Best practice for activating Server 2019 VMs on a 2012 host

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My Hyper-V Host is running Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter, and on here I have about 15 VMs.

I just purchased a Windows Server 2019 Datacenter license. I'm ready to start creating 2019 VMs but I am not ready to rebuild the host with Server 2019. Is that a requirement for activating VMs running Server 2019? I believe best practice is to install Server 2019 Datacenter on the host, activate it using the unique activation key; then, any VMs I create on that host are activated using AVMA (Automatic Virtual Machine Activation)

But in my scenario, the host is running Datacenter 2012 R2. My plan was to (one at a time) start creating VMs running 2019 to replace the older VMs running 2012. (For example, I have a file server VM running 2012. I am going to create a new VM running 2019, configure it the same was as my 2012 VM and then decommission (delete) the 2012 VM). The end result is that one at a time, the VMs get replaced with new VMs. But the host (at least for now) will continue running 2012.

Is there another way to activate the VMs when the host is not running the first 2019 Datacenter instance? Can I create my first 2019 server as a VM and use that VM as the 'server' from where all of the other VMs are activated using AVMA? Or does AVMA only work if it can authenticate (activate) against a host that is ALREADY running (and activated) with 2019 datacenter? I am probably answering my own question here but surely there must be a way to install newer OS VMs on an older host OS.
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Distinguished Expert 2018
A MA activates against the host. Furthermore, integration services really only work well if the host is the same level as the highest VM. You can get away with N-1 (so in this case, 2016, but historically n-2 and greater tends to start having erratic problems though technically supported.

If you've been following best practice of having the host ONLY be the host then upgrading the host first should be trivial.  What is your roadblock for that?


Yes, the host is only working as a host. The server's small internal drive only has Windows installed on it along with a few ISOs sitting in a folder for easy access (that can easily be moved). If I were to blow out that host and do a clean install of Server 2019 DC, what happens with the 2012 VMs that were linked to that host? Don't they occasionally need to ping that host to rearm the activation?
Top Expert 2016
Server 2019 will VMA server 2019/2016/2012

Server host version	Windows Server 2019	Windows Server 2016	Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows Server 2019	            X                     X                             X
Windows Server 2016		                          X                             X
Windows Server 2012 R2			                                        X
Note that these activate all editions (Datacenter, Standard, or Essentials).

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Thank you both for your help with this.

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