Windows Server 2012 R2: how the Datacenter edition could change SMBs

Now that Windows Server 2012 R2 is out there, I’m getting to grips with a small surge – not yet a tidal wave – of questions.

Windows Server 2012 R2: how the Datacenter edition could change SMBs

Quite a few people agree with my assessment that this is the jump-in release for businesses that have been sitting back and waiting throughout the recession. We’re now at the stage where jumping in has begun, although judging from these emails, it’s still mostly about putting some test boxes together and going for a free trial download.

How cool is it that? Given a storm-free internet and a few hours, you can run up a trial version of the latest release and then sit in front of it for a full 180 days before you need to worry about buying a licence – certainly a step forwards from the old days. However, it’s also advance warning of a new difficulty and – just for a change – it isn’t a technical issue.

Given a storm-free internet and a few hours, you can run up a trial version of the latest release and then sit in front of it for a full 180 days

Microsoft was clearly alarmed by all the fuss kicked up by VMware’s customers over sudden changes to licensing rules introduced in an otherwise relatively minor upgrade: hence the approach to licensing Server 2012 R2 is very different (although poorly explained).

I don’t mean to get all snooty and writer-ish about this (I’d hate you to think that to Cassidy everything is poorly explained unless illuminated by the blazing light of his own intellect). Actually, I was most impressed by the explanation that Redmond’s techies gave me of what their new toy could do.

The good vibes broke down only once our discussion arrived at what could be done with the various versions of Server 2012, almost all of which vary only in licence keys rather than in the delivered code. Incidentally, there’s a lot of confusion over the DVD ISO labels, arising from exactly this same problem. Yes, it is the same ISO image that you download for Server Standard and Storage Server: only their licence key sets them apart.

Full version, full price

You’ll notice that the 180-day trial is of the Datacenter edition, and this is no accident. Datacenter is the full-fat, all-options build, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on any features during the course of a trial. Of course, Microsoft would like to steer you towards buying Datacenter, the most expensive version, by making it a little difficult to figure out which features are cut out from the lesser releases.

You can’t get any more roles or features in Windows Server 2012 R2 than those included or enabled by a Datacenter licence key. The price gap is pretty impressive, though: at the time of writing, Dabs lists a plain Essentials 64-bit server licence at £292, then neatly adds an extra digit for the equivalent, no-added-users Datacenter licence, at £2,925.

And my response to such prices, and to your questions, may shock you, because I believe that smaller businesses should plump for Datacenter.

Okay, take a few minutes to reel in shock (Steve Cassidy in shopaholic horror!). Three thousand pounds retail? That’s a huge outlay for a server OS.

I acknowledge this, especially in an industry that’s been walking away from high upfront costs for the last half-decade as an article of faith (and customer sympathy).

I also want to be sure you understand I’m not advising that everybody jump in with the big cheques. But if you like the idea of the 180-day trial, then consider how good it would be to get a deal where you could just keep blatting out server VMs ad infinitum.

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