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Guide to System Center Products and Licensing

The products in System Center family help manage applications and services across physical, virtual, and cloud information technology (IT) infrastructures.

You can use this guide to find the Microsoft System Center software and licenses appropriate for your organization's needs.

For detailed licensing information, see the System Center 2012 Licensing FAQ.

The System Center Family

System Center 2012 is a set of management server components and licenses for endpoints (servers and clients) that are being managed.

With System Center 2012, acquiring System Center software and licenses has been simplified.

  • System Center management licenses (MLs) give you the right to install and run the management server components.
  • MLs are primarily available as bundled suites that include rights to all or some subset of System Center components. Individual System Center components like Data Protection Manager or Operations Manager) are no longer offered.

System Center Essentials, which combines many of the System Center management functions in an integrated tool appropriate for smaller enterprises, does not follow these new rules. See the System Center Essentials section in this guide for more information on that product.

System Center and SQL Server

All of the System Center products include SQL Server technology. Microsoft's licensing terms for these products allow you to run one instance of the SQL Server technology in one physical or virtual operating system environment (OSE) on one server, but only to support the System Center software. SQL Server client access licenses are not required for that use.

You may also create and store any number of instances of SQL Server technology on any of your servers or storage media solely to exercise your right to run an instance of that technology under any of your software licenses.

You also may run one passive failover instance in a separate OSE for temporary support. You may run that instance on a server other than the licensed server.


System Center Components

Read the following descriptions for an overview of each System Center 2012 component. For detailed information on implementing these components, see Microsoft's System Center Technical Documentation.

  • App Controller provides a unified console for managing public and private clouds, as well as cloud-based virtual machines and services. Datacenter administrators can delegate control of applications and virtual machines to application owners through a web-based self-service interface.
  • Configuration Manager provides software deployment, distribution, update management, and configuration monitoring throughout an IT infrastructure. Configuration Manager automates many tasks associated with software deployment and maintenance while enforcing the organization's software configuration policies and standards.
  • Data Protection Manager (DPM) enables disk-based data protection and recovery for file and application servers in an Active Directory domain. DPM backs up client systems, server file systems, Exchange databases, SharePoint data, and SQL databases on a continuous basis, allowing an organization to recover a single lost or corrupted file or restore an entire system.
  • Endpoint Protection is used with Configuration Manager to provide a single infrastructure for client management and security, including malware detection. It gives administrators a central location for creating and applying all client-related policies.
  • Operations Manager monitors the health of IT services across datacenter and cloud infrastructures. Operations Manager can provide IT departments with reports at defined intervals as well as alerts when immediate attention is necessary. Operations Manager can be used to monitor performance of both server and client applications. Management packs — the sets of instructions that Operations Manager uses to monitor specific applications — are available for most current Microsoft server applications and operating systems, as well as many from third parties.
  • Orchestrator is a workflow management tool for automating the creation, monitoring, and deployment of IT resources. Orchestrator integrates with Microsoft and non-Microsoft products, allowing administrators to connect different systems without any knowledge of scripting or programming languages.
  • Service Manager facilitates implementing and automating IT service management (ITSM) best practices across an organization. Service Manager can provide IT departments with processes for incident and problem resolution, change control, and asset life cycle management.
  • Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) is a server application for administration and management of Microsoft and VMware virtual machine guests and virtual machine hosts. It provides network administrators real-time views of resource allocation and allows rapid reconfiguration.

Administrators can access VMM through the Administrator Console or through the Windows PowerShell command-line interface. VMM analyzes performance data and resource requirements for both the workload and the host, allowing the administrator to fine-tune placement algorithms to receive optimal deployment recommendations from the software. Tools and wizards simplify converting physical machines to virtual ones (physical-to-virtual, or P2V, conversions) and converting VMware virtual machines to the Microsoft VHD format (virtual-to-virtual, or V2V, conversions).

VMM can be configured to allow users without administrator-level access to deploy nonserver virtual environments through a self-service web portal.


Management Licenses

To use System Center software, you need the appropriate server MLs for the servers being managed or monitored and client MLs for all the end users or devices being managed. Server and Client MLs are primarily available through bundled suites. The exception is the Configuration Manager client ML, which can be acquired independently.

System Center Server Management License Suites

Server MLs are required for managed devices that run server OSEs. With System Center 2012, server MLs are processor-based. Each license can cover up to two physical processors.

These license suites offer server MLs and software for all of the System Center components. Note that they don't actually have "suite" in the name; the two suites are simply called System Center 2012 R2 Standard and System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter.

  • System Center 2012 R2 Standard allows the management of up to two OSEs per license. To determine the number of licenses needed, count the number of physical processors on the server and the number of managed OSEs. Take the greater number and divide it by two, rounded up to the nearest whole number.
  • System Center 2012 R2 Datacenter allows the management of an unlimited number of OSEs per license. To determine the number of licenses needed, count the number of physical processors on the server, divide that number by two, round up to the nearest whole number, and acquire and assign that number of licenses to your server.

System Center Client Management License Suites

Client MLs are required for managed devices that run non-server OSEs and can be licensed per OSE or per user. These license suites offer client management licenses and software for the following System Center components:

  • Service Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Data Protection Manager
  • Orchestrator

The client management license suites are OSE Client ML and User Client ML.

Configuration Manager Client MLs

Configuration Manager Client MLs offer client management licenses and software for both Configuration Manager and Virtual Machine Manager. They're required for managed devices that run non-server OSEs managed by either Configuration Manager or Virtual Machine Manager and can be licensed per OSE or per user.

The Configuration Manager client MLs are the OSE Client ML and the User Client ML.

Core CAL Suites

These suites offer licenses for key Microsoft server products, including System Center Configuration Manager. Licensed per user or per device, they include client access licenses (CALs) for Windows Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server Standard Edition, and Lync Server Standard edition, as well as the client MLs for System Center Configuration Manager and Endpoint Protection Manager.

The core CAL suites are the Core User CAL Suite and the Core Device CAL Suite.


System Center Essentials

System Center Essentials combines many features of Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager in an integrated tool for enterprises with fewer than 500 users and fewer than 50 servers. The version offered through TechSoup Asia Program includes SQL Server technology that may only be used to support System Center Essentials.

A server management license (ML) is required for each server device on which managed operating system environments run, and a client ML is required for each nonserver device.

In addition to Essentials 2010 Server, TechSoup Asia Program offers license suites with server and client management licenses for Essentials that also include management licenses for System Center Data Protection Manager 2010: Essentials Plus Server ML Suite, and Essentials Plus Client ML Suite.


Upgrading from Earlier Versions of System Center

If you have earlier versions of System Center with active Software Assurance, you can upgrade to System Center 2012 version. See the System Center 2012 Licensing FAQ for details.


Acquiring Management Licenses for Earlier Versions of System Center

If you have a previous version of System Center and need to manage more nonserver devices, you can request System Center 2012 client MLs or Core CAL suites to license those devices.

If you have a previous version of System Center and need to manage more server devices, you can request System Center 2012 Standard or Datacenter edition to license those devices. Server OSEs managed by System Center 2012 MLs must follow the new System Center 2012 R2 server management licensing terms, even though the management software is a prior version.

For more information on Microsoft's ML downgrade policy, download the current Product Use Rights (PUR) document from Microsoft's Product Licensingpage.   


System Center Products Available Through TechSoup Asia Program

The System Center donations available through TechSoup Asia Program are:

  • System Center 2012 R2 Client Management Suite OSE ML 
  • System Center 2012 Standard