Pros and Cons of System Center® 2012 licensing versus the current System Center® products


System Center® 2007-2010

System Center® 2012
Product Availability Individual products or as a suite
Available as the System Center® Suite only (Standard or Datacenter)
Software Assurance Optional Initial SA coverage is included with all System Center® 2012 licences
Server Licensing Purchase Server Licenses
(with or without SQL Server®)
No additional licenses needed for management servers or SQL Server® technology
Management Licenses (MLs) Included in the Server Suite
  • Configuration Manager
  • Service Manager
  • Virtual Machine Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Opalis
  • AVIcode 5.7
  • Configuration Manager
  • Service Manager
  • Virtual Machine Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Orchestrator
  • App Controller
  • Endpoint Protection
Licensing Mode
  • Enterprise: Per Device
  • Datacenter: Per single processor (Minimum 2 Processors)
  • Per Processor: Each license covers up to two physical processors


Microsoft® recently announced the licensing use rights for the new System Center® 2012 suite of products. This document provides an analysis of the pros and cons of this licensing compared to the current products. In order to do this, let’s first compare the key changes.


The two most important implications to discuss are the fact that the products will only be available as the System Center® suite and Software Assurance is included. You will not be able to purchase the licenses separately and without SA.




The prices below are Open License No Level plus two years of Software Assurance


System Center® 2007-2010

System Center® 2012

SMSE: $1,569.00 (per device) Standard: $1,323 per license (2 processors)
SMSD: $1,310.00 (per processor) Datacenter: $3,607 (2 processors)

Individual Servers: (with SQL Server®)

  • Operations Manager: $1,987
  • Configuration Manager: $1,981
  • Service Manager: $903



Although the products licensed in the Standard and Datacenter Editions, the key differences are in the product use rights in support of virtualization. Whereas the Datacenter edition allows for an unlimited number of Operating System Environments (OSEs) whether they are physical or virtual, the Standard Edition has a limit of two OSEs per processor license with a limit of seven licenses.

The other key difference with the Standard Edition is that if virtualized, you license the number of OSEs being used or physical processors, DEPENDING ON WHICH ONE IS HIGHER. Moral of the story – if you are going to manage virtual environments, buy Datacenter licenses.


System Center® 2012 and the Enrollment for Core Infrastructure

With the release of System Center® 2012 the Enrollment for Core Infrastructure has been adjusted. The key difference is that now each Core Infrastructure Suite license covers up to two physical processors.

CIS Suite Datacenter

CIS Suite Standard

  • Supports an unlimited number of virtualized instances
  • Covers up to two physical processors
  • Supports two virtualized instance per license
  • Covers up to two physical processors

Windows® Server 2008R2 Datacenter Edition

Windows® Server 2008R2 Standard Edition

(Customers have the option to deploy Windows Server® Enterprise edition in place of Windows Server® Standard edition)

System Center® 2012 Datacenter Edition System Center® 2012 Standard Edition

License Migrations


This is probably the most important component to be aware of as not following the correct procedures and cost you a lot of money. If you conduct a self-inventory, through the Microsoft® Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit (or other inventory tools), and document the number of processors in each server in use with System Center® Server Management Suite Enterprise Edition or standalone Server Management Licenses covered with Software Assurance, you will receive the appropriate number of processor licenses based on System Center® 2012 to continue their current deployments.

  • You need to be able to accurately archive a time/date stamped inventory of hardware tied to System Center® installations.
  • You need to be compliant with regards to the current System Center® licensing.

If you do not perform the self-inventory, you will receive:

  • 1 x System Center® Standard Edition licenses for any Enterprise or Standard Server Management Licenses
  • 2 x System Center® Standard Edition Licenses for every Server Management Suite Enterprise Licenses
  • 1 System Center® Datacenter Edition license for every 2 Server Management Suite Datacenter License or Virtual Machine Manager licenses


Licensing Managed Clients

Endpoint Protection has been included in the System Center® Suite. The licensing is Per OSE or per User. System Center® Client Management Licenses are also included in the Core and Enterprise CAL Suites.



Configuration Manager Client ML

Endpoint Protection Subscription

Client Management Suite Client ML

Components Included
  • Configuration Manager
  • Virtual Machine Manager
Endpoint Protection
  • Service Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Orchestrator
Included in Core CAL Suite  

Included in Enterprise CAL Suite

Open NL L&SA 2-year price $62 $22 $121



1.   The model is simpler

System Center® 2012 is certainly a lot less complicated than its predecessor. Although it is fairly difficult to do direct price comparisons, it is far easier to count the processors and allocate a standard or datacentre license as opposed to the current myriad of options. It does mean however that this an all or nothing approach. The decision for any organization is whether you are prepared to embrace the entire suite of System Center® technologies.


2.   It is only available as a Suite

By only making the full suite available and with Software Assurance, and by initiating generous migration paths, Microsoft® has ensured that your decision on System Center® 2012 is all or nothing. For those customers who only wish to use one or two of the System Center® products, the products will not be available to be purchased individually after general availability of the product.

It does make it easier to compare to the various competitive products available from VMWare, Citrix, Symantec etc.


3.   How do the prices compare?

For any organization making use of only one or two of the products, specifically without Software Assurance, the price difference is going to be extensive.

For organizations making use of the full System Center® Suite, two things need to be taken into consideration:

  • The fact that the physical software is now included in the license price does impact on offsetting the licensing price to a certain degree.
  • What it will require in order to maximize the investment, is some clever capacity planning. IT professionals are often guilty of not optimizing the servers relative to the work-load. As per Microsoft’s® marketing, the best value for money you will receive is when you use System Center® in a well-managed and efficient datacenter. This is certainly an argument for server consolidation and optimization.

4.   This is about the cloud

The licensing method is definitely geared towards moving to a private cloud environment. The evidence is in the per processor licensing model for System Center® as well as the fact that the System Center® licenses include Mobility Rights as a product use right. What this means is that should your infrastructure be moved to a hosted environment, the System Center® licenses can be transferred.

If your organization is considering a hosted infrastructure environment in the future, this is an important benefit.

5.   Conduct a comprehensive Proof of Concept and Return on Investment

System Center® requires a significant investment. In addition to this, you are investing more in a platform than a management suite. The evaluation process therefore needs to also be as comprehensive.

  • Evaluate whether the functionality of the components contained in System Center® 2012 will be suitable for your organization, including future releases you’ll be entitled to under SA.
  • Your business case also needs to include the benefits associated with a dynamic managed environment, including Systems and Services Management.

6.   Standard versus Enterprise edition?

The decision between the Standard and Datacenter editions relies specifically on the level of Virtualization.

  • The Standard Edition allows for the management of a maximum of two Operating System Environments (OSEs) per license.


7.   Leverage the Migration Paths

  • Buy qualifying licenses now with SA and then upgrade to System Center® 2012. You will save significantly on the cost of System Center® 2012. General availability seems likely in 2Q12, as the release candidate is available now and Microsoft® will hold a Management Summit in April. This does not leave much time.
  • As discussed in the section on migration paths, all current System Center® Management Licenses and Server Licenses have generous migration paths. Microsoft® has made it very attractive to do the migration and so if you have current products with SA, make use of this opportunity.

8.   You need to be compliant on the existing product to benefit the most

If you are compliant on current System Center® licenses (including Software Assurance) and are prepared to submit the necessary reports to Microsoft®, you will receive licenses equal to the number of processors in the managed servers.


9.   The Enrollment for Core Infrastructure is still the best value for money method of acquiring System Center® 2012

The Enrollment for Core Infrastructure is about 20% cheaper than purchasing the components separately.


10.  The Enterprise Core CAL Suite allows you to implement a comprehensive management solution for client devices

In the same way, the eCAL also offers an integrated method for licensing client devices. It is also important to evaluate the significance of the per OSE or Per User model. With the explosion of the number of devices being managed, the per User model becomes a better option.




If you are currently only using one of the System Center® products such as Configuration Manager, System Center® 2012 is going to mean a significant increase in investment. To benefit most from the solution, you need to be willing to commit to Microsoft’s® management platform and be comfortable with maintaining the Software Assurance.


If you do have current licenses of System Center® products with Software Assurance, you definitely want to make the most of the migration paths available.

Nov 2016