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Understanding Windows Server and virtual machines with Altaro

Users often think that Windows Server Standard Edition can only run two Hyper-V virtual machines. But that’s not really the case, according to Altaro Software’s Eric Siron.

“Standard Edition can run just as many virtual machines as Datacenter Edition,” he explains. “I see and field this particular question quite frequently. A misunderstanding of licensing terminology and a lot of tribal knowledge has created an image of an artificial limitation with standard edition.”

The confusion comes from the fact that a physical host with the minimum Windows Standard Edition license can operate two virtualised instances of Windows Server Standard Edition, as long as the physically-installed instance only operates the virtual machines, Siron says.

“Unfortunately, people shorten it all the way down to ‘you can only run two virtual machines‘, which is not true.”

There are two clear differences between them related to Hyper-V, however: Datacenter Edition has automatic virtual machine (VM) activation, and can run Storage Spaces Direct. Otherwise, the editions have equivalent functionality, Siron points out, noting that Altaro has largely focused on reducing the complexity for MSPs and business users of Hyper-V and other virtualised or Windows Server environments.

He adds that it’s important to recognise that a VM is not the same thing as an operating system instance. Hyper-V Manager, Failover Cluster Manager or PowerShell can be used to create a new VM, which is essentially an “empty, non-functional thing”.

“Hyper-V has a hard limit of 1,024 running virtual machines. I have no idea how many total VMs it will allow. Realistically, you will run out of hardware resources long before you hit any of the stated limits. Up to this point, everything applies equally to Windows Server Standard Edition and Windows Server Datacenter Edition (and Hyper-V Server, as well),” says Siron.

For more information, Siron directs readers to a linked resource, here.

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