More licensing changes for virtualisation with Windows Server 2008

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last summer, there was a big shake up of Microsoft’s licensing policies around virtualisation. Matt McSpirit provides the best explanation of licensing Windows Server in a virtual environment that I’ve seen on his blog but, today, I was notified about some new developments in the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 licensing model.

Quoting from the e-mail I received:

“Currently, if your physical server environment is running Windows Server 2003, matching version CALs are required for all users (i.e. Windows Server 2003 CALs). However, if you move your physical Windows Server 2003 Operating System Environments (OSE) to run as virtual machines hosted by Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 CALs are required. This is per the current use rights. With the change in our licensing policy, Windows Server 2008 CALs are no longer required if you are using Windows Server 2008 solely as a virtualization host. The only exception to this is if you are running Windows Server 2008 virtual machines, which would require Windows Server 2008 CALs.”

The e-mail then goes on to describe three scenarios by way of example:

Scenario 1 – Customer deploying WS08 Workloads

  • There is no change in licensing or CAL requirements
  • This is irrespective of whether the customer deploys WS08 workloads (other than Hyper-V) in a physical or virtual environment.

Scenario 2 – Customer only deploys WS08 Hyper-V to consolidate WS03

  • WS08 CAL are no longer required
  • Customer will still need CALs for the appropriate WS edition (WS03 in this example)

Scenario 3 – Customer deploys WS08 Hyper-V to consolidate WS03 but also has WS08 deployments

  • WS08 CAL requirements will apply for the WS08 deployment
  • A CAL for a particular version of Windows Server allows the user/device to access all instances of that version of Windows Server (and prior versions) across the organization.”

So, if you have a Windows Server 2003 (or earlier) estate without SA and were thinking of virtualising on Windows Server 2008 (but didn’t want to stump up for the Windows Server 2008 CALs), this could save you a lot of money. Full details may be found in the updated licensing brief.

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