Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something such as an operating system, a server, a storage device, or network resource. There are many benefits to virtualization such as maximizing the use of servers by running concurrent operating systems or applications on each server, thereby fully utilizing the capacity of each device in the datacenter. This consolidation of hardware results in obvious savings in hardware costs. Additionally, fewer physical servers results in reduced energy consumption, both in terms of power to run the hardware and also air conditioning to cool them.


New applications and updates can be centrally deployed without physically installing code on each user’s device. Hardware upgrades are also centralized on the servers and transparent to users. Security, backing up, and restoring data becomes centralized and may be administered by IT rather than end users.


These have traditionally been among the many advantages to virtualization from within the datacenter. End users have realized the benefits of virtualization in the past but this was often merely a result of their IT department being responsible for ensuring that their PCs were maintained and current.


The growing popularity of thin clients such as tablets and other mobile computing devices is now causing end users to pay much closer attention to virtualization and it also raises increased concerns for IT. End users want the flexibility to work from their portable devices, whether personal or company-owned. IT departments need to facilitate this but must not compromise security or permit multiple versions of software which may or may not be compliant with corporate policy, license, or regulatory requirements. This makes a comprehensive virtualization solution even more critical than ever as it encompasses IT costs (monetary and otherwise), data security and integrity, licensing and regulatory requirements, and employee productivity and satisfaction.


There are many offerings available to manage IT virtualization, whether for a small business or large enterprise. The purpose of this article is to identify the Microsoft® offerings for Server and Desktop virtualization and the System Center® Management Tool and to briefly examine their availability offerings under Volume Licensing.


Microsoft® Windows Server® 2012


Windows® Server 2012 with Hyper-V®

Hyper-V® is a tool for optimizing server hardware by consolidating multiple server roles and partitioning them onto a single physical host machine. Hyper-V® can also run multiple operating systems such as Windows® and Linux® together on a single server.


With Hyper-V® on Server 2012, Microsoft®’s goal was to break all previous scalability, availability, and disaster recovery limits. They took direct aim at VMware® and they feel as though they have accomplished their goal. They are now able to support 64 nodes in a single cluster and 8000 virtual machines (VM) with up to 1TB per VM on each cluster. Increased availability and disaster recovery are achieved via Incremental Back-ups, Hyper-V® Replica, NIC Teaming, and Hyper-V® Clustering Enhancements.  For additional information see the Datasheet at


Hyper-V® Server 2012

Hyper-V® Server 2012 is a standalone subset of Windows® Server 2012 with Hyper-V®. It contains the hypervisor, Windows® Server driver model, virtualization capabilities, and supporting components such as failover clustering, but does not contain the robust set of features included with the Windows® Server OS. This results in a smaller footprint than Windows® Server with Hyper-V®.


A common use for Hyper-V® Server is in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment where you wish to provide a consistent personalized experience across a PC, thin client, or other licensed device. A full client environment is virtualized within a server-based hypervisor, providing the same user experience on any virtual device.


Hyper-V® Server 2012 may be a preferred option in instances where organizations are not running Windows® Server or are consolidating servers and no new Windows® Server licenses are required.


Microsoft® Desktop Virtualization


Desktop virtualization gives the user the flexibility to access their desktop and files from any licensed device while maintaining a consistent personalized experience. This is beneficial to the user as it affords them the flexibility to work remotely on a variety of devices. It also benefits the IT department as they can simplify compliance and management in a controlled and secure datacenter environment. Since the user is operating in a virtual environment, there is no need to install the OS, applications or other tools and data on the local device, but each device must be licensed. There are some scenarios in which an application may physically be installed on the remote device but each device must be licensed for that application.


The following components comprise Microsoft®’s Desktop Virtualization offering:


User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)

User Experience Virtualization is the tool that provides the personalized experience on multiple virtual devices running Windows® 7 or Windows® 8. UE-V is a component of the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).


Application Virtualization (App-V)

Application Virtualization provides virtual access to applications without having to install them on the remote device. App-V preserves user settings when not in use. It also simplifies the deployment of applications and updates and ensures that all users are running the correct version. App-V is a component of the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).



RemoteApp is powered by Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows® Server.  RemoteApp enables server hosted applications to run side by side with local applications. This is useful as a means to keep sensitive data safe and compliant as the application and data remain on the servers in the datacenter, rather than on the local machine. The use of RemoteApp requires an RDS CAL.


Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Microsoft® Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a centralized desktop delivery solution. The concept of VDI is to store and run desktop workloads including a Windows® client operating system, applications, and data in a server-based virtual machine (VM) in a data center, and allow a user to interact with the desktop presented onto a user device via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). VDI is not an isolated architecture, but one of the many technologies available to optimize enterprise desktops.


Client Hyper-V®

Client Hyper-V® lets the user run more than one 32-bit or 64-bit x86 OS simultaneously on the same computer. Instead of working directly with the computer’s hardware, the operating systems run inside of a virtual machine (VM). Hyper-V® enables developers to easily maintain multiple test environments and provides a simple mechanism to quickly switch between these environments without incurring additional hardware costs.


Microsoft® Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V)

Enterprise Desktop Virtualization removes the barriers to Windows® 7 upgrades by resolving application incompatibility. MED-V delivers applications in a Virtual PC workspace running Windows® XP. It does this in a way that is transparent to the user. Applications appear and function as though they were installed locally. MED-V enables IT teams to simplify management and delivery by accelerating deployment of critical operating system upgrades.


Windows® Thin PC

Windows® Thin PC enables customers to repurpose existing PCs as thin clients by providing a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows® 7. Thin PC is a benefit of SA so represents no additional cost to SA customers.


System Center® 2012


System Center® 2012 is an integrated management platform to manage datacenters, client devices, and cloud IT environments.


If you have an existing virtualization environment, System Center® will manage Hyper-V® as well as third party systems so you can run both and compare them side-by-side.


Beginning with System Center® 2012, Microsoft® is implementing processor-based licensing. Customers with existing licenses and Software Assurance (SA) may upgrade at no cost and their existing licenses will be exchanged for processor based licenses.  At or before the end of the current agreement term, customers should perform an inventory using the Microsoft® Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit or other inventory tool to determine the appropriate number of licenses required. Customers who do not confirm their inventory will receive two System Center® 2012 licenses for each System Center® Server Management Suite Enterprise Edition and one license for each standalone Server Management License.


Client Management Licenses are required for devices running non-server OSEs. There are three System Center® 2012 Client ML offerings: Configuration Manager Client, Endpoint Protection, and Client Management Suite Client.



Configuration Manager Client ML

Endpoint Protection Subscription

Client Mgmt Suite Client ML

Components Included

Configuration Manager Client

Endpoint Protection

Service Manager


Virtual Machine Manager


Operations Manager


Data Protection Manager



Included in Core CAL Suite




Included in Enterprise CAL Suite




Open NL L&SA  2-year Price




If you have applicable Software Assurance and license(s) for previous versions of System Center® you will receive the following conversions with System Center® 2012:


Current License


New License

System Center® Ops Mgr Client ML; System Center® Data Protection Mgr Client ML; System Center® Configuration Mgr Client ML

System Center® 2012 Client Mgmt Suite Client ML license for each individual qualifying product Client ML
System Center® Configuration Mgr 2007 R3 Client ML; System Center® Virtual Machine Mgr

System Center® 2012 Configuration Mgr Client ML
Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 Subscription

System Center® 2012 Endpoint Protection subscription


Note:  There are no step-up paths for Client MLs


Volume Licensing


The cornerstone of Microsoft®’s virtualization offering is Windows Server® 2012, consisting of four Editions as summarized in the table below:




Licensing model



  • Highly virtualized environments.
  • Unlimited virtual instances


Per processor license + Client Access License



  • Non virtualized or limited virtual environments
  • Two virtual instances


Per Processor license + Client Access License



  • Small businesses with up to 25 users running on servers with up to two processors
  • Single processor license
Per Server: 25 User Limit



  • Small businesses with up to 15 users running on single processor servers
  • Sold with the hardware as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)


Per Server: 15 User Limit (Sold with hardware)


The features and functionality are the same for each Edition. They are differentiated by virtualization rights and the number of users. Each Windows Server® 2012 License covers TWO physical processors. As noted in the table above, the Datacenter Edition allows an unlimited number of virtual instances whereas the Standard Edition permits only two. For Standard Edition, customers may add virtual instances by adding licenses (two virtual instances per license).


A Windows Server® Client Access License (CAL) will also be required for all users or devices that will be accessing the server.


If you are making use of the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Active Directory Rights Management Services (RMS), you will need the appropriate CAL as an additive license.


Transitioning to the new licensing model


If you have Software Assurance on your current Windows Server® licenses, the following will apply:


Current license

Conversion ratio

New license










SBS Essentials



Web Server



High Performance Computing Server Suite




If you conduct a self-assessment using a tool like the Microsoft® Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit and you provide a time-stamped report to Microsoft®, you will receive additional license grants.


For eight processor servers running Windows Server® Enterprise Edition you will receive two additional Standard edition licenses.


For four processor servers running Windows Server® Standard Edition (or HPC) you will receive one additional Standard edition license.



In order to maximize the transition rights, make sure you conduct the self-assessment mentioned above.


Select per device licenses if you have less devices than users and per user licenses if you have more devices than users.


The break-even point between Standard and Datacenter edition is roughly 5.5 virtual instances. Datacenter edition allows for unlimited virtual instances and would definitely be the more appropriate option where you are running a highly virtualized environment.


Where you are also deploying Microsoft® System Center® technologies as well as Windows Server®, consider the Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI) as a more cost effective method for licensing your datacenters.


Virtualization of SQL Server® 2012


Microsoft® has made some significant changes to the way SQL Server® 2012 will be licensed as opposed to SQL Server® 2008. Since this article is focused on virtualization we will only address this portion of the changes. As always, it’s best to consult the latest Product Use Rights (PUR) for the most up to date rights and restrictions.


Rights for SQL Server® 2012 allow for the licensing of specific virtual cores or all of the physical cores.


Licensing individual Virtual Machines: As processing power increases, it has become a viable option that Virtual Machines (VMs) only use some of the physical server. To license the virtual machines, you can purchase a core license for each virtual machine (1 VM = 1 Core). If the core licenses include current Software Assurance, you are also able to move the licensed VM within the server farm.


Licensing all of the Physical Cores: A second option is to license all of the physical cores on the server and add Software Assurance with Enterprise Edition core licenses.  Under these conditions you will be able to deploy an unlimited number of virtual machines. The SA will also allow you to dynamically transfer the VMs within the server farm.


Server / CAL licensing


Server / CAL licensing is available for the SQL Business Intelligence and Standard Editions. The SQL CAL allows you to access the Standard Edition or Business Intelligence Edition as well as any previous edition of SQL Server® (Including Enterprise Editions).


Virtualization Licensing Fundamentals


As is so often the case with Microsoft® Volume Licensing it is difficult to identify hard and fast rules, and the area of Virtualization is no exception. That said, the following generalizations seem applicable to most scenarios:


MS licensing models are independent of physical or virtual deployment. In most virtualization scenarios, both the accessing and the host devices require separate licenses.


You may create and store as many server software instances as you wish since you only need to license running instances.


Microsoft® supports software mobility, allowing flexibility in licensing software as it dynamically moves between servers.


You may move running instances between licensed servers without acquiring additional licenses, but you may not exceed the maximum number of instances licensed for each server.




Microsoft® offers the Microsoft® Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) to assess an existing environment and map it to a new Windows® Server 2012 with Hyper-V® solution. The MAP Toolkit may be downloaded from


In addition to the Assessment and Planning Toolkit, Microsoft® also offers a Virtual Machine Migration Toolkit which enables end-to-end migrations from VMware® to the Microsoft® virtualization platform.


As previously noted, Microsoft® appears to be aggressively competing with VMware®. They claim their offering provides significantly better performance than that of VMware® and does so with significant cost savings. They have also partnered with six OEMs to provide configured and tested hardware. The six OEMs are Dell®, Fujitsu®, Hitachi®, HP®, IBM®, and NEC®.

Nov 2016