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There are three concepts in Microsoft licensing that people often mistake for a single entity, when in fact the three are connected but very separate. They are:
- Product Keys
Because the three are so tied together it is easy to get yourself in trouble if you do not take the time to understand how the three of them interrelate. However with a little understanding you should be good to go.
You have paid for an instance of an operating system or an application; you are licensed to use it. Does that mean you are licensed to use it anywhere? Of course not. Depending on the type of license you may be good, or you may be limited. For example, there may be educational licensing that cannot be used outside of a school, or charity licensing that can only be used by a non-profit (and non-religious) organization. Then there are OEM licenses which are tied to a piece of hardware, which means that it cannot be transferred to another physical machine (or, depending on the license, to a Virtual Machine). These types of limitations are important to understand not only when planning your licensing, but also when migrating from older to newer hardware, and from physical to virtual, and even from vSphere to Hyper-V (virtual to virtual).
You install an operating system or an application. Now you are allowed to use it… however before you do it has to ‘call home’ to make sure that your license is legitimate. Unfortunately over the past few decades software piracy and misuse caused companies like Microsoft to come up with ways to try to prevent theft or misuse. In the days before ubiquitous interconnected computing (the Internet) you might have had to call Microsoft with a code and type in their response code. Fortunately today our computers are all connected, and all that software activation requires is your permission (some companies do not ask even that). However what if your computer is not connected to the Internet at the moment? Simple… most companies will let you install and use their software for a trial period (often 30 or 60 days) before having to activate it.
In order to make sure your operating system or application software is legitimate the company that sells it to you will provide you a product key, often represented on a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). This key ensures that you purchased it legitimately, and is encoded with protections to make sure a) you enter a legitimate key, and b) that the key has not simply been stolen or used more often than permitted.
So we’re good to go… we understand the three different concepts. How they interconnect is as such:
- Not all Licensed software comes with a Product Key, but most of them do, and most of them require Activation to work.
- Having a Product Key does not mean that you are licensed, but will usually allow you to Activate your software (or OS).
- Having a Licensed Product Key does not necessarily mean you will be able to Activate your software, because if the Product Key has been compromised the software vendor may ‘kill’ the Product Key.
- A ‘killed’ Product Key does not mean you lose your License; you will however have to contact your software vendor to get a new key in order to Activate.
- An Activation is not proof of License. You can reinstall the same machine ten times and only use a single license. Also if you are able to Activate a Product Key more often than the number of Licenses you bought it does not make it legitimate.
Ok… so now that you understand all of this (there will be a test ) it is time to manage your Licenses and Product Keys and Activations.
…What? Are you serious?
Okay okay… we know it sounds like a much simpler task in an organization with ten machines than in one with 10,000 machines, but Microsoft has a solution that is going to make your life easier. For the Enterprise (or at least for organizations with over 25 licenses) Microsoft provides a couple of free tools for managing your Volume License (VL) Activations. The Key Management Server (KMS) is a great way to manage your activations for Windows (Server & Client), Office, and several other Microsoft products, including OEM, Volume License, and even ‘FPP.’
Charity Shelbourne, a Senior Premier Field Engineer with Microsoft, wrote a great piece on Active Directory-Based Activation vs. Key Management Services. It discusses and links to articles on setting up and managing a KMS Server, as well as takes you through installing and configuring the Volume Activation Services role in Windows Server 2012, and managing all of the components of same. You can check out that article on the Ask Premier Field Engineer (PFE) Blog here. I was going to do a similar write-up, but when she has done such a great job I decided it was better to just point to hers. Now go forth and get your Licensed Product Keys Activated!
My colleague Damir has written about this topic before on this blog, but I thought it warranted another post so here it is. You see, with past iterations of the Microsoft Windows Server operating system, there were always a number of things to contemplate before selecting which version to purchase – workload, growth potential, features needed, etc. However, with Windows Server 2012 your selection process couldn’t be simpler. Well, it could if there were no choice at all but this is the next simplest option.
You have 2 choices:
- Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition
- Windows Server 2012 Datacenter Edition
Your deciding criteria can be summed up in your answer to one question:
Will the server to run a workload directly or will the it be a virtualization host?
Because from a technical standpoint, these editions are exactly the same. The only difference lies in the virtualization rights. Standard edition entitles you to run up to two virtual machines on up to two CPUs while Datacenter edition gives you license to run an unlimited number of virtual machines on up to two CPUs.
That means that all the features available in the Datacenter edition are also available in the Standard edition. This includes being able to scale up to 4TB of RAM, up to 64 physical CPUs, up to 640 logical CPUs (without Hyper-V enabled) and up to 320 logical CPUs (with Hyper-V enabled). This includes being able to enable features and roles such as Failover Clustering, BranchCache, Active Directory Federated Services, Distributed File Services and more. They are the same.
But you thought there were 4 editions? Ok, you got me. There are.
If you’re a small business with up to 25 users and don’t need all the features that Windows Server 2012 has to offer, such as Failover Clustering and BranchCache, you can opt for a third edition:
3. Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition
The Essentials Edition allows you to run workloads on the box as usual, but it also comes with a connector to Office 365 and allows you to manage your cloud-based applications such as email, collaboration, online backup, etc.
The fourth edition is called Windows Server 2012 Foundation Edition. It’s only available to OEMs which isn’t applicable for most organizations so I won't touch on it here.
That about sums it up. You can read about the pricing and licensing of editions in more detail by downloading these PDF papers:
And don't forget to try it out first by downloading an evaluation of Windows Server 2012 from here.
Pretty simple, eh?
Today, we announced which Windows Server 2012 editions will be available and the pricing for each – at least US pricing at for now. I was going to do a big blog post on it, but someone else already put together a great one, so why re-invent the wheel. In short, there are 4 editions on Windows Server 2012 (Foundation, Essentials, Standard & Datacenter) as show in this diagram:
One really important thing to remember is that the features of Windows Server 2012 Standard & Windows Server 2012 Datacenter will be the same – the main difference is the number of virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 provided when you purchase the product – two for Standard; unlimited for Datacenter.
Please check out the really great blog post from Aidan Finn for more details on the pricing and editions announced today.
Licensing. It’s the topic that we all love to hate, or to ignore at any rate. Based on the feedback we get through GRS (the Global Relationship Study) Survey that we send out twice a year, Licensing is a major pain point for many of you.
We hear you loud and clear and we’re doing more to help make things easier to understand. In addition to the licensing content we’re sharing through email and blogs, there’s now new training available that
really takes it to the next level.
If you're an IT or Procurement professional, Microsoft’s new Licensing Training and Accreditation will help you build foundational licensing knowledge you need to maximize your software investments. Stand out from the crowd and become a trusted advisor in your organization.
As if maximizing investments and adding to your list of trusted advisor roles you have wasn’t enough, you could win something too! From June 1 to June 30, 2012, become one of the first to achieve accreditation and be eligible to win some cool prizes—including the opportunity to win a limited edition Xbox 360 Star Wars bundle. Just register, or sign in at Microsoft Virtual Academy, take and pass the Licensing preview courses that are avaialbe and send your personalized PDF certificate via email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be entered into the drawing. For official rules and more information, visit: www.microsoft.com/licensingexpert
So what are you waiting for? Get started now!
Last week we released a beta version of Microsoft Assessment & Planning (MAP) Toolkit 7.0. The MAP Toolkit, a free download, is an agentless, automated, multi-product planning and assessment tool for quicker and easier desktop, server and cloud migrations. MAP provides detailed readiness assessment reports and executive proposals with extensive hardware and software information, and actionable recommendations to help organizations accelerate their IT infrastructure planning process, and gather more detail on assets that reside within their current environment. MAP also provides server utilization data for Hyper-V server virtualization planning; identifying server placements, and performing virtualization candidate assessments, including ROI analysis for server consolidation with Hyper-V.
MAP 7.0 Beta adds eight new scenarios that help you build the fabric of the future while supporting your business needs of today. Included are hardware and infrastructure readiness assessments to plan your deployment of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Beta, size your desktop virtualization environment, ready your information platform for the cloud with SQL Server 2012, and virtualize your existing Linux servers onto Hyper-V. The VMware migration assessment helps you identify opportunities to lower your virtualization costs with Hyper-V, and the licensing assessments now cover Lync 2010 Standard and reporting for active users.
Determine Windows desktop readiness
MAP 7.0 Beta assesses the readiness of your IT environment for your Windows desktop deployment. This feature evaluates your existing hardware against the recommended system requirements for Windows. It provides recommendations detailing which machines meet the requirements and which machines may require hardware upgrades.
Key benefits include:
- Assessment report and summary proposal to help you to understand the scope and benefits of a Windows desktop deployment.
- Inventory of desktop computers, deployed operating systems, and applications.
Assess Windows Server 2012 Beta readiness
MAP 7.0 Beta assesses the readiness of your IT infrastructure for a Windows Server 2012 Beta deployment. This feature includes detailed and actionable recommendations indicating the machines that meet Windows Server 2012 Beta system requirements and which may require hardware updates. A comprehensive inventory of servers, operating systems, workloads, devices, and server roles is included to help in your planning efforts.
Virtualize your Linux servers on Hyper-V
MAP 7.0 Beta extends its server virtualization scenario to include Linux operating systems. Now, MAP enables you to gather performance data for Linux-based physical and virtual machines and use that information to perform virtualization and private cloud planning analysis for both Windows and Linux-based machines within the Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track scenario.
Key features allow you to:
Start assessing your environment for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 today! Join the MAP 7.0 Beta today (Windows Live ID required).
A new whitepaper was released in January comparing private cloud solutions from Microsoft and VMware, taking a look at the functionality, benefits and economics of each solution. This series of blog posts breaks down the components of the whitepaper into consumable chunks and I’ve added my own commentary.
Licensing rights for your cloud
Private cloud building is not for everyone. That’s right – I said it. Despite some of the FUD that exists out on the Interweb private clouds are not the best option for everyone and their dog. While you gain in security and control, you lose in economies of scale. Licensing through the Enterprise Enrollment for Core Infrastructure means that you need 50 processors to use initially, which is a fair bit of computing power, and you have to be ok with making a 3 year commitment.
However, for companies that are looking to better use their IT infrastructure in a way that adds real value to the business and who want or need more control than what a public cloud scenario can provide, building a private cloud is a great option to have. The tools (Windows Server + System Center) have been around for a while and are proven solutions which your IT staff are likely already familiar with. Compared to other options, using Windows Server and System Center is quite cost effective (more on this coming in future posts in this series).
From the white paper:
Microsoft Private Cloud – Unlimited Virtualization Rights Microsoft private cloud solutions are built using Windows Server with Hyper-V and System Center – the combination of which provides enterprise class virtualization, end-to-end service management and deep insight into applications so you can focus more attention on delivering business value. Microsoft private cloud solutions are delivered through our wide ecosystem of partners and are offered as custom, pre-configured, or hosted offerings - so, no matter your unique business need; there is a Microsoft private cloud solution for it.
Microsoft private cloud solution is licensed through the Microsoft Enrollment for Core Infrastructure1 (ECI) licensing program. ECI is a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) enrollment, available in two editions (Datacenter and Standard), that allows a simple and flexible per processor licensing option.
ECI Datacenter is strongly recommended for customers exploring Microsoft private cloud solutions.
ECI Datacenter edition includes Windows Server Datacenter, which supports unlimited virtualization rights. This means that customers license on a per processor basis, with ability to have unlimited Windows Server based virtual machines on a particular physical processor. Additionally, ECI Datacenter also includes System Center 2012 Datacenter edition, which provides rights to manage an unlimited number of physical or virtual operating system environments. The components of ECI Datacenter are shown below.
Fig. 2: Microsoft ECI Datacenter Components and Value Proposition
Our approach is focused on delivering the benefits of scale to you – through unlimited virtualization rights and significantly simplified licensing for Windows Server and System Center. A deeper cost analysis is provided in the Private Cloud Economics section of this whitepaper.
[This article also appears in the IT Manager Connection blog]
A girlfriend of mine called me up this weekend looking for a DVD copy of an older piece of software. She was rebuilding a computer for a family member who had the product key but no installation media. I’m sure many of you have similar stories trying to fix or repair computers for your family and friends.
One of the nice things about using software online or “in the cloud” so to speak is that if your computer goes belly up and you need to rebuild it, the software will be there waiting for you, as soon as you can get computer back online.
For businesses, using online services can give you greater flexibility to pursue projects or try out ideas without having large upfront costs as well as providing foundational IT infrastructure without investing in your own data center.
While a post I wrote a little while ago outlined the basics of traditional software licensing, I figured I should follow up with how to license software in the cloud since online software subscriptions are becoming more prevalent. This short video does a good job at laying things out – like why you’d want to consider using online services and some of the advantages and cost-savings of licensing software this way:
Microsoft has several online services: Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Azure Platform, Windows Intune and others. Each service can be purchased through a volume licensing agreement or the Microsoft Online Subscription Program and then activated and managed managed through web portals:
One day I’d love there to just be one portal to manage all your online subscriptions (kind of like one ring to rule them all but much less evil) but consolidation takes time and so I make no promises but I trust this is the direction our Online Services folk are heading.
My colleagues and I get asked a lot about licensing. Frankly, Microsoft doesn’t have a great reputation for keeping it simple. And to be totally transparent – I, like many of my colleagues, would usually rather stick a fork in my eye that talk about it because it can get complicated. And confusing. And just…ugh.
So you can imagine my joy when I was asked to write a newsletter editorial about simplifying licensing. Exactly.
Then I had a very enlightening conversation with Terry Choquette, Licensing Marketing Manager at Microsoft and she pointed me to a few resources that got back to the basics and laid it all out very simply. I like simple. And I decided that this simple information was as blog worthy as it was newsletter worthy. While details about software licensing is not everybody’s favourite reading material, stick with me on this.
Ways to buy a license
First of all, there are 3 ways to buy a license as illustrated in the slide below: a full packaged product from a retail store, an OEM product on a new computer or a volume agreement from a reseller.
Volume licensing agreements
While you could simply walk into the nearest Best Buy or Future Shop and make your purchase, most organizations that need 5 or more licenses can benefit best from volume licensing agreements. Why? Well, there are some pricing advantages, there are more flexible options based on size and type of business, payment structure, ownership of software, etc., there are additional use rights for cross-language and reimaging machines, and there are use rights to new product versions, support, training, tools, etc., with Software Assurance (more about this below).
For this post, I’m going to limit my discourse to those organizations who want to license less than 250 devices or users, which I would hazard a guess applies to most of you reading this blog. If you need help with licensing options for 250 devices/users or more, lemme know and I’ll put you in touch with people who can help you or you can check out these online resources.
Below is a great 3.5 minute video that lays out the volume licensing options that are part of the Microsoft Open License program for small and medium sized businesses:
Basically, there are 3 volume licensing agreement options: Open License, Open Value and Open Value Subscription. Now if you want more detail than the video gives (you did watch it right? C’mon it’s only 3.5 minutes long and it’s pretty entertaining!), you’ll want to take a look at the Open License Program Guide. It has a very useful chart on page 8 which compares what you get with an Open License agreement compared to an Open Value agreement.
Software Assurance is something that can be added to your volume license agreement which provides 24x7 support, deployment planning services, training, and the latest software releases. Although once viewed as simply an insurance policy for free software upgrades, Software Assurance has now been recognized by analysts as an essential tool for getting the most out of your licensing purchase.
Below is a screen shot from an interactive PDF listing the benefits of Software Assurance with each type of licensing agreement.
For more information about Software Assurance and what it can do for your organization, check out the Software Assurance site.
Let me know if this was helpful!
[Cross-posted from the IT Manager Connection blog]