Microsoft have recently made available information detailing licensing changes for the upcoming release of Windows Server 2016. The main and most controversial change is the move from per-processor licensing to per-core licensing for both Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacentre Editions. This will not only impact higher-core servers, but also the mandatory minimum of 16 cores, which is detailed further below, will greatly affect smaller servers.
According to the Licensing FAQ released by Microsoft, the main idea behind this change is to allow Microsoft’s server licensing to support the hybrid cloud and to make cores the common currency when licensing a Windows Server, with the intention to simplify licensing across multi-cloud environments. However unlike Microsoft’s SQL Server per-core licensing, Client Access Licenses (CAL’s) will still be required for both editions for every user or device accessing the server.
The way this works is that core licenses will be sold in packs of two licenses, each processor will need to be licensed with a minimum of 8 cores – 4 two-core packs. All physical cores within a server must be licensed and each physical server (including 1 processor servers) will need to be licensed with a minimum of 16 cores meaning the minimum required to license each physical server is 8 two-core packs. Then additional cores can be added in increments of 2 cores (1 two-core pack).
Microsoft’s licensing datasheet also notes that the price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacentre edition will be the same price as the 2 proc license of the corresponding editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 version. To put this into perspective the two-core pack for each edition is 1/8th the price of a two proc licenses for the corresponding 2012 R2 edition.
As you can see from the image below, a server with up to 4 processors and up to 8 cores per processor will have the same overall licensing cost as 2012 R2. This can also be said for a system with a single 10 core processor, however a server with 2 or 4 processors and 10 or 20 cores will require additional licensing.
As Windows Server 2016 is licensed by physical cores and not virtual cores, hyper-threading does not affect the licensing as it is only necessary to license the physical cores on the processors. In addition to this, you do not have to license the cores on a processor that is disabled for use by Windows. Therefore, a 4 processor server with 8 cores per processor with 2 processors disabled and not available for Windows Server use, would only require 16 cores to be licensed.
By Jon Clark on December 17th, 2015