To begin with, we all know that Hyper-V comes as a free addition to Windows Server 2012 R2. There are Standard and Data Center Editions. There is also a free version of Hyper-V called Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 that doesn’t require that you purchase a WS license? Finally, we need to get a clear understanding of the concept of virtualization rights.
Windows Server 2012 R2 virtualization rights
Windows Server 2012 R2 is a great operating system! The standard edition of the operating system is so powerful that it can support any operations, for any business, of any size. It can literally do anything you can think of that a Windows Server would do. There are no limitations. If you weren’t to build a complex cluster or run an advanced SQL implementation, go for it. Standard edition was built to handle that kind of workload. It’s not often we can say that about the standard edition of anything let alone Windows Server.
If Standard edition is so amazing then why would I want to pay 5 times the price to buy Datacenter Edition? It’s a good question and the answer is simple. Virtualization rights!
Today when you purchase a licensed copy of Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard or Datacenter Editions you get virtualization rights with the purchase. Microsoft Calls WS 2012 and its most recent rendition R2 the Cloud OS. They are clear that this operating system will be installed using the principles of cloud-based network infrastructure design. This means that if you are installing Windows Server 2012 R2 on a physical box you are probably using it as a host machine for Hyper-V to run your virtual machines in your network.
If you purchased Standard edition Microsoft will throw in 2 “Free” licenses for you to use for those virtual machines. Cool! Those free virtual machines licenses are called the virtualization rights. This is where the reasoning for Datacenter comes into play. With Standard edition, you got 2 virtualization rights but with Windows Server 2012 R2 Data Center edition you get unlimited virtualization rights. In this case, unlimited means as many virtual machines as your hardware platform can support. Wahoo!
Why would anyone buy Standard edition with its 2 virtualization rights when you could buy Data Center edition and get unlimited rights? It’s really a question of capacity and needs. The general rule of thumb is that if you are running more than 10 VMs and have an advanced hardware platform (read datacenter) then the datacenter edition will be a more cost-effective choice. If not then you probably want Standard one. Easy!
Free Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 R2
Let's finish our discussion of the Free Hyper-V landscape with a bit about Hyper-V Server 2012 R2. Microsoft has built this stand-alone version of Hyper-V that truly does stand alone in that it does not come with the full version of Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system. Hyper-V server does not have a graphical interface, and it can’t host the traditional roles and features like a traditional Window Server. It does one thing very well and that is hosting VM’s on the Hyper-V platform. Hyper-V Server is very lightweight, so much so that some have even run it from a USB drive. Really Cool!
Imagine this use case scenario
Let’s assume that I have a whole bunch of Licensed Windows Server 2008 boxes that I had running as VM’s. I really want the benefits of running Hyper-V in its 2012 R2 version. I could download and install it as the platform for my already licensed servers. It’s also a great test platform because it has excellent functionality and of course no cost. Now if you choose to add new VMs running WS 2012 R2 you will need to purchase licenses at which time you would get virtualization rights and would at that time have to decide whether you wanted to continue with Hyper-V server or simply move to Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012 R2.
The beauty is that you win either way and Hyper-V stays the way it should always be. Free!
- From the IBM hypervisor to Hyper-V - Chris Henley's Series (#1)