Microsoft released new versions of Windows, Windows Server, and System Center in October, furthering their trend of releasing major upgrades every 2 years or less. In light of these new releases, I think now is the time to review the updated roadmap for these products. Read on to delve further into what the latest upgrade schedule means for your Microsoft licensing situation.
A few years ago Microsoft created a licensing program called Enrollment for Core Infrastructure, or ECI, that married Windows Server and System Center in one licensing bundle. This was a dicey proposition at first due to the fact that the two products had different licensing structures. Since then, Microsoft has synchronized licensing of the two products. For instance, one Standard license covers 2 processors and up to 2 virtual machines, and the Datacenter edition is also 2-processor but covers an unlimited number of machines. Well, now it appears that the two products are being developed and released together as well. Note that Version 2012 R2 (not a service pack, but chargeable upgrade) was released on October 30 for both. It is also worth noting that since the "R2" phenomenon began with version 2003 R2, the average time between upgrades is about 2 years or less. Thus a 3-year Software Assurance purchase will guarantee you at least one, if not two, new versions you would otherwise have to pay for.
The R2 trend does not extend to CALs however. Both Windows Server CALs and Windows Server RDS CALs (which saw a significant price increase this month) are still listed on the price list as "2012"--no R2. This is consistent with what we saw with Windows Server 2008 and means that there is no need to run out and replace your CALs when you start spinning up Windows Server 2012 R2 VMs--all 2012 CALs allow you to hit 2012 R2 servers.
The ECI program mentioned above has been removed from the price list starting this month, and replaced with Microsoft's new Server and Cloud Enrollment (or SCE) program. So you can still purchase Windows Server and System Center bundled together for a discount. The new SCE discounts are 15% off License and Software Assurance (also referred to as L&SA), and 5% of Software Assurance renewals. If you currently hold an ECI, there is nothing to do in the short term; your agreement will be valid until renewal, at which time you may transition seamlessly into the new program.
Windows XP reaches final end-of-life on April 8, 2014. What this means for your organization is that Microsoft will stop providing Service Packs, security patches, and support after that date. It's time to break up with XP; click here to start crafting your exit strategy.