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Microsoft Licenses on VMware

Posted on 2014-07-28
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We have three physical VMware hosts (v5.x) which have a number of Windows 2008 guest OS's running across them.

We only have Windows server standard licensing for these guest OS's and I believe there are restrictions on how many Windows-based servers you can have running on a single host without requiring Windows datacentre licensing (which offers unlimited servers).

My question is - if you have DRS in the equation, isn't there a potential for more than four Windows server guest OS's to be running on one host and therefore exceed the standard license entitlement?
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Question by:Hypervizor
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
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You would be much better off, purchasing a Windows Datacenter License for EACH VMware Host per CPU, that will cover you for ALL your VMs, and HA and DRS.
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by:Hypervizor
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Agreed - however, at the moment this is just under consideration - so need to know the above beforehand.
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by:Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE)
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Technically, the Standard Licenses you have are fixed to the Host, you are running the VM on, as soon as it moves to another hosts, another OS License is required.
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by:Hypervizor
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OK, but how does that work if you have DRS moving things around. If you have 8 standard licenses overall and 8 VM's, surely it doesn't matter if they move from host to host? It's not like they're OEM or is it just like that?
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by:Lee W, MVP
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License transfers are permitted only once every 90 days EXCEPT in cases of complete hardware failure.

You are right at the cut-off where Data Center becomes useful.  In 2012, if you have 9 or more VMs per host you want Data Center.

If you have 2 hosts, then upgrade, at least on paper, to 2012 R2 and buy two additional licenses.  The 2012 license grants TWO VMs per purchased license.  Put 5 licenses on each server and you're covered for all scenarios (involving 8 hosts).  (You need 5 per server because you cannot split up a purchased license and run one vm on one system and another on another.  To cover the scenario where you have 5 and 3 for some reason, you need 5 licenses.

Licensing Disclaimer
License information provided here is "best efforts".  The comments of the respondents are based on interpretation of the license agreements and their knowledge of the particular laws and regulations in their geographic location.  Laws in your location may invalidate certain aspects of the license and/or licenses can change.  "They told me on Experts-Exchange" will not be a valid excuse in an audit.  You need to contact the license granting authority to confirm any advice offered here.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE) earned 500 total points
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8 Standard Licenses for 8 VMs is not enough, if you have three physical hosts, and eight VMs could be on any one of three.

Microsoft decided that the license for Windows, (under vMotion/DRS/VMware HA) is specific to the Host Processor. The license is effectively tied to the "serial number" of that host processor.

So

VM-A on Host 1 is Licensed.

move it to

VM-A on Host 2 - is not licensed, unless you purchase another license!

This is why it works out cheaper to purchase Datacenter Licenses for all your ESXi hosts (per CPU).

http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/briefs/win2008-virtual.aspx

http://www.vmguru.nl/2010/04/how-to-license-microsoft-windows-server-in-a-vmware-environment-%E2%80%93-part-1/
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Actually, you need to do the math if you get the licenses for 2012.  And Data Center for 2008 isn't sold much anymore as far as I recall... even so, it can be cheaper to get 12 licenses of Standard to cover a maximum of 4 machines on each host (assuming you're not moving things around too often) than to buy 3 licenses of Data Center.  Again, you're at the point where the choice isn't quite clear - your future plans also play into what number and type of licenses you need to purchase.
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by:gheist
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The math is simple
Standard server 2012 R2 = 2 VMs
Advanced = unimited VMs.
1 Advanced costs ~6 Standard
If you exceed 12 VMs per host Advanced is cheaper. Until then you just volume-licence standard.
Given system requirement of 4GB+ you need serious server and not re-purposed workstations to gain from advanced server licence.
If you deactivate there is no forced grace period, so you need couple of licences for new systems. (how many failed last year for you? one in 140 for me...)
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Advanced is not an edition.  Data Center is.
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by:gheist
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Thank you for correction.
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by:Hypervizor
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@ Andy - I just read the VMGuru page you linked and it states in there:

"As long as the servers are licensed and do not simultaneously run more instances than the number for which they are licensed, you are free to use VMotion to move virtualized instances between licensed servers at will."

I notice this article goes back to 2010 though, so perhaps this has changed now?
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by:Cliff Galiher
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That doesn't contradict what has been said here already. That sentence isn't talking about cumulative licenses across all servers, but the number of licensed VMs on *each* server.

As an oversimplified example:

You have two server and you'll have 8 VMs. Now in an ideal world, you'd want 4 VMs in each server. But if you use a product that dynamically moves VMs based on workload, it is possible that all 8 VMs could end up on one server (unlikely, but possible.)

So *EACH*  server must be licensed for 8 VMs.  If you wend the Standard Edition route, that is 4 licenses of Standard (2 VMs per license) on each server.  Yes, most of the time a server will be running 4 VMs, or utilizing 2 licenses. The other two will be unused. But they are assigned to the hardware, and as discussed, *licenses* cannot be transferred more than once every 90 days (which has *no* correlation to how often VMs can be transferred.)  But they are there and assigned to cover the contingency that VMs get moved over.

Now lets take a look at it if you tried to go the other way. You assign 2 Standard licenses per physical server. Each server is now licensed to run 4 VMs. Because a SQL server runs amok, your utility moves 2 lighter VMs to the other server making room for the SQL VM. One server is running 2 VMs and has two licenses.  Fantastic, no problem. In fact, one license is (again) actually not being used.

But the other server now has SIX VMs and is licensed for only four.   Now, go back and read the quote you posted. I'll take a snippet:

"and do not simultaneously run more instances than the number for which they are licensed"

6 VMs are running simultaneously. The server is licensed for 4. You are now in licensing violation.

Okay, let's use the 90 day rule. We'll transfer the unused standard license to the new machine. We can do that. Now everything is good to go again. We are legal. But we cannot move *any* VMs. Moving even one will break licensing. If you moved one from the 6 VM machine to the two, the other machine only has one license (since you transferred the other), and you would be running 3VMs.  Bad. And if you transferred a VM the other way (giving SQL the whole box, for example) well...you now have 7 on the machine that is only licensed for six.

And you *can't* move the license back either because of the 90 day restriction (and yes there is a "shell game" clause that prevents you from claiming you moved a different license.

Now if you are very stingy and only manually move VMs, sure, you can technically probably get away with less licenses per server than the cumulative total of VMs. But if you use a product that dynamically moves VMs and balances workloads, such as SCVMM or similar, you need to license for the total potential number of VMs that could end up on that box at any given time. That is, from what I can tell, has been consistently said in the replies here, and that *is* consistent with the quote you gave from the article.

VMs are not licenses. VMs can move as often as you want. Licenses cannot. And licenses are always per machine, not a cumulative total across all machines.

Hope that helps.

-Cliff
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by:gheist
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Activation and Standard licences are per OSE - an instance of operating system - either virtual or on physical hardware.
vmotion allowed, FT needs two licences as both machines run simultaneously.

Datacenter licence is per physical server
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by:Cliff Galiher
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"Activation and Standard licences are per OSE "

That statement is partially wrong. Activation is per OSE. Licenses are not. Licenses are *always* assigned to physical hardware (for windows server.) Microsoft has gone out of their way to make this clear in many locations. Probably the easiest to read is here:

http://www.microsoft.com/en-in/licensing/about-licensing/briefs/win2008-virtual.aspx

Take note of the section on assigning licenses and later the section on planning for peak capacity. It is all consistent.
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by:gheist
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Yes, vmotion just re-assigns the licences... What is so hard to understand in it.
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by:Cliff Galiher
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Because vmption does NOT reassign licenses!!! An OSE is *not* a license!!! That terminology is not interchangeable. What's so hard about understanding that?
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by:gheist
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Moving Instances of Software
The updated licensing also makes it easier for you to use Microsoft server products in data centers where workloads move from one server to another. This type of movement might occur in data centers that use server blades, rack-mounted servers or VM technology. Regardless of the technology, the updated licensing makes it easier to move an instance of software from one licensed server to another.
For example, in Figure 6 below, server A and server B have each been assigned one license for Windows Server 2003 and one license for Exchange. You can redirect logical drives from the SAN towards server A or server B, depending on the needs of the workload. However, you may run only one instance of Windows Server 2003 and one instance of Exchange Server on server A at a time. Similarly, you may run only one instance of Windows Server 2003 and one instance of Exchange Server on server B at a time.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Just because VMWare says you can do it doesn't mean Microsoft does.  And when you license the OS, you are licensing from Microsoft.  This can get more complicated with 2012 since there are TWO VM OSEs per license.  These two CANNOT BE SPLIT.

In addition, gheist, your last comment may get removed if you don't clarify it's source.
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by:gheist
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Google can find the source, bing cannot, soryy.
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by:Cliff Galiher
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By your own citation, they are talking about moving INSTANCES. Not LICENSES. "Regardless of the technology, the updated licensing makes it easier to move an instance of software from one licensed server to another."

The instance moves. Both servers already had licenses assigned. The license DOES NOT MOVE OR GET REASSIGNED. In fact, this is further affirmed later.

 "Similarly, you may run only one instance of Windows Server 2003 and one instance of Exchange Server on server B at a time."

The exchange license on server A cannot be freely moved to server B to allow both exchange VMs to be running on a single physical server. This *clearly* shows licenses to not get reassigned.

Instances/OSEs can move. Licenses (generally) cannot. So you mist make sure you have ALREADY assigned licenses (to servers, not VMs and not OSEs) to cover any POTENTIAL workload that may get moved to that server by automated processes.

So thank you for posting an unsourced citation that ended up undermining your own argument and proving mine. I appreciate it. It happens to align with the sourced licensing document I posted from Microsoft already.
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by:gheist
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I did not write microsofts document virtualization_whitepaper.doc
It is in Licensing subfolder of my Documents folder.
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