Microsoft Details Four Windows Server 2012 Editions, Pricing

Windows Server 2012

Microsoft also disclosed that it's retiring the Small Business Server Edition, a product that had been popular among small and midsize businesses and the solution providers that sell to them.

The release candidate version of Windows Server 2012 has been available since May 31, but Microsoft has not revealed a target date for the RTM (Release To Manufacturing) version that immediately precedes general availability. Like Windows 8, the next release of the desktop and tablet operating system, Windows Server 2012 is widely expected sometime this fall.

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Windows Server 2012 will be offered in Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation editions. Which editions customers choose will hinge on the size of their organizations and their requirements for virtualization and cloud computing, according to Microsoft.

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The Datacenter Edition is targeted at "highly virtualized, private and hybrid cloud environments" with unlimited virtual instances. It carries a $4,809 price tag under Microsoft's Open No Level licensing, excluding Windows Client Access Licenses (CALs).

The Standard Edition is designed for what Microsoft describes as "lightly virtualized or nonvirtualized environments," offering the same Windows Server functionality as the Datacenter Edition but permitting only two virtual instances. That edition costs $882, not including CALs.

Of most interest to the channel will be Windows Server 2012 Essentials Edition, which has a 25-user limit and no virtualization rights. Microsoft describes Essentials as "an ideal cloud-connected first server" with its simple interface and "preconfigured connectivity to cloud-based services" such as Office 365. The Essentials Edition, which has no virtualization rights, has a $425 price tag.

Microsoft, in a FAQ accompanying the Windows Server 2012 editions and pricing lineup, said it is discontinuing Windows Small Business Server because more small businesses are turning to cloud computing for email, backup and other services, rather than running those applications on-premise.

The new lineup also eliminates the Enterprise, Home Windows Server, HPC and Web Server editions that round out the current Windows Server 2008 R2 product lineup.

The new Foundation Edition, with a 15-user limit, is only available to OEMs.