It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly server virtualization went from being a novelty to being a technology that almost everybody uses. For decades a server could be defined as a physical computer that was running a server operating system, and possibly a set of applications. This rather simplistic definition meant that licensing for a server was also usually pretty simple. There were exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking, you needed a license for the server’s operating system, and for any applications that were running on the server. Sometimes you might also require client access licenses, but even that wasn’t all that difficult to figure out.

Licensing gets a little bit trickier when you throw server virtualization into the mix, because suddenly there are multiple operating systems to consider. Unfortunately, there is no one single standard licensing model for virtualized environments. Every virtualization software vendor has their own licensing model. Even so, I wanted to try to shed some light on some of the issues that you will encounter when licensing virtualized servers by talking about Microsoft’s licensing policies.

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