System Center 2012 Licensing Overview

I thought I would cover a little bit of info on the recent System Center licensing changes, as you all know, simplifying and demystifying licensing is a big part of our changes so expect to see more connection between the product changes and product licensing as we move towards easier ways for customers to buy and get cloud ready 🙂

System Center have continued licensing simplification with the reduction of their multi SKU line-up, providing 2 clear editions aligned to hybrid cloud management.  Let’s look at some key product and licensing changes with the availability of SC 2012.

What are the key SC 2012 Server Management licensing changes?

  • Reduced SKU line-Up to 2 editions, DC and STD 2012
  • Both editions contain the same capabilities/workloads, only difference is the number of Operating System Environments (OSEs) that you can manage per license.
  • Licenses are only required for managed “endpoints”, no additional licenses are needed for management server software or the ‘SQL Server Technology’
  • Licensing model is Processor-based, where each license covers up to 2 Processors
  • Standalone Components are available as part of the integrated DC and STD licenses and are not available to be sold separately*

*See caveat under SC SKU Availability

How many Server MLs will you need to buy?

  • Server MLs are required for managed devices that run server OSEs.
  • Licenses are processor-based, with each license covering up to two physical processors.

For Datacenter Edition: The number of Server MLs required for each managed server is determined by the number of physical processors in the server.

For Standard Edition: The number of Server MLs required is either number of physical processors in the server or number of OSEs being managed (whichever is greater).

Examples:                                                                       DC Server MLs Req STD Server MLs Req
One 1-processor, non-virtualized server



One 4-processor, non-virtualized server



One 2-processor server with 3 virtual OSEs



One 4-processor server with 8 virtual OSEs



**An exception to this rule is when the physical OSE on your server is being used solely to run hardware virtualization software, provide hardware virtualization services, and run software to manage and service OSEs on that device.

In that case, you only count the number of virtual OSEs you will manage on the server, divide that number by two, and round up to the nearest whole number.

What is the SC SKU availability in Volume Licensing?

On Feb 1st 2012 L&SA offerings for existing pre 2012 versions of individual Server MLs and individual product management Server licenses were removed from the volume licensing pricelist.

After SC 2012 General Availability customers can still purchase licenses for previous versions of System Center Products, only as shown in the table below

















What are the SC SA Migration Paths?

Customers with SC and active SA at time of general availability, will be entitled to the migration paths below, all extended detail can be found outlined in the April Product List, couple of things to point out as I have had a few conversations with folks to bring some extra clarity…..see takeaways below

* System Center 2012 Datacenter covers up to 2 processors per license whereas SMSD only covers 1 processor per license.


  • SA is built into the SC 2012 MLs, L&SA Only
  • SC 2012 has 2 offerings, separated by virtualization rights only, STDand DC
  • SC 2012 Datacenter covers up to 2 processors per license whereas SMSD only covered 1 processor per license.
  • Server MLs may not be split across multiple 1-Proc servers
  • SQL Server Technology is no longer a separate offering, a runtime version is in both SC 2012 STDand DC editions
  • License stacking is permitted for SC 2012 STD Edition to increase number of OSEs being managed, be aware of breakeven, its approx. 2.5 Virtual OSEs per processor.
  • Step-Up from SC 2012 STD to SC 2012 DC is permitted
  • Server MLs can manage applications running on a public cloud infrastructure through License Mobility for SA

System Center 2012 licensing for client management has been updated as well.

For more information on both server and client management licensing changes, there is a great Licensing FAQ posted HERE for Partner and HERE for Customers



  1. System Center 2012 Downgrade Rights?

    I am sorry for the complexity of this question. We are a SAM Gold Partner carrying out reviews for customers worldwide on behalf of MS. I am trying to establish a table of complete Sys Ctr 2012 downgrade rights in order that we can offset any shortfalls of previous versions in use.

    I note that there is no mention of Downgrade Rights in your blog. Neither is there is the Sys Ctr FAQ (avail at the link in your blog).

    I have reviewed the PUR, Product List and Downgrade Rights brief as well as Sys Ctr FAQ and internal MS pptx.

    The PUR outlines the requirement for version matching of MLs and the ability to use MLs of a higher version with previous versions of Management Consoles.

    The PUR also obviously also includes the standard clause permitting Downgrade Rights:

    For any permitted copy or instance, you may create, store, install, run or access in place of the version licensed, a copy or instance of a prior version, different permitted language version, or different available platform version (for example, 32 bit or 64 bit).
    You may not use different versions of different components, such as server software and additional software, or copies or instances of different editions of a product unless the Product-Specific License Terms for that product expressly permit you to do so.

    Products for which there are not Downgrade Rights granted (such as SBS Premium Add-On), specifically state this. Example:

    Based on the above, I assume that System Center 2012 Standard & Datacenter carry Downgrade Rights.

    The difficulty I am having in understanding how these should be applied.

    Scenario 1 – Customer with SA on a single previous version (e.g. Config Mgr 2007 R3)

    Migration is to Sys Ctr 2012 Std.

    Does this customer have downgrade rights to the previous versions of all the included components of Sys Centre 2012, or just to previous versions of Config Mgr?

    In addition, because Sys Ctr 2012 Std can manage up to 2 OSEs, do they get rights to 1 or 2 OSEs for Config Mgr previous versions?

    Scenario 2 – Customer who purchases at 2012 version, but wants to install previous version

    Does this customer have downgrade rights to the previous versions of all the included components?

    Would this be for 2 OSEs per product?

    It may be easier to discuss this. If you can contact me by email with your details, I will be happy to call,Skype,Lync, etc.

  2. Hi Emma,
    I work for an IT company and we have some customers whose IT equipment we would like to monitor using SCOM. We are thinking of deploying a dedicated SCOM server to each of our customers’ sites and having them alert back to a central SCOM server in our site. What is the licensing requirement for System Center in this scenario?

    If we purchase the required MLs can we install SCOM on a server whose OS is licensed by the customer? Do we need to purchase our own OS license for each server deployed? A colleague mentioned SPLA licensing (which I know very little about).

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for the post. Just to clarify, before with 2008R2 we could just buy SCVMM separately and with the Workgroup edition (up to 5 hosts) the whole thing was pretty cheap. Now it appears as if we need 5 (servers) * 2 (covering 4 CPU’s in each machine) = 10 DC editions to manage 10+ virtual hosts per server. Is this correct? I am afraid that if the aim was to make the process simpler it hasn’t worked for me. If I got it completely wrong, can you explain what we would need to get to manage our 5 hosts with SCVMM 2012?


  4. I guess I’m confused on what exactly is an ‘endpoint’. If I plan to install System Center on one server, do I just count the processors for that host server or do I need to count the processors for all physical servers in my environment that will be managed?

    What if I am only interested in managing VMs via App Controller / VMM and not physical hardware? Do I only count the physical processors of the box hosting System Center or do I also need to count the ones for the other VM hosts in my environment?

    If I need to count the processors of every VM host, then it may make sense to build a single large host to contain System Center and the VMs it will manage.

  5. Nice post thank you.

    System Center is a huge package of components. As a result, many databases are required.

    For performance reasons our databases need to be spread among several servers.

    Does the license provided with System Center allow for this or can only a single SQL server be installed?

    For example:
    SERVER01 – Service Manager + SQL DB
    SERVER02 – SQL + SQL Reporting Services
    SERVER03 – Configuration Manager (Pri.) + SQL DB
    SERVER04 – Configuration Manager (Sec.) + SQL DB


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