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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

If I have a development environment running in (for example) three VMWare virtual machines, each one containing a Windows installation, then I need three Windows licenses.

  • If I simply copy the files containing my three virtual machines to make a backup, do I now have six virtual machines? Do I need six Windows licenses? Probably not, backups are an exception.
  • However, what if I'm doing something more than backup: what if I'm "branching" instances of my virtual machines when I release my software? In that scenario, I end up with an unbounded set of v1, v2, v3 virtual machines, which I may go back to when I need to support old releases. So if I'm being honest, they're not really "backups". How many Windows licenses do I need then?

In either case, I presume that I'm only running three virtual machines at any one time, there are just many copies of the files representing the virtual machines at various points in time.

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marked as duplicate by RobM, Iain Jan 27 '12 at 16:53

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You do not need licenses for those. They are not backups, but they are still 'inactive'.

From the VMWare licensing faq:

Q. What about licenses for OS instances in inactive or stored virtual machines?

A: Customers only pay for active and running OS instances. Instances of applicable operating systems that are stored in virtual machines and are NOT active (e.g., for test/dev or disaster recovery) do NOT require additional licenses. This policy also applies to server applications such as BizTalk and SQL Server.

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Thank you, that's fairly unambiguous. –  kdt May 30 '09 at 9:16

Depends on which country you live in, for example in the Netherlands, the EULA of Mircosoft is not upholdable in court. Which basically means that you only need one license per computer-user for any software, even if it is virtualised and you run hundreds of them in parallel. This is perfectly allowed as long as you are the only user of all of these hundred parallel machines and they all run on a single machine.

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If you're worried about Windows licensing then why not sign up for the developer program? This way all your development and test licenses are covered and you only pay for licenses in production

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To clarify, Phxter is talking about MSDN - msdn.microsoft.com - where you can get subscriptions to Microsoft products for development use. –  Brent Ozar May 30 '09 at 16:05

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