In addition to the Standard and Datacenter Editions of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft offers several special editions targeted for specific customers and workloads. This chart shows the editions, target uses, availability, costs, and some important characteristics of each.

The previous Windows Server 2008 R2 HPC Edition and Windows Server 2008 R2 Web Server have been discontinued. To replace HPC Server, Microsoft will provide an HPC Pack that can be used with Windows Server Standard or Datacenter and applied to various other servers, clients, and Azure compute instances to provide workstation nodes. Microsoft also offers grants for customers who have Software Assurance on discontinued editions to move to one of the new 2012 editions. Several products are available only through OEMs.

An overview of Windows Server 2012 is given in "Windows Server 2012 Editions and Licensing Changes" on page 16 of the Aug. 2012 Update.

Windows Server 2012 Edition Intended Audience and Workloads Availability Cost Chief Characteristics and Features
Foundation Directory, network infrastructure, and file and print servers for small businesses OEM only;now at RTM No-frills entry-level server. Available only from OEMs and intended as base on which to build specialized services, but Active Directory structure limitations prevent its use as a branch office server. General purpose server functionality with no virtualization rights. No Client Access Licenses (CALs) required, but 15 user account limit.
Essentials Small businesses or branch servers Retail,Volume Licensing,OEM;available Nov. 2012 Approx. US$425 (Open, No Level license) A complete entry-level server with Active Directory but no Hyper-V. Includes Windows 8 GUI and access to the Windows store. Limit of 25 users but no user or device CALs are required. Replaces Small Business Server. Simpler interface; preconfigured connectivity to cloud-based services; no virtualization rights (but can be run in a virtual machine). Can be upgraded to Standard or Datacenter when user limit exceeded.
Hyper-V Server Basic virtualization hypervisor Now at RTM Free download A basic hardware hypervisor without other Windows Server features (no GUI, no other services or roles). Same hypervisor technology as in Windows Server.
Storage Server Platform for network attached storage (NAS) devices OEM only;now at RTM Evaluation software available Sept. 3, 2012; OEM devices available fourth quarter of 2012 Two editions: Workgroup (50 connections, 6 disks maximum, single processor, 32GB memory maximum) and Standard (no limit on connections, disk, or memory, deduplication of files, failover clustering, BranchCache, virtualization rights). Server designed for efficient implementation of NAS and often used by OEMs for high-end storage appliances, although it is also available as software only.