Thursday, November 06, 2008

Simple Little Pocket Guide to Virtual Licensing -- Servers

Again, I had a great SMB Conference Call with Dave Sobel yesterday on Virutal Environments in the SMB space. It included specific questions and answers regarding SBS 2008, and the all-important Licensing of virtual systems.

My last post was Simple Little Pocket Guide to Virtual Licensing -- Desktops. Somehow, I boiled down everything you really need to know about licensing desktop VMs into a handy dandy guide you can clip out and stick in your wallet.

I expect you to show me yours at the next conference.

Now we're going to do the same thing with Servers!

First the Caveats: I don't work for Microsoft. None of this is official. Go educate yourself. I'm not responsible for anything. You're responsible for your own actions. Car salesmen lie.

Now for the meat of the matter. I believe the information presented here is accurate and that you can procede to make money with the following simple guide to licensing in the virtual environment. As with the previous post, I welcome feedback from Microsoft and I will update the post itself if necessary and not just the comments.

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In an attempt to keep you confused about licensing and perpetuate the belief that it's just too difficult to understand, Microsoft's Server licensing model is absolutely unrelated to the desktop model. Nothing you learned there applies here.

There are two basic pieces to the server licensing model. I will refer to them as the physical server or host server and the virtual server. A physical or host server is the actual machine you can touch.

Here's a basic diagram of how you can look at it:

Virtual Server running inside physical machine

Physical or Host Server

Now, here's the nut you need to crack with virtual servers: You have to somehow license both the physical machine and the virtual machine. You COULD just go buy a Server 2008 license for each one and you'd be good. But, if you don't need that host machine to serve a roll outside the virtual machine (e.g., file server, web server), then it seems really expensive to buy two licenses for the simple environment diagrammed above.

Microsoft's answer is: Load the O.S. on the physical server. Then only use the physical server to host virtual machines. At this point, you have "1 + 1" licensing. That means you are using one license to just run the virtual environment(s).

And you can legally load the operating system again into a virtual server.

Let's tweak our diagram a bit. This is the same machine, but we've noted the 1+1 feature.

Virtual Server running inside physical machine
(using 1+1 licensing)

Physical or Host Server
(using 1+1 licensing)

The really good news is that you get this licensing built right into Server 2008. Woo-hoo!

There aren't many reasons to NOT use this licensing by default from now on. See Dave Sobel's discussion of this on the SMB Conference Call on Virtualization.

You can also add additional virtual servers on this physical machine. You will need additional licenses for any additional servers. Sorry. You already got one freeby.

If you add another Virtual Server, it would look like this:

Virtual Server running inside physical machine
(using 1+1 licensing)

Second Virtual Server
Additional License Required

Physical or Host Server
(using 1+1 licensing)

Very simple, right?

Additional servers each require a separate license.

Other software (e.g., Exchange, SQL) must be licensed the same as a physical machine.

The only real difference between physical and virtual at this point is that you only need as many licenses in the virtual world as you have running servers. In other words, you can create 100 different virtual servers, but if 99 of them are off and you only run one at a time, then you only need licensing for that one.

Reference: Please read "Licensing Microsoft Server Products in Virtual Environments" on the following page:

SBS Coolness

What about the SBS 2008 environment?

Somewhere back in time (I think it was the SMB Conference Call with Jeff Middleton) I publicly announced that we are ONLY going to quote SBS 2008 Premium edition. There's just too much great flexibility with the Premium edition. If I ever had a client who needed a virtual environment, or needed a second server, I'd feel very guilty if I hadn't sold them Premium edition.

So it's a guilt avoidance thing, really.


SBS 2008 Premium edition includes the license for a complete Server 2008 machine. You can load the SQL or Exchange server onto that machine, if you wish. OR . . .

As Dave points out, because it's a full version of Server 2008, you can also use the 1+1 licensing option to:

- Load the O.S. on a physical machine

- Load the 1+1 O.S. into a virtual server to run one or more premium content servers (SQL, Exchange)

- Put your SBS machine into a virtual environment.

You get all this licensing with the Premium edition.


Virtual Server running SBS 2008

Virtual Server running SQL
(using 1+1 licensing)

Physical or Host Server
(using 1+1 licensing)

How cool is that?

Important safety tip from Dave: Do not make the physical machine a part of the SBS domain. Let it be a stand-alone machine. That way, you won't have any delays as you boot it up and it looks for a domain controller (which hasn't started yet in the Virtual Environment).

I hope all this makes sense. As you can see, it's a completely differnt model from desktop licensing, but it makes sense. And it's not difficult.

Let's see if we can boil it down.

Clip this Pocket Guide to Licensing -- Virtual Servers

  1. Server 2008 includes licensing for one physical server AND one virtual server, IF the physical server only hosts virtual servers
  2. The Server 2008 license that comes with SBS 2008 Premium can be used exactly like any other Server 2008 license
  3. You'll need an additional Server Licenses for each virtual server you add

WOW. That was shorter than I thought it would be.

Licensing is simple!



  1. Waynem11:32 AM

    Note that Server 2008 ENTERPRISE is 1 physical + 4 VMs and Datacenter is 1 physical + Unlimited VMs

  2. I'd also add that you can use Hyper-V Server 2008 which is free for the host OS.
    Only has the Hyper-V role and no GUI.

  3. This was just passed on from Mike Iem at Microsoft:


    Using Hyper-V with Windows Small Business Server 2008 Documentation Released

    The SBS UA team is pleased to announce that the following document is now available in the Windows Small Business Server Technical Library.


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