Microsoft releases Windows Server 2012 with free test

Windows Server 2012 hits general availability, with Microsoft pushing virtualisation and the cloud

4 Sep 2012

Microsoft has released Windows Server 2012, letting businesses test it for 90 days on the Azure cloud platform for free.

There are two versions of the main edition of Windows Server 2012: one with virtualisation support and one without. The former, the Datacentre version, costs $4,809, while the Standard edition will cost $882. UK prices are yet to be confirmed.

There's also an Essentials version, which replaces Small Business Server, for $501 per server, and Windows Server 2012 Foundation, which will only be available pre-installed on hardware.

One of the things we tried to do for this launch was simplifying the licensing

"One of the things we tried to do for this launch was simplifying the licensing," said Mike Schutz, general marketing manager for Windows Server. "We've simplified it to two core SKUs: Datacentre edition and Standard edition. We used to have multiple licensing models - some were per server, some were per processor - and the feature differentiation was spread through the editions. We got feedback that sometimes it was too complex for customers to choose which version."

Now, the only difference between the two core versions is the ability to use virtualisation, with Datacentre offering an unlimited number of virtual machines per processor, Schutz said.

SMB virtualisation

Microsoft is hoping that helps drive SMBs to take up virtualisation. Schutz said only a fifth of servers are virtualised, and that's mostly in large enterprises.

"Many SMBs are just now starting to virtualise their servers, so this is an economical way for them to get their feet wet," he said. "Largely, the SMB segment represents a market that is dramatically under-penetrated in virtualisaton, because of the cost of some of the alternative solutions out there. We really wanted to make cloud computing and virtualisation more approachable and more cost effective, particularily in this segment."

He noted that many of the current trends in IT - consumerisation, bring your own device (BYOD), and social apps - require servers to back them up. "All of those new devices and new applications drive demand for servers," said Schutz. "Whether you're an SMB or a large enterprise, you're needing to keep up with your work force... servers end up being the back end that support all of those new applications and devices."

One of the new features in Windows Server 2012 is Hyper-V 3.0, a new hypervisor for virtualisation, which Maurice Morris, director of server and cloud Platforms at Microsoft UK, said was the "highest performing in the market, second to none" - an assertion rival VMware may dispute.


To get users up to speed on the new server OS, Microsoft is offering a "virtual launch experience" with "depth" training on the new features, as well as a free 90-day evaluation trial running on Microsoft's Azure.

Martin said Microsoft's Virtual Academy was posting 1,000 exam passes each week as users get up to speed on the new OS.

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