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Windows 2012 License for ESX Hosts

Microsoft states:
If a server is running ESX/ESXi as the virtualization technology, then Windows Server is not deployed as a host operating system in the physical OSE. However, a license is required for every physical processor on the server and every instance running in a virtual OSE should be appropriately licensed (Standard edition will allow up to two virtual instances with each license and Datacenter edition will allow an unlimited number of virtual instances with each license).

So I have datacenter licenses for all ESX processors -- and therefore have legally licenses whatever Windows VMs I run .

What I don't undertstand it how/what to use as license itself in each VM -- we run Windows 2008 R2 still -- and the 2012 license doesn't work for that.

2 Solutions
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If you logon to the Microsoft License Portal you will be able to obtain licenses under downgrade rights for other OS.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
First, just to clear up some terminology (because in a moment, it will be important):

A license is a legally binding agreement. It isn't applied to VMs so the following statement simply doesn't make sense:

"What I don't undertstand it how/what to use as license itself in each VM"

For windows licenses, they are "assigned" to a physical machine, not to a VM. And they grant rights to use the windows software in various ways, such as running one or more VMs.

Now, I don't mention all of this just to be obnoxious. It actually matters in your scenario if you want to use 2008 R2. That is considered a downgrade, and how you get downgrade rights differs by the type of license you purchased.  I am assuming that when you said your license doesn't work in a 2008 R2 VM, you actually meant an activation key, which is not a license at all, but would make your question make sense.

If you purchased a volume license, then you have access to the volume license servicing center (VLSC.) That website will allow you to download the 2008 R2 media *and* get an activation key so you can install and activate your VM. If you purchased OEM, however, you must work with the OEM to get media and get an activation code.

Also, as I recall, OEM licenses only grant downgrade rights for N-2 versions. Which, from 2012 to 2008 R2, is not a problem. But could make a difference if you wanted to run 2003, for example. VL offers much more lenient downgrade rights.

So ultimately you will have to refer to your license. It should state what downgrade rights you have specifically and how to exercise them.

Hope that helps.

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