Figuring the Cost of Yer Winders VMs

I’ve been meaning to write this post since May 2010! Never got around to it but I am starting to see and hear about it again. The costs of Windows Server systems become important if you are renewing licenses or you are in a consolidation project. I find that many businesses will purchase server hardware with a Windows OEM license. The problem with an OEM license is that it CANNOT be transferred to a different server. Some people find this out the hard way during P2V conversions.

It doesn’t really matter the hypervisor that you choose, if you run a Windows Server shop, you will still need to pay for licensing. Microsoft has a fairly straight forward policy for Windows Licenses. You need to have a license for Windows and the license is tied to a piece of server hardware. If you visit the Windows Server “How To Buy” page, you will see a link to their Licensing and Pricing Guide. There is also a Silverlight-based calculator on this page that will also give you costs for any other Windows Server technology that you use in a virtual environment. If you visit the Licensing Advisor page, you can get costs for each version of Windows Server 2008 R2.

Each edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 is licensed against a specific piece of hardware. With each edition, you can run a certain number of VMs against that license.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition

  • Licensed per instance
  • You need at least one license per physical server
  • You can have more than one license per physical server
  • Can have one physical host (Hyper-V Role) and one VM
    • With non-Microsoft hypervisors, this means ONE VM

Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition

  • Licensed per instance
  • You need at least one license per physical server
  • You can have more than one license per physical server
  • Can have one physical host (Hyper-V Role) and up to four VMs
    • With non-Microsoft hypervisors, this means FOUR VMs

Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition

  • Licensed per socket
  • You need at least one license per physical server
  • You can have more than one license per physical server
  • Can have one physical host (Hyper-V Role) and unlimited VMs
    • With non-Microsoft hypervisors, this means unlimited VMs
Here’s the thing: If you are running Windows VMs, you will probably be better off licensing a version OTHER than Windows Server Standard. I originally did a cost comparison of each edition of Windows Server alsong with a comparable number of Client Access Licenses (CALs). It turns out that the CALs don’t matter in the comparisons, so I am not including them here. In the chart below, I highlighted the edition that costs the least based on the number of VMs on the host. I have a cost comparison for servers with two sockets and servers with four sockets. The costs listed are for commercial Open License.

The Catch (POSEs and VOSEs)!

Of course there’s a catch! Microsoft says that the license is tied to a physical server. Microsoft has designated that the OS is run on Physical Operating System Environments (POSEs) and Virtual Operating System Environments (VOSEs). Standard edition gives you the right for one POSE and one VOSE. Enterprise gives you the right for one POSE and four VOSEs. Datacenter gives you the right for one POSE and UNLIMITED VOSEs. The first catch is that, in standard and enterprise editions, the POSE can only be used to manage and service the VOSEs and nothing else.

How About SQL Server?

You can license SQL Server in a per instance or a per socket scenario. With the per socket scenario, unlimited CALs are included. The editions, standard, enterprise and datacenter, align with Windows Server when it comes to the number of instances. You can get licensing and pricing information on the Buy SQL Server page or by downloading their guide. I have included a chart comparing per socket pricing.

Conclusion

The magic number to consider licensing Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition is 8 VMs in a two socket box and 12 VMs in a four socket box. The break even point for SQL Server Datacenter Edition is 8 VMs for a two socket box and 12 VMs for a four socket box. There is no reason why you cannot get 40 or more average VMs on a typical two socket box with sufficient RAM.

  1. One important thing to note here that, in case host is running in cluster then it is mandatory to have Datacenter edition license.

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