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Understanding System Center Licensing

System Center is sold and licensed as individual products or as a suite with several System Center components bundled together. It is always best to visit the Microsoft website (http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/pricing-licensing.aspx) to best understand the current licensing scheme as the licensing model changes, or better yet, contact a licensing specialist who can provide information on special discounts that apply based on your organization's purchasing and licensing contract.

However, in general, the core System Center products, including System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Operations Manager, System Center Data Protection Manager, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and System Center Service Manager, are all sold as a server license along with a client access or operating system environment license.

The server license is typically the main license for the application itself. As an example, SCCM and SCOM require a server to host the software, and, thus, the server itself needs to have an SCCM or SCOM server license. Likewise, SCCM and SCOM also have client systems associated with the servers that are managed; in the case of SCCM, which patches, updates, and manages workstations, an SCCM client license is required for each client system under management. For SCOM, because frequently it is a server that is being monitored and managed, the SCOM client license is actually a management license for the target server being managed.

In the case of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, there are no specific "clients" associated with the product, only virtual host servers and virtual guest sessions. Microsoft uses what they call an operating system environment (OSE) license as the target destination license for VMM.

Core Client Access Licenses

For products that have client access licenses like SCCM, Microsoft bundles licenses within their client license platform. As an example, organizations that have a core client access license, or CoreCAL, that provides them rights to use Windows, standard Exchange features, and standard SharePoint features, the CoreCAL also includes a license for SCCM. Pretty much every mid- and large-size enterprise has an enterprise agreement with the CoreCAL and, as such, these organizations already own the client license for SCCM. All the organization needs to do is purchase a server license for SCCM to be able to set up a full SCCM-managed environment.

Server Management Suite Volume Licensing

For products where Microsoft licenses the products based on servers, an organization can purchase a Server Management Suite license. More details on Server Management Suite license are available at http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/management-suites.aspx.

But, in general, there is the System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) and the System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD) licenses. The SMSE provides a license in an environment where virtualization is used where the SMSE license covers the licensing of System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Operations Manager, System Center Data Protection Manager, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager for the physical host server as well as up to four virtual guest sessions on the system running System Center products.

The SMSD license covers all of the same System Center products, but for a flat fee per processor, it covers ALL of the guest sessions running on a single physical host server.

Microsoft has several discount levels on licensing and it is best to discuss the licensing requirements as well as specific license pricing with an organization that can assess the licensing pricing level of your organization.

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