Windows Server 2012 SKUs & Licensing; End of Windows Home Server and Small Business Server Essentials Announced

Microsoft on July 5 announced that there will be four versions of Windows Server 2012, that include: Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. With the unveiling of the new Windows Server 2012 product lines, Microsoft also ends the era of Windows Home Server 2011, as the company has merged its small server lines […]

Microsoft on July 5 announced that there will be four versions of Windows Server 2012, that include: Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation.

With the unveiling of the new Windows Server 2012 product lines, Microsoft also ends the era of Windows Home Server 2011, as the company has merged its small server lines into a single product SKU - the $425 Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

Also, with the new Server 2012 line up, Windows Small Business Server Essentials has now been renamed as "Windows Server 2012 Essentials."

"By making Essentials a full-fledged member of the Windows Server family, we are reaffirming our commitment to delivering a flexible, cloud-enabled server platform that is designed and priced for small businesses and the partners that serve them. Formalizing Essentials as a core edition of Windows Server 2012 will more clearly communicate how it fits into the Windows Server family and give it more visibility as a product," Microsoft stated.

Windows Server 2012 SKUs: Standard, Essentials, Foundation, Datacenter

"Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the latest version of Windows Small Business Server Essentials and has been designed to give the flexibility to choose which applications and services run on-premises and which run in the cloud. It can run on physical servers with up to two processors and has been designed for small businesses with up to 25 users. It incorporates best-of-breed 64-bit product technologies to deliver a server environment well-suited for the vast majority of small businesses," Microsoft stated.

"Essentials offers lower up-front acquisition and deployment costs. It allows you to take advantage of cloud-based messaging offerings while enjoying an integrated management experience by subscribing to Office 365 or a hosted Exchange service. If you prefer a fully on-premises solution, you've the option of running Exchange Server on a second server (either as a physical or virtual machine) alongside Essentials with the same integrated management experience."

Windows Server 2012 Essentials can also be used as a platform to run line-of-business applications and other on-premises workloads, as well as to provide an integrated management experience when running cloud-based applications and services, such as email, collaboration, online backup, and more.

The product technologies include:

  • Windows Server 2012 operating system
  • Data protection
  • "Anywhere" access
  • Health monitoring
  • Workload flexibility
  • Extensibility
  • Add-ons for many small business solutions, including a connector to Office 365

Windows SBS 2011 Standard, which includes Exchange Server and SharePoint Foundation, will remain available through the OEM channel until December 31, 2013, and will remain available in all other current channels until June 30, 2013.

Launched by Bill Gates with a fanfare in 2007, the last version of WHS is Windows Home Server 2011, codenamed "Vail," which Microsoft released to manufacturing in March, 2011. Microsoft confirms the sunsetting of Windows Home Server, in a FAQ datasheet accompanying the Windows Server 2012 Essentials announcement said:

Q: Will there be a next version of Windows Home Server?

A: No. Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in small office/home office (SOHO) environments and among the technology enthusiast community. For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features that were previously only found in Windows Home Server, such as support for DLNA-compliant devices and media streaming, into Windows Server 2012 Essentials and focusing our efforts into making Windows Server 2012 Essentials the ideal first server operating system for both small business and home use--offering an intuitive administration experience, elastic and resilient storage features with Storage Spaces, and robust data protection for the server and client computers.

Q: How long will customers be able to purchase Windows Home Server 2011?
A: Windows Home Server 2011 will remain available as an OEM embedded product until December 31, 2025, and will remain available in all other current channels until December 31, 2013.

The end-of-life date for the WHS 2011 is 2016, and will actually remain available as an OEM embedded product until December 31, 2025, and will also remain available in all other current channels until December 31, 2013.

Home users wishing to migrate to a Windows Server 2012 product will be required to upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Essentials, as the new entry level Server SKU available to the public.

The four new Windows Server 2012 SKUs: Foundation, Essentials; Standard and Datacenter -- "Windows Server 2012 Foundation is OEM only and therefore there is no Open NL pricing. Foundation is also for single CPU servers, such as a micro-server.

The Essentials SKU is for small/mid-size businesses and is limited to 25 users. The Standard and Datacenter SKUs round out the line-up. The former Windows Server Enterprise SKU is gone from the set of offered options."

Windows Server 2012 SKUs and Licensing Details

"There were about a dozen SKUs in Server 2008 R2 including SBS (small business server) and HPC (high performance computing). Now we have 4 SKUs in WS2012," said Aidan Finn, Microsoft Valuable Professional, who works for MicroWarehouse Ltd, an Irish Value Added Distributor, as a Technical Sales Lead.

Finn said, "Standard covers 2 CPUs in a host, and goes from one VOSE (virtual operating system environment - 1 free Std install in a VM on that host) to two, and "now has all the features and scalability of Datacenter."" He noted there will be a small price increase, but said he thought that wouldn't matter, as it "should be virtualised anyway and the VOSE rights doubling will compensate."

Windows Server Datacenter was a minimum of two 1-CPU licenses with unlimited VOSEs. "Now it is a simpler SKU that covers two CPUs in a host with unlimited VOSEs," Finn said.

"The news is good for 99.5% of people. It's all getting simpler, and matching the model of the System Center 2012 Server Management License (SML)," Finn said.

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