Microsoft has lifted the lid on what users can expect from Windows Server 2012, announcing four separate SKUs of the operating system with a two-tier licensing system.
Starting at the top, the Datacenter edition, which costs $4,809 (£3,103), is aimed at "highly virtualised, private and hybrid cloud environments," with full Windows Server functionality for unlimited virtual instances. Its licensing model is per processor.
Sharing the same licensing model is the Standard edition, which is recommended for "low density or non-virtualized environments", offering full Windows Server functionality across only two virtual instances. An outlay of $882 (£570) buys users those privileges.
Essentials, at $425 (£274), is aimed at small business (effectively replacing Small Business itself), and sports a simplified interface with pre-configured connectivity to cloud services, and no virtualization rights whatsoever. Its licensing model is server-based, but maxes out at 25 users per licence.
Finally, Foundation is an OEM-only cut-down of Essentials, with general-purpose server functionality only, limited to 15 users per server, and also with no virtualisation rights.
The removal of the traditional Enterprise and Small Business editions have perturbed some long-time users, but in an FAQ released yesterday, Microsoft explained that "the price to purchase the rights to four instances of Windows Server 2012 will actually be less expensive than the price of Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise edition today".
Small Business's omission is similarly explained by Microsoft in the FAQ, when it says the removal is "in response to small business market trends and behaviour. The small business computing trends are moving in the direction of cloud computing".
Despite Microsoft's reasoning, these seem relatively high prices for a market in which many Linux-based server systems can closely compete.
The pricing also seems rather steep in light of the low-cost Windows 8 upgrade offer the firm announced earlier this week. The special offer, which runs out on 31 January 2013, lets users upgrade from XP for £26, and from Windows 7 for just £10.
The offer suggests an increasing willingness on the part of Microsoft to compete on price in a bid to make Windows 8 ubiquitous through the multi-platform portability of Metro.
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