Report by: Rob Helm

Posted: October 29, 2012

Windows Server 2012 ships without a discounted edition for running Web servers, but the use rights of the base OS have been loosened to cover that use. The move could raise license costs for some public Web sites on Windows Server, but probably not enough to change the competitive position of Windows Server versus Linux OS distributions.

No Client Licenses Needed for Public Web Sites

Windows Server 2012 eliminates Windows Web Server, an edition available with Windows Server 2008 R2 and some earlier versions. Web Server was intended to host public Web sites, a role where Open Source OSs such as Linux distributions have a strong following. It delivered limited technical capabilities compared to Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter, but offered lower licensing costs.

Formally, Windows Web Server was licensed to run what Microsoft called "Internet Web solutions," which it defined as consisting "solely of web pages, websites, web applications, web services, and/or POP3 mail serving." The licensed server was allowed to run specific types of software to support the Web solution, including database engines such as SQL Server. All content and applications had to be publicly accessible, and none could be limited to an organization's employees. Among other things, the public access requirement prevented licensing extranets or paid subscription sites solely with Windows Web Server.

Windows Web Server did not require licenses for client devices or users, which reduced licensing costs and simplified compliance compared to other Windows Server editions. A Windows 2008 R2 Web Server license for a single Web server cost US$403. To license the same server without Windows Web Server, an organization would need a Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard license, plus an External Connector license, which permits access to a single server by any number of nonemployees and their client devices. Those two licenses together cost US$2,745. (All prices listed here are U.S. Open No Level, the highest price a U.S. business would typically pay in Microsoft Volume Licensing.)

Web Workload Covers Base OS for Public Sites

Windows Server 2012 solves the same problem as Windows Web server by including similar use rights in its Standard and Datacenter editions. In particular, when running a "Web workload," these Windows Server 2012 editions do not require licensing clients with Client Access Licenses (CALs) or External Connectors.

As defined in Microsoft's Oct. 2012 Product Use Rights and Product List documents, a Web workload is substantially the same as the "Internet Web solution" for which Windows Web Server was licensed. A Web workload consists of "Internet-accessible web pages, web sites, web applications, and web services and POP3 mail serving," and content must be publicly accessible. The Web workload clauses permit the same supporting services (such as database engines) as were allowed by Windows Web Server.

This means that an organization may license a Web server for a Web workload with Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter server licenses without further client licensing costs or compliance headaches. The server license costs are higher than they would have been with Web Server. For example, a Windows Server 2012 Standard license costs US$883 versus US$403 for Web Server. However, that cost is still substantially lower than the US$2,902 it costs to license a server with Windows Server 2012 Standard and an External Connector. Moreover, Windows Server Standard includes all technical capabilities of the server OS, and the right to run two instances of the software in virtual machines, so a single server might handle a larger workload more reliably than Windows Web Server could.

Customers who had active Software Assurance (SA) on a Windows Web Server license at Windows Server 2012's release date would normally be entitled to the next version of the license. However, since Windows Web Server has been eliminated in Windows Server 2012, no next version exists. Instead, Microsoft permits customers to exchange two Windows Web Server licenses covered by SA for a single Window Server 2012 Standard license.


Web workload licensing rules are set out in the Oct. 2012 Product Use Rights in the sections "Universal License Terms" and "Servers: Processor/CAL"; and in the Oct. 2012 Product List in the Product Notes section under a note labeled "Windows Server 2012 CAL." For the current versions of those documents, see

Special-purpose editions of Windows Server 2012 are listed in "Windows Server 2012 Special Editions".

Windows Server 2012 licensing is summarized in "Windows Server 2012 Editions and Licensing Changes" on page 16 of the Aug. 2012 Update.

Windows Server SA transitions are discussed in "Windows Server Customers Face Licensing Decisions" on page 18 of the Aug. 2012 Update.

Windows Server 2008 R2 licensing (including more information about External Connectors) is presented in the Nov. 2009 Licensing Outline, "Windows Server 2008 R2 Packaging, Licensing, Pricing."

Report by: Rob Helm

Posted: October 29, 2012