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  • I recommend reaching out to CDW who has Microsoft licensing experts in house.  They can also recommend which of the Volume Licensing options are appropriate and economical for your situation.  MS changes their licensing almost at every version, but in general it sounds like you may be doing this the expensive way.  VL also lets you rapidly change to meet demands for resources.

    A CAL gives a user a license to access all Windows servers at or below the version of the CAL.  They must be upgraded to the latest version in use by that number of users.

    It may no longer be the case, or be different for 64-core levels, but DataCenter used to be a pretty good deal in situations where there are a lot of Windows VMs involved.

    ESXi vs Windows Hyper-V has no impact on Windows licensing required.

    Spice (7) flagReport
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  • Like DZee said, volume licensing could be your friend here. I know in the past a datacenter license would allow as many vms as you wanted but since they switched ot the core license model I am unsure of how it would all work in your situation. A past distributor I used D&H also had some good licensing folks there in the past but it has been a little over two years since I was with the company that used D&H. 

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  • spicehead-ulwuo wrote: (I've abbreviated to highlight certain points)

    new projects will result in new VMs that are only active during these project phases. Let's say there's 8 Win Server VMs running at the same time.

    Based on the relatively low number of concurrent VMs, I went and got Standard. The licenses are OEM, though,

    They also allow two OSEs and I don't think there's any restriction as to which VM is currently using a licensed spot (i. e. no binding of license to VM)... right?

    The project specific VMs are special.
    a) Some come preconfigured (but not activated) from customers who will license the VM using their own volume license after deployment.
    b) Some we install ourselves, but move (or rather copy and archive) to a different host with fewer cores for deployment.
    c) Some again we use as copy of the currently deployed system for analyses or further software changes.

    Now I'm fairly sure that I need more licenses for (some of?*) the 6 additional Server VMs. The question is what kind - I can't figure out what exactly exists besides OEM - Google tells me about Open Value, Open License, Open Value Subscription, maybe more - but only a subset of these seem to actually exist in stores. (I seem to recall that the Open License model was discontinued?) There's posts about volume licensing, but they seem to be subscriptions again, so I'm just not sure what the hell I need. From what I found, OEM will 'bind' to the first VM it's activated on, so transferring it to another VM after project completion would be illicit.

    *brings me back to the three types of VMs.
    a) Do I need a license while setting up and testing our software before deploying to production? The customer has technically created the VM, but I suppose I need a license for myself if I want to RUN it?
    b) I suppose I need additional licenses while running on the 'big' server before moving it out to the deployment server, despite running it in the same configuration? What about the Evaluation editions?
    c) These obviously need to be licensed.

    Then there's the issue of CALs that are just largely ignored when it comes to Server licensing questions or blog posts. If I understood correctly, you need to cover each person or device accessing the server. Is that SIMULTANEOUSLY (like the 8 simultaneous OSEs) or for any user/device that might ever connect to the server? The same question goes for RDS, I suppose. The PLC VM will have the same two or three people connecting (using a shared user), while the build agent is triggered by pretty much everyone I guess, if that counts. The project VMs are used by the same few project specific people until completion.

    Does it need to cover access to the Linux hosted services (under the same argument that you need to license all cores, despite not actually using them for Windows)? Are CALs needed package-wise like the re-licensing for each two OSEs (in which case each individual VM usage becomes interesting) or is it a one time thing for the whole setup (in which case I'd just get 25 CALs and be done with)?

    I'm thinking user CALs since we each have our one workstation.

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Lots more to unpack here, and I'll defer to true "Microsoft Licensing experts".  My advice is to not ask too many different experts because I've been at Microsoft headquarters when I worked at a PC/server manufacturer, and have heard different answers from Microsoft employees brought into a room as the licensing gurus.

    • One of the items you bring up is OEM licenses.  All Microsoft OEM licenses are, as the name implies, intended to be sold and installed by ORIGINAL MANUFACTURERS on/with a piece of EQUIPMENT.  They are not for filling out your license requirements on VMs for internal computer operations at a company that is buying them from the open market.  Valid uses are if you assemble PCs yourself and sell them and need to offer an OS ready out of the box.
    • A key difference between Standard and DataCenter license levels was at one point the portability of the VMs between host systems.  I don't know this has changed.  While technically there is not a restriction that prevents the movement of a Standard VM to a different host, it is not in keeping with the licensing terms.  In other words, you cannot buy a pile of Standard licenses and then just move the VMs around among a bunch of hosts even if you maintain the  same total number of VMs. This was a DataCenter licensing feature.

      The transfer of a VM outside your organization as part of a solution delivered in the form of a VM is something you definitely have to run by a Microsoft expert if you wish to stay out of trouble.  I don't think this kind of license transfer is just OEM or ordinary licenses, but MS had (or has) a separate program when the OS or other server software delivered as part of a larger integrated solution we had in place as a manufacturer in a past job.

    • If you have 10 VMs on a system and 8 of them are "off" you are not using just two licenses.  Microsoft licensing doesn't define an OSE as necessarily running or "on".  If you have 10 VMs and only 2 are running at the moment you still need 10 VM licenses.  If you go through a MS licensing audit, the software they run counts them all.

    • Down to your more direct questions:
      a) Do I need a license while setting up and testing our software before deploying to production?

      Writing the software and testing, no, but setting up as in configuring a client's environment, maybe. Microsoft offers development and testing environments that are included in the VS/MSDN licensing and don't require separate licensing. This is to encourage the use of their products. The line appears to be when the software is used in the performance of business versus the core R&D process, and it can be argued that deployment is part of the sale.

      The customer has technically created the VM, but I suppose I need a license for myself if I want to RUN it?
      Doing so would certainly show good faith that you're trying to abide by licensing. This goes back to the Standard licensing and portability. You're saying the client is transferring a VM configured on their servers to you as a file, you're running it to install software, then handing it back to them?  Sounds like a big gray area. On the one hand, this is operationally not that different from remoting in and installing, but from a licensing terms perspective it isn't. I think of all the odd situations present here, this one may create the most conflicting answers from Microsoft experts:  Everything from "Yes, definitely need licensing of your own" to "you need a special license to do that" to "I don't know. Don't get caught."  Probably even a few, why don't you just install remotely?

      b) I suppose I need additional licenses while running on the 'big' server before moving it out to the deployment server, despite running it in the same configuration? What about the Evaluation editions?  c) These obviously need to be licensed.

      If you're saying you run the VMs on a "big" server - such as your primary host farm - then later move the VM onto another server you deploy as a turn-key host with the VM on it, you may be back to OEM license, particularly if you're selling a bare metal server with either Hyper-V or VMWare with a Windows VM on it as a turn-key solution. 

      Not sure what you mean by Evaluation edition, but if you're referring to something you send out to a prospects for trial use as a VM, yes, I'd say those need licenses but that likely goes back to this alternate licensing where Windows or other MS server software is offered as a solution bundle.


    Spice (1) flagReport
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  • DZee wrote:

    spicehead-ulwuo wrote: (I've abbreviated to highlight certain points)

    new projects will result in new VMs that are only active during these project phases. Let's say there's 8 Win Server VMs running at the same time.

    Based on the relatively low number of concurrent VMs, I went and got Standard. The licenses are OEM, though,

    They also allow two OSEs and I don't think there's any restriction as to which VM is currently using a licensed spot (i. e. no binding of license to VM)... right?

    The project specific VMs are special.
    a) Some come preconfigured (but not activated) from customers who will license the VM using their own volume license after deployment.
    b) Some we install ourselves, but move (or rather copy and archive) to a different host with fewer cores for deployment.
    c) Some again we use as copy of the currently deployed system for analyses or further software changes.

    Now I'm fairly sure that I need more licenses for (some of?*) the 6 additional Server VMs. The question is what kind - I can't figure out what exactly exists besides OEM - Google tells me about Open Value, Open License, Open Value Subscription, maybe more - but only a subset of these seem to actually exist in stores. (I seem to recall that the Open License model was discontinued?) There's posts about volume licensing, but they seem to be subscriptions again, so I'm just not sure what the hell I need. From what I found, OEM will 'bind' to the first VM it's activated on, so transferring it to another VM after project completion would be illicit.

    *brings me back to the three types of VMs.
    a) Do I need a license while setting up and testing our software before deploying to production? The customer has technically created the VM, but I suppose I need a license for myself if I want to RUN it?
    b) I suppose I need additional licenses while running on the 'big' server before moving it out to the deployment server, despite running it in the same configuration? What about the Evaluation editions?
    c) These obviously need to be licensed.

    Then there's the issue of CALs that are just largely ignored when it comes to Server licensing questions or blog posts. If I understood correctly, you need to cover each person or device accessing the server. Is that SIMULTANEOUSLY (like the 8 simultaneous OSEs) or for any user/device that might ever connect to the server? The same question goes for RDS, I suppose. The PLC VM will have the same two or three people connecting (using a shared user), while the build agent is triggered by pretty much everyone I guess, if that counts. The project VMs are used by the same few project specific people until completion.

    Does it need to cover access to the Linux hosted services (under the same argument that you need to license all cores, despite not actually using them for Windows)? Are CALs needed package-wise like the re-licensing for each two OSEs (in which case each individual VM usage becomes interesting) or is it a one time thing for the whole setup (in which case I'd just get 25 CALs and be done with)?

    I'm thinking user CALs since we each have our one workstation.

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Lots more to unpack here, and I'll defer to true "Microsoft Licensing experts".  My advice is to not ask too many different experts because I've been at Microsoft headquarters when I worked at a PC/server manufacturer, and have heard different answers from Microsoft employees brought into a room as the licensing gurus.

    • One of the items you bring up is OEM licenses.  All Microsoft OEM licenses are, as the name implies, intended to be sold and installed by ORIGINAL MANUFACTURERS on/with a piece of EQUIPMENT.  They are not for filling out your license requirements on VMs for internal computer operations at a company that is buying them from the open market.  Valid uses are if you assemble PCs yourself and sell them and need to offer an OS ready out of the box.
    • A key difference between Standard and DataCenter license levels was at one point the portability of the VMs between host systems.  I don't know this has changed.  While technically there is not a restriction that prevents the movement of a Standard VM to a different host, it is not in keeping with the licensing terms.  In other words, you cannot buy a pile of Standard licenses and then just move the VMs around among a bunch of hosts even if you maintain the  same total number of VMs. This was a DataCenter licensing feature.

      The transfer of a VM outside your organization as part of a solution delivered in the form of a VM is something you definitely have to run by a Microsoft expert if you wish to stay out of trouble.  I don't think this kind of license transfer is just OEM or ordinary licenses, but MS had (or has) a separate program when the OS or other server software delivered as part of a larger integrated solution we had in place as a manufacturer in a past job.

    • If you have 10 VMs on a system and 8 of them are "off" you are not using just two licenses.  Microsoft licensing doesn't define an OSE as necessarily running or "on".  If you have 10 VMs and only 2 are running at the moment you still need 10 VM licenses.  If you go through a MS licensing audit, the software they run counts them all.

    • Down to your more direct questions:
      a) Do I need a license while setting up and testing our software before deploying to production?

      Writing the software and testing, no, but setting up as in configuring a client's environment, maybe. Microsoft offers development and testing environments that are included in the VS/MSDN licensing and don't require separate licensing. This is to encourage the use of their products. The line appears to be when the software is used in the performance of business versus the core R&D process, and it can be argued that deployment is part of the sale.

      The customer has technically created the VM, but I suppose I need a license for myself if I want to RUN it?
      Doing so would certainly show good faith that you're trying to abide by licensing. This goes back to the Standard licensing and portability. You're saying the client is transferring a VM configured on their servers to you as a file, you're running it to install software, then handing it back to them?  Sounds like a big gray area. On the one hand, this is operationally not that different from remoting in and installing, but from a licensing terms perspective it isn't. I think of all the odd situations present here, this one may create the most conflicting answers from Microsoft experts:  Everything from "Yes, definitely need licensing of your own" to "you need a special license to do that" to "I don't know. Don't get caught."  Probably even a few, why don't you just install remotely?

      b) I suppose I need additional licenses while running on the 'big' server before moving it out to the deployment server, despite running it in the same configuration? What about the Evaluation editions?  c) These obviously need to be licensed.

      If you're saying you run the VMs on a "big" server - such as your primary host farm - then later move the VM onto another server you deploy as a turn-key host with the VM on it, you may be back to OEM license, particularly if you're selling a bare metal server with either Hyper-V or VMWare with a Windows VM on it as a turn-key solution. 

      Not sure what you mean by Evaluation edition, but if you're referring to something you send out to a prospects for trial use as a VM, yes, I'd say those need licenses but that likely goes back to this alternate licensing where Windows or other MS server software is offered as a solution bundle.


    Two significant errors here.

    "A key difference between Standard and DataCenter license levels was at one point the portability of the VMs between host systems. I don't know this has changed. While technically there is not a restriction that prevents the movement of a Standard VM to a different host, it is not in keeping with the licensing terms. In other words, you cannot buy a pile of Standard licenses and then just move the VMs around among a bunch of hosts even if you maintain the same total number of VMs. This was a DataCenter licensing feature."

    This was never the case. Neither Windows Standard nor Windows Datacenter offer any license portability for the VMs. The license belongs to the host, not the VM. Move a license to another host, and the other host needs to be properly licensed for that running VM. Software Assurance doesn't even offer this benefit. The new host needs to be licensed.

    "If you have 10 VMs on a system and 8 of them are "off" you are not using just two licenses. Microsoft licensing doesn't define an OSE as necessarily running or "on". If you have 10 VMs and only 2 are running at the moment you still need 10 VM licenses. If you go through a MS licensing audit, the software they run counts them all."

    Maybe MAP counts all of the VMs, but thy don't count for licensing purposes. Only running VMs need to be licensed on the host. Clones of VMs, or VMs that are just powered off don't count.

    Spice (3) flagReport
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  • A 64 core server seems very expensive to license, unless you really need all those cores for the Linux VMs.

    A 64 core server requires four 16 core Windows Server Standard license to be "stacked", to get to the minimum license needed to run just 1-2 Windows Standard VMs on the host. At say $1,000 per license, that's $4,000 to license for just 2 VMs, as opposed to a 16 core CPU that would require just a single $1,000 license for the same two VMs. Unless you plan on running hundreds of Linux VMs and have likely 1 TB or more RAM in the server, I suggest looking at a CPU with a much lower core count.

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  • Hello all,

    thanks so much for all your input.

    It's apparent that I need to try professional help again, despite the initial disappointment. Maybe I'll get lucky this time. I'll update once I know what I'm going to do.

    A bit of context: The PLC simulator will use most of the cores, depending on project size. Most project VMs will get 2-4 cores max. In retrospect, it might have been easier  and cheaper to license if we got 2 or 3 hosts to split the load since the PLC instances run independently - the hardware seemed cheaper, but none of us anticipated the licensing issue. Lesson learned.

    Cheers!

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  • Hey OP! As previously mentioned, it sounds like it would be helpful to get some help from MS licensing experts. Trusted Tech Team has a great team of in-house experts available to chat through all of your details (free consultations, might I add). 

    I just passed along the details in your post, but if you'd like to get direct answers faster, you're always welcome to reach out through these contact methods:


    But in the meantime, we do have this handy Windows Server calculator that you can input your server's physical specs to receive a free PDF outlining the best licensing options (e.g., server version, number of cores, RDS needs) for your full server environment.


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  • I know I'm not being (too) helpful here, but, should this be that difficult to figure out? I mean, c'mon, it seems like Microsoft takes every opportunity to "trap" you into non-compliance, since you can't make heads or tails of the licensing in your particular use case, and even Microsoft can't necessarily tell you what you NEED to do, just what you "might want to do" to at least maintain the impression of compliance. I consider this a monumental failure on Microsoft's part, and it's probably opening them up for a huge class action lawsuit at some point when someone with enough time and money decides that they've had enough.

    Spice (2) flagReport
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  • You said a new test bed. Is this server and VMs purely for testing and will never be used for production? 

    If that is correct, doesn't that fall under development allowed un-paid licensing?

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  • Understanding server licensing is it's own expertise.  May be a little late for this, although if you buy your servers and licenses from a large IT distributer, like CDW, they will certainly have the expertise to let you know exactly what licensing is required.

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  • Per core licensing for Windows 20xx was introduced with Windows 2016, so it isn't exactly new, but seems to catch people off guard. I don't find per core licensing confusing, as it seems pretty straight forward to me, and I have been around Microsoft Windows Server licensing since the last millennium. What I don't understand are all of the alternative licensing models.

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  • > But in the meantime, we do have this handy Windows Server calculator 

    Yes, that was the only one that also recommended CALs!

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  • It's not that difficult (why do people always try to over complicate?)

    Simple terms, you need to license all cores in your physical server for the number of simultaneous windows VMs running at any point. Where the VMs have come from is irrelevant.
    Server standard allows for 2 VMs per license (remember you have to license all cores..)
    Datacenter license allows unlimited VMs on the licensed hardware (remember you have to license all cores)
    All hardware needs to be licensed (2 x the number of servers in use = 2 x the number of licenses caveat BCP - see below)

    Cals give you the right to connect to the server OS and (in most cases) are per named user (could be per device).
    CALs *may* be included in other products (M365E3 for example includes a Windows user CAL)

    Your licenses can either be supplied by the equipment manufacturer (OEM, entirely non transferable baring warranty repair/replacement), volume (various programs) or retail. Add SA and non OEM licenses may allow for movement of the license to another machine (BCP for example).

    As a certain meerkat in some UK ads says "simples"

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  • And all of above is why I use Linux.

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