The four SKUs are Foundation (available to OEMs only); Essentials; Standard and Datacenter. The Essentials SKU is for small/mid-size businesses and is limited to 25 users. The Standard and Datacenter SKUs round out the line-up. The former Windows Server Enterprise SKU is gone from the set of offered options.
Here's Microsoft's new SKU/licensing chart for the four editions of Windows Server 2012:
"There were about a dozen SKUs in Server 2008 R2 including SBS (small business server) and HPC (high performance computing). Now we have 4 SKUs in WS2012," said Aidan Finn, a Microsoft Valuable Professional (MVP) with an expertise in Virtual Machine who works for MicroWarehouse Ltd, an Irish Value Added Distributor, as a Technical Sales Lead.
Finn explained that Standard covers 2 CPUs in a host, and goes from one VOSE (virtual operating system environment - 1 free Std install in a VM on that host) to two, and "now has all the features and scalability of Datacenter." He noted there will be a small price increase, but said he thought that wouldn't matter, as it "should be virtualised anyway and the VOSE rights doubling will compensate.
Windows Server Datacenter was a minimum of two 1-CPU licenses with unlimited VOSEs. "Now it is a simpler SKU that covers two CPUs in a host with unlimited VOSEs," Finn said.
"The news is good for 99.5% of people. It's all getting simpler, and matching the model of the System Center 2012 Server Management License (SML)," Finn claimed.
Microsoft delivered the last public test version of Windows Server 2012, known as the Release Candidate, in late May. The product is expected to be released to manufacturing the same time that Windows 8 client is -- which could be this month or next.
Update: There's a lengthy frequently asked questions document from Microsoft about the new SKU/licensing line-up. As a couple of my readers noted, the document makes it plain that there will be no more Small Business Server versions of Windows, going forward. That's not making some folks very happy.
The FAQ says: "Windows Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-on, which includes SQL Server and Windows Server as component products, will be the final such Windows Server offering."
Update No. 2: Folks are asking whether today is also the official acknowledgement of no more Windows Home Server releases. I am asking Microsoft to see if officials will say anything on this (finally), one way or the other....
Update No. 3: It's official: No more Windows Home Server releases.
This item first appeared on ZDNet's All About Microsoft blog under the headline "Microsoft goes public with Windows Server 2012 versions, licensing."