- is that 12 months (calendar months) from sign-up at constant uptime (within SLA guideline, of course), or does it equate to a number of run-hours on the specification
That equates to 12 month. This can be confirmed from manage-reserved-vm-instance, quoting below
Azure reservation savings only result from sustained resource use. When you make a reservation purchase, you pay for what is essentially 100% possible resource use over a one- or three-year term. Try to maximize your reservation to get as much use and savings possible. The following sections explain how to monitor a reservation and optimize its use.
For the next question
- If I wanted to run a DS14v2 now, but decide to run a DS16v2 in 6 months, can I use the RI-resource payment against that?
The reservation can be cancelled after 6 months of usage and you would get the remaining amount back. I believe this should work for you. This is also mentioned in reserved-vm-instances and I am quoting from this.
Cancel an Azure RI at any time and return the remaining months of a reserved instance back to Microsoft - up to the yearly limit - for an early termination fee.