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System Center Licensing: Do You Need a Server License?

If you're using Microsoft's System Center, it's natural to have questions about its licensing.

And the one we get the most is, "Do we need to license the server components?"

Let's remind ourselves what System Center is.

System Center is a management product that helps IT manage a wide range of devices and services.

So, it means that we have the following:

  • Managed endpoints – servers, virtual machines, laptops, printers, switches, routers – the things that we manage,

  • System Center software itself – management consoles, distribution points and other software system administrators interact with plus agents installed on managed devices.

Respectively, we have managed devices and management software.

"Managed" vs "Management".

The rest of this short article depends on your understanding of "managed" vs "management" – "managed endpoints" vs "management software".

There are devices that you manage with System Center – they are managed devices (note the passive tense).

And there is management software or what many of us call "server components of System Center".

Do you comprehend the difference? If not, please re-read from the top.

Licensing managed endpoints.

Each managed endpoint requires a management license. The management license applies to the managed device, which could be a laptop, tablet, or server.

Generally, there are two types of management licenses:

  • for managed servers,

  • for managed clients.

If you're managing a laptop with System Center, you need a management license for that laptop. If you're managing a server, you need a management license for that server.

There is no actual software that comes with management licenses. Arguably, the management agent is that software, but you can manage endpoints without agents. The management license is the right to manage the endpoint.

But the original question we are aiming to answer is,

Do we need to license management components?

In 2010, Microsoft made a significant policy change related to licensing server components for System Center. The company announced that you no longer needed to license server components.

Essentially, it means that you only need to license each managed endpoint.

Any doubts?

It's crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest licensing policies, as Microsoft may update them anytime. If you have questions about licensing System Center or need help ensuring you're compliant, don't hesitate to contact our licensing experts.

Staying compliant protects your organization from legal issues and ensures you're getting the most value from your investment in System Center.