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Tips for Getting Windows Server 2012 R2 on the 'Cheap'

A report released last month by Directions on Microsoft offers a few suggestions on how to buy Microsoft's newest server, when it becomes available.

Prices will not be changing for the Standard edition of Windows Server 2012 R2 or for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. However, the Datacenter edition of Windows Server 2012 R2 edition will get a 28 percent price hike compared with Windows Server 2012 under Select and Open licensing.

It will cost $6,155 for the Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition vs. $4,809 for Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition licensing. See the Microsoft "Windows Server 2012 R2 Licensing Datasheet" for pricing details (PDF).

Windows Server 2012 R2 is scheduled for its "general availability" (GA) product release milestone on October 18, but it will be available for purchase on Microsoft's price list on November 1. The timing of the release and price list is important because organizations can sometimes take steps beforehand to get a better deal.

Lock the Server Price
For instance, organizations with Enterprise Agreements can buy at least one Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition license before GA to lock the price of subsequent purchases at the Windows Server 2012 rate, according to Rob Horwitz, research chair and cofounder of Directions on Microsoft, an independent consultancy.

"Customers who haven't already purchased licenses for Windows Server Datacenter, the Windows Server Standard-to-Datacenter Step-up, CIS Datacenter, or the RDS CAL should consider purchasing at least a single license before November 2013, which will lock in the current price for the duration of the EA enrollment term," Horwitz explained via e-mail.

Of course, this scenario doesn't apply for organizations with Software Assurance (SA) on top of their Windows Server 2012 licensing. They won't pay extra for the upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2, provided that the SA coverage period extends through Windows Server 2012 R2 general availability period.

Buying Low with RDS CALs
Also going up in price will be Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs for Windows Server 2012 R2. The per-device RDS CAL will cost $102 per year, while the per-user RDS CAL will cost $118 per year, according to the "Windows Server 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Services FAQ" document (PDF). Those prices represent a 20 percent hike for organizations buying new Select and Open licenses, according to Horwitz.

Organizations can buy RDS CALs strategically because the rights of the lower priced RDS CALs for Windows Server 2012 are transferrable upward to Windows Server 2012 R2, he explained.

"The same RDS 2012 CAL licenses [give] access to Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2," Horwitz said. "The RDS 2012 CAL price goes up in November, so it is better to buy it earlier."

A new option for RDS CALs licensees with SA will be arriving next year that will allow RDS CALs on a local server implementation to be applied to a hosted implementation. Microsoft explains how that will work as follows:

"By next year, RDS CALs with active SA (Software Assurance) will permit access to Windows Azure or an authorized Mobility Partner's shared Windows server software running in a dedicated operating system environment (virtual machine) using RDS functionality or other technology without acquisition of a separate RDS SAL (Subscriber Access Licenses)," according to Microsoft's RDS FAQ.

While all of that may seem a bit obscure, Microsoft is promising to describe the details of transferring RDS CALs to a hosted implementation in greater detail when Windows Server 2012 R2 gets released. In any case, Horwitz sees an opportunity for some organizations to save.

"If you already have RDS CALs with SA, then you can potentially save," he said. "If you are starting from scratch, and thinking [of buying RDS CAL with SA] vs. [licensing via a Service Provider Licensing Agreement's RDS Subscriber Access License], the costs aren't that dissimilar."

More insights on how to think strategically about Microsoft's licensing can be found in Directions on Microsoft's "Windows Server 2012 R2 Pricing and Licensing" report here. Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft has been an independent consultancy focused on Microsoft for about 20 years.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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