The release of Windows Server 2016 and core based licensing


Oh my! This is truly the year of releases at Microsoft. Just a few days ago SQL Server 2016 was released to market and since January we’ve received new versions for other server applications such as Exchange, Sharepoint and Project Server. It’s not only the servers that gets a facelift, Office 2016 has been around for a while and during the summer Windows 10 Redstone will be available. And the release party doesn’t stop there. For the second half of this year we will see new version of Windows Server, System Center and BizTalk.

Luckily there haven’t been any major change in licensing for these new versions. The release of Windows Server and System Center 2016 won’t be as simple when Microsoft transitions from the processor based licensing to a core based model. Let’s have a closer look at the changes to come for Windows Server.


A few things stay the same with the release of Windows Server 2016:

  • Same editions as today; Datacenter, Standard and Essential
  • The requirement for client access licenses will be unchanged
  • Virtualization rights will continue be unlimited for Datacenter and 2 virtual environments for Standard

And a few things will change:

  • Licensing model is changing from per processor + CAL to per core + CAL
  • A minimum of 8 core licenses per CPU and 16 core licenses per server
  • 1 license equals 2 core licenses, the same way as SQL Server Core licenses are sold today

So how do you determine how many licenses you need? Well, it’s quite straight forward. Just count all physical cores in your server and make sure that you purchase at least 8 core licenses per CPU and 16 core licenses per server. You don‘t need to worry about core factor tables, Hyper-threading or virtual cores.

As you might have figured out by now, this change of licensing model will effect pricing. But only for servers with a lot of compute power, since the price for 16 cores will be the same as the current price for 1 processor license that covers up to 2 CPUs.

Example of licensing calculation

Let me give you an example; a server with 2 processors and 10 cores/CPU.

Currently you would license this machine with 1 license of Windows Server 2012 R2 which equals 16 core licenses from a price perspective. In a core model you would need 20 core licenses, that’s an increase of 4/16 or 25%.

A release date for Windows Server 2016 hasn’t been announced yet but as soon it is released these new rules will apply, unless you have Windows Server processor licenses in your current Enterprise Agreement, then these changes will come into effect at your agreement renewal.

Agreement Renewal and Software Assurance

Talking about renewal. At renewal, agreement or Software Assurance, you should pay extra attention to the migration rules. By doing an inventory report using MAP Toolkit or Microsoft Software Inventory Aggregator, you might be able to renew Software Assurance for a larger amount of core licenses than the default 16 that you’re granted for each processor license that you currently license with Software Assurance. Don’t hesitate to contact me or one of my colleagues when you’re licenses are up for renewal and we will make sure to help you out.





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