Is a Windows Server License Required? Choosing Between Datacenter and Standard Editions

Is a Windows Server License Required? Choosing Between Datacenter and Standard Editions

Is a Windows Server License Required? Choosing Between Datacenter and Standard Editions

Do you need a Windows Server license? The straightforward response is Yes. A license is mandatory if you’re operating a system with Windows Server.

We have occasionally heard a misunderstanding that VMware’s presence eliminates the need for a Windows Server license. It’s crucial to recognize that VMware functions solely as a hypervisor for virtual machine (VM) creation and management. This doesn’t replace the necessity for an operating system for those VMs, which hinges on the deployed services and applications. However, if your infrastructure is exclusively composed of Citrix desktops running on Windows 10/11, a Windows Server license isn’t required.

Choosing the appropriate Windows Server edition

Datacenter versus Standard relies on your specific requirements, particularly concerning virtualisation and scalability. The Standard edition permits up to two VMs, while the Datacenter edition provides an unlimited number. You can accumulate Standard licenses on a Hyper-V host to support additional VMs. Considering the price disparity, the rule of thumb is to opt for Datacenter if you’re managing more than nine VMs.

Should you invest in Software Assurance (SA)?

This is an interesting question. SA grants you the rights to upgrade to the newest version without extra costs. For Datacenter users, SA also includes dual rights with Azure. For every eight cores of Datacenter with SA, you can activate Azure Hybrid Benefits for an Azure VM of up to eight cores. Note that all Windows Server licenses must include SA to utilize Azure Hybrid Benefits.

If Azure isn’t part of your future plans and your current licenses lack SA, but you need to upgrade to the latest server version, you’re permitted to purchase a Microsoft Windows Server licenses from the second-hand market within the EU & UK. This route is usually a lot cheaper than purchasing the same ‘new’ license. This practice is sanctioned by European courts and must be conducted through a reputable firm specialising in license transfers. Note, you can’t add SA to a second hand license or a license where the SA has expired or wasn’t purchased in the first instance.

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About the author
Ian Nicholls, Managing Director at The SAM Club, leverages over a decade of experience in Software Asset Management. With a rich 30-year background in the legal sector, including a stint at Aderant and an in-house role at a law firm, Ian simplifies software licensing, ensuring cost savings and compliance for clients. A sports enthusiast, Ian...