Windows Server 2012 Editions & Features

Monday, December 3, 2012

Every few years or so, Microsoft has been releasing new versions of Windows server. With every release, the set of editions will vary. With the release of Server 2012, once again, Microsoft has changed the mix. However, with this release, it appears that things are a lot simpler. There are four new editions for Server 2012. Most Enterprise customers will be deploying one or two editions on their networks. The four Server 2012 editions are as follows:

windows server 2012 editions

Each edition has its purpose. The biggest advantage is that it is going to be easier than ever for organizations to pick the best edition to suit its needs. Here is a closer look at the four editions:

EditionPurposeFeaturesLicensingList Price
DatacenterHigh Virtualization, CloudUnlimited Virtual instancesProcessor x2, CALs$4,809
StandardNon-virtualized, lower densitySame features as Datacenter, limited virtualizationProcessor x2, CALs$882
EssentialsSmall businessSimple administration, no virtualizationServer, 25 accounts$501
FoundationEntry, EconomicGeneral purpose, no virtualizationServer, 15 accountsOEM only

You should note that for Standard and Datacenter editions, the pricing is based per two processors, not per single processor. Many servers today have dual processors, so this licensing model works well. However, if you install Standard or Datacenter on single processor servers, you cannot split the license across two servers. In addition, if you purchase a server with twelve processors, you will need six licenses to cover all of the processors.

Standard vs. Datacenter

In previous versions of Windows Server, the editions such as Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter all had different features and different limits with regard to access to hardware resources. You should also take note that there are no more hardware limitation differences between Standard and Datacenter. Standard is no longer limited to 32 GB of RAM, nor is it limited to 4 CPUs. Both Standard and Enterprise are limited to 4TB or physical memory. With regard to CPUs, Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter editions support up to 64 sockets and 320 logical processors if the version is Hyper-V enabled, or 640 logical processors if Hyper-V is disabled. Keep in mind that if you do decide to go beyond 2 CPUs, you will need to buy additional processor licenses as described above.

What about roles and features between Standard and Datacenter? Fortunately Microsoft has simplified that as well. All of the roles and features are the same for both Standard and Datacenter edition. In the past, if you were deploying certain roles or features, you had to choose among the different editions. With Server 2012, you don't have to do that any longer. The focus of choosing the 2012 edition decision is now based upon workloads. If you plan on running heavy workloads in a virtualized environment, just after hosting a few virtual guests, the Datacenter edition will become more cost effective with regard to licensing.

Windows Server 2012 Feature Comparison

Here is a summary of key server roles and features by edition.


Server RoleStandard
AD Certificate Services
AD Domain Services
AD Federation Services
AD Lightweight Directory Services
Application Server
DHCP Server
DNS Server
Fax Server
File Services
Network Policy & Access Services
Print & Doc Services
Remote Desktop Services
UDDI Services
Web Services
Windows Deploy Services
Windows Server Update Services


Server FeatureStandard
AD Rights Management Services
BranchCache Content Server
BranchCache Hosted Server
Direct Access
Internet Information Services 7.5
Network Access Protection
Remote Desktop Services
Server Core
Server Manager
Windows Deployment Services
Windows PowerShell

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Recommended Books & Training Resources

Windows 2012 Server Network Security: Securing Your Windows Network Systems and Infrastructure Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Installation and Configuration Guide Administering Windows Server 2012