Can vs. Should

There is a big difference between things that can be done as opposed to what should be done. 

I have discussed virtualization in great detail of late because of how interesting it is to the average IT Professional.  Windows Server Virtualization, or Hyper-V, is a server role in Windows Server 2008; presently it is still in beta, but it is coming soon, and has been available to the general public since Windows Server 2008 released a few months ago.

In the second half of 2008 Microsoft will release Windows Small Business Server 2008; it is built on the Windows Server 2008 platform and as such includes all of that platform's roles and features including Hyper-V.  For any number of reasons SBS clients and consultants should be very happy about this.

Hyper-V in Windows Server Standard has a fairly simple licensing model in much the same way that hieroglyphics are simple.  Add to that a number of the licensing requirements of Small Business Server – simple in and of themselves – things get murky.  Some of the relevant points:

  • The primary SBS server (Server 1) must by definition be the primary domain controller.
  • With Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition you have the right to install a parent operating system and then virtualize a single instance of Windows Server 2008 within Hyper-V as a child OS, on the condition that the only role and purpose of the parent OS is to host and manage the child OS.
  • SBS 2008 Premium Edition will include a second license of Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition to be installed on a second physical server.

I am going to go through a number of scenarios that came up today and then do my best to explain my point. 

  1. Can we install the primary Windows Server 2008 SBS license on a server and install the Hyper-V role, and then install the same license into a Hyper-V environment to be managed by the parent?
  2. Can we purchase SBS Premium Edition and install the second license on a server, configure Hyper-V, and then install the first license in a child OS?

There are several other combinations that were discussed and I started to ask myself the question… just because some of these combinations can be done, does it mean it should be done?

I have given these a lot of thought and I asked if even though some of these options are possible, would they be recommended?  The truth is that for many scenarios it will be a lot simpler to purchase a license for Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition – or even the Microsoft Hyper-V Server which was recently announced and is due to release later this year.

Although many people – SBS consultants included – like to play with the system in order to save a few dollars, the time spent trying to figure out and configure these unsupported configurations will often cost more than purchasing the actual license (the Hyper-V Server is going to sell for about $28).

We so often discuss the K.I.S.S. Principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid!) but then go out of our way to overcomplicate our lives to save a few dollars.  I understand that SBS is a platform that is by definition going to be attractive to companies trying to save money… but save it where it matters.  Purchase the licenses that will simplify your business for the long term rather than saving a few sous (which will not really be a saving in the end). 

I am interested in hearing how many SBS clients will install in a Hyper-V environment.  There are some great advantages to it… but do it wisely!

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