Changes to Microsoft Licencing in Windows Server 2016

We are still waiting for Microsoft Server 2016 to be released but there is information out now which outlines changes to the licensing model we are currently familiar with. This change is definitely something you want to make yourself familiar with as it could alter your hardware plans for future server purchases.

First off let me provide you with a link to the Microsoft ‘Pricing and Licensing FAQ December 2015’ –

Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions Pricing and licensing FAQ December 2015

If we take a quick look at the document we see that Microsoft are moving to a core based licensing model similar to the SQL server approach. If you run Microsoft SQL server software you’ve probably been burnt previously by this change – I know many people and organisations who ‘pimped out’ their database servers with high core count processors while enjoying socket based licensing only to then find themselves hit with a hefty fee when moving to core licensing.

Microsoft indicate this change is to assist in the move to hybrid cloud setups and to bring things inline with Azure licensing which I can understand. After all when using a cloud service we pay for x number of cores, not for a socket so this does make sense. I think it’s also noteworthy that they are again adding a differentiator between Standard and Datacenter editions of Server 2016. When we moved to Server 2012 the various differences which had existed between editions were removed leaving just one – virtualisation rights, Datacenter edition providing unlimited virtualisation rights versus the two VM right on Standard. We now see them bringing ‘new unique features’ according to the FAQ such as ‘Azure inspired’ networking and storage stacks.

With all that said let me summarise as best I can the important licensing details I’ve taken from the document, though I do suggest you read through it for the full story –

  • Licensing model changed from per-processor socket to per-core
  • Applies to Windows Server 2016 onwards
  • Licenses sold in packs of 2
  • Minimum purchase of 16 cores worth of licensing
    • 8 x 2 core packs
  • 8 core or less per processor will cost the same as Server 2012 R2 two-processor license
  • Core licenses sold in packs of 2 for incremental license growth above the minimum requirement
  • Hyper-threading does not count towards core count
  • Disabled cores do not need to be licensed however they must be fully disabled and not available to Windows

Note the example image below (referenced from the Microsoft FAQ) –


I would strongly recommend you speak with your licensing representative either in Microsoft or through partners to understand the impact on your systems.

Hopefully the above along with the FAQ document makes sense – what are your thoughts and feelings on this change?

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