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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

My company has just recently purchased a server with Windows 2008 Datacenter. We plan to virtualize dozens of servers on the system. The reason for going with Datacenter is that it allows unlimited virtualization licenses for all versions of Windows up-to and including Windows 2008 Datacenter.

However, when installing a copy of Windows Server in the VM, all the regular licensing and activation requirements are still there (obviously). So, how do you obtain a valid product key for installing a copy of Windows Server in the VM without actually purchasing a copy, which you shouldn't have to do given the unlimited licenses clause in Datacenter.

marked as duplicate by voretaq7 Feb 11 '12 at 4:02

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Ugh. Lots of misinformation here it seems.

  1. You don't need a Software Assurance Agreement to use any of the lower Windows Server editions (Standard/Edition) or the previous versions (Windows 2008 non-R2, Windows 2003, Windows 2000), these are covered by the DataCenter license.
  2. Software Assurance will let you upgrade to the latest edition of DataCenter if you have it. IE. If you have 2008, you can run the 2008 R2 version if you have a current SA.
  3. DataCenter is bought per processor on the physical machine. If it's a dual socket machine, you need 2 x Data Center licenses, if its got 4 CPU sockets, you need 4 DC licenses. This is different to the Standard/Enterprise licensing model and one Microsoft brought in to simplify licensing in a virtualised enviroment. You don't require licenses for the virtuals on the machine.
  4. Each different OS edition you install is going to require a different product Key. Windows 2003 Standard Edition key's don't work on 2008 Enterprise etc.
  5. You'll probably pick up your license keys for all the other Windows Server editions from the Microsoft Licensing portal. OEM DataCenter licenses (ie, bought from Dell already installed on the server as opposed to seperate Microsoft Volume License Agreement licenses) might be handled differently, but I doubt it. The portal should list all the previous OS's and their relevant Product Key/MAK/KMS codes.

"Windows Server 2008 Datacenter licenses include unlimited virtualization rights, meaning customers have the use rights to run an unlimited number of virtualized instances of Windows Server on processors licensed with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter without purchasing additional licenses"


I'd talk to your Microsoft reseller but that doesn't read as if you can install any old OS on there. You need at least one existing license per OS. That said, our Server 2008 Ent purchase also included 2003 R2 keys as well (similarly licensed) so I'm surprised you didn't get 2003 R2 keys.

Reading more about it: it means you can have as many Windows-server based VMs running w/in 2008 Datacenter as your box can physically handle. But, you need the appropriate licenses for those operating systems.

See: https://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/licensing-faq.aspx

Q. Say I have a Windows Server 2008 Enterprise license assigned to my server. What if I want to add a fifth instance of the server software in a virtual operating system environment?


With a license for Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, you may run up to four instances of the software in virtual operating system environments. If you want to run a fifth instance in a virtual operating system environment, you must acquire and assign an additional license to that server. It may be more economical to license the server with Windows Server 2008 Datacenter or “step up” your Enterprise license to Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.

  • We got our Datacenter copy from Dell. I couldn't find any additional product keys in the documentation. Where did you find your 2003 R2 keys? – Chris Thompson Aug 24 '09 at 19:07
  • Ours was in the Microsoft License portal. We may have paid extra for that, or maybe it was some sort of promotion – Matt Rogish Aug 24 '09 at 19:13

This just means that you can run unlimited server 2008 DCE vm's on the same physical host using the same key over and over again (MAK unless you have a larger/SA agreement and get KMS keys). Depending on the key/ activation mechanism you employ you might have to call MS a LOT.

Being able to use any OS under DC requires an SAA rather than just a license

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