Posey's Tips & Tricks

TechNet and Windows Server 2012 Licensing Changes

Brien runs through some of the issues he's run into with Redmond's updated licensing policies.

Over the last couple of weeks I have run into several surprising situations with regard to some changes that Microsoft has made to its licensing policies. That being the case, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about some of these changes in hopes that my readers might not be caught by surprise.

The licensing change that I encountered was with regard to TechNet. Before I explain what has changed, I need to give you a little bit of background about my situation. I am a freelance technology author. I make a living writing articles and books, and speaking about technology (among other things). As you can imagine, I set up lab machines on almost a daily basis so that I can work through the various procedures that I write about. I like to be sure that the procedures that I give my readers have been tested and that the procedures have a good chance of working when someone else tries them.

For over a decade I have used software that is available from TechNet to build lab machines. I generally set up the necessary lab machines, work through whatever procedure I am writing about, and then blow away the machines when I am done. Because Microsoft provides a limited number product keys for each piece of software that is available through TechNet, individual product keys tend to get used over and over again. In fact, I have one Windows 7 product key that I'm sure has been activated hundreds of times over the last couple of years.

Imagine my surprise last week when I set up a lab server and attempted to activate Windows 7, only to have the activation rejected. Undeterred, I decided to logon to TechNet and claim another product key. This was when things really got weird. TechNet indicated that I had claimed one of the zero keys and also displays a message indicating that additional product keys are no longer available for the product.

After doing a bit of research I learned that Microsoft had made some changes to TechNet in order to fight a growing problem of software counterfeiting. One of the changes that they made was to remove consumer editions of Windows from TechNet. The product that I had been trying to license was Windows 7 Ultimate, which is presumably a consumer-grade product. The only editions of Windows 7 for which product keys were still available were Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Professional.

Microsoft also made a few other noteworthy changes to TechNet. For starters, it decreased the number of product keys that can be claimed for a given product to a maximum of three keys. Another change that was made was that the license now indicates that you are no longer allowed to use software that was downloaded from TechNet if you allow your TechNet subscription to expire.

TechNet is not the only product for which Microsoft has been revising their licensing policies. I also recently discovered that Windows Server 2012 is licensed differently from Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

I am currently writing a book on Hyper-V 3.0, and one of the chapters in the book deals with performing upgrades on existing Hyper-V deployments. In preparation for writing this chapter I installed Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition onto a lab server, added the Hyper-V role, and set up a bunch of virtual machines. Because I was in the very early stages of developing content for the book I had not yet looked at the licensing for Windows Server 2012. However, I soon discovered that Microsoft had thrown me a curve ball.

In creating Windows Server 2012, Microsoft decided to simplify their licensing policy. In doing so, they completely get away with Windows Server Enterprise Addition. Windows Server 2012 is only available in Standard Edition and Datacenter Edition. Because I was writing a chapter on upgrades, I tried to install Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition over top of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition. The software would not allow me to perform the upgrade. I was only able to upgrade to Standard Edition.

In case you're wondering, the biggest difference between Standard Edition and Datacenter Edition is the license provision for virtual machines. Standard Edition is only license for two virtual machines. If you need more virtual machines than that then you will have to either purchase a Datacenter Edition license or combine multiple Standard Edition licenses (with one license be needed for every two virtual machines).

Another change that Microsoft has made to their licensing model is that Windows Server 2012 is licensed on a per-processor basis. In case you're wondering though, a single Standard Edition license will cover up to two physical processors.

Personally, I don't really view any of these changes as being all that bothersome (at least for my situation). Even so, I have to admit that these changes did catch me by surprise. I wanted to be sure and pass them along as a way of trying to help others who might not be aware of the licensing changes.


About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe on YouTube