated.

Now the tool allows you to specify not only the sort of physical hardware and the number of Windows virtual machines - but it also allows you to specify what Microsoft software you want to run inside of each of the virtual machines.  Then at the end of it all it will let you know what licensing options you should pursue - and how much it will cost.


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  • Interestingly I got prompted to download that when I tried to open the file using Word. But when I just clicked the link and said "open using Word" nothing happened.

    This should be really good news, Microsoft finally exposing a clear guide to licensing their products in a virtualisation environment (other than the previous nonsensical "every copy of any virtual machine needs a complete suite of licenses whether it can be run from the media it is on or not").

    But wait, there's less. Much, much less. That document doesn't even attempt to cover the most common virtualisation licensing problems. Sure, the big costly ones are about server OS's, but I'm guessing that people might also like to run things inside those virtualised servers. No, really.

    So the question remains: what licenses do I need to be legal with Microsoft if I install something into a virtual machine, then copy that VM (say, for backup, or just so I can run it on two host machines). Something here meaning "arbitrary Microsoft program that I have to buy". Say, Office, or Visual Studio or even (heaven forbid) Age of Empires?

    That is the question I would like answered in a meaningful way.

  • I imagine it would be similar to making a backup of a real head-and-platter hard drive.

    If it's just a backup made for personal use and not distributed, there's no issues.  If you intend to use it on another machine (or VM) I imagine you need another separate license, just like if you duplicated one computer hard drive image onto another computer.

  • The trouble with "I imagine" is that Microsoft might not imagine the same things.

    My real-world use of virtual machines is often for testing - I install an OS, then make 20 copies of (say) the activated WinXP, then I install 20 variants of Office with its various service packs and upgrade paths. Then I start trying to work out which combinations my Excel plug-in works under.

    Now technically in order to do this I need something like: 20 licenses for Windows XP, 10 for Office 97, 8 for Office 2000, 6 for Office 2003, and 2 for Office 2007.

    Or I can buy an MSDN license and get most of those included. Except the extra 10 WinXP licenses.

    But then my company hires testers, and I hand this off to them. Yay! But wait. Now the testers need MSDN subscriptions too.

    Or we could do it another way. Have a single, non-activated version of XP and clone that. Likewise, install Office onto clones of that XP VM, and when the 3 day/30 day trial periods expire, start again.

    Then we get into the exciting question of "what exactly is a *new* VM?" Is it new when I copy it to another hard disk in my computer? What about if I copy it to a common server? What about if that server is automatically sync'd to a hard disk in a backup machine? That then copies it to tape? Remember that we're talking about a few thousand dollars every time the "new" button gets hit.

    For Server OS's I believe this is easy: it's new if there's another copy of it running somewhere. Or at least that is my understanding of the licensing.

    But for consumer OS's and other software, it's not running copies, it's installations. But wait, I only installed XP once in the above description. So possibly it's copies on disk. But backups are apparently ok. So maybe it's similtaneous running copies. But then why have this special server OS licensing promotion if that's the way everything else already works? So maybe something else entirely.

    And Microsoft staff are notorious for running away from this question. I've been asking for over a year and have got nowhere. Which is why I'm now being so cranky about it, BTW.

  • Hi Moz,

    Unlike the Server side - most things on the client side are licensed per physical installation (and if you install once and then make a copy - you need a second license because you now have two installations).

    The two exceptions to this are:

    1) MSDN

    2) Users with Software Assurance and Vista Enterprise Edition have license to have 5 installations of Windows per device.

    In your case it sounds like MSDN would be the best option - and yes - each developer / tester would need an MSDN license.



  • The problem is that MSDN only gives us a limited number of installs per victim, and we can trivially easily exceed those. We currently have I think 10 MSDN subscriptions, and are just kinda hoping that no-one from MS gets too cranky with us, because there's no way we're even close to legal on XP installs, unless you count "similtaneously executing" (in which case we're significantly over-licensed).

    I'm still waiting for an answer to "what constitutes a new install".

  • Hi Moz,

    For installation based licensing - if you copy the VHD of an installed system - that is a new installation.  And yes - this applies for backups as well.



  • Thanks Ben, you've managed an answer where at least 5 MS people have failed before. It might be an inconvenient answer, but at least it's definite.

  • Oh, and I assume by "VHD" you mean "virtual machine image", rather than "Microsoft Virtual PC disk image". Otherwise you have suggested a huge cost-saving available by switching to your competitors :) I'm sure you don't mean that.

  • It is like this, any instance of a standard OS windows may run only once. So two running standard windows os on the same host is a no go.

    Also an enterprise license will cover for 4 virtual machines OS. But if you add a new virtual machine to the match you need a new enterpise license.

    Now when this is doen with vm ware MS state that VMWare enterprise is equal to enterprise. So than the picture becomes even better,

    say 8 vms =2 enterprise ms +2 vm ware enterprise

    Also this has implementations when you use vmotion. Because when you move the vm it will be moved to a new host. It will need a new license as well.



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