Windows Server 2016 Licensing and Beyond

Microsoft Is Making the Switch to Core-Based Licensing—but What Next?

Matt Smith
Data Center

News just broke from Microsoft regarding some radical changes in how we will license Windows Server when 2016 releases next year. The new licensing model is very similar to the shift to core-based licensing from Proc-based licensing that we saw with SQL Server 2012. For those of you who worked through that, you will have the base knowledge to work from, as this experience will be similar.

With Windows Server, however, it’s a bit more complex, as Windows Server Licenses today are 2-Proc instead of 1-Proc with SQL Server. The floor for core-based Windows Servers will be 16 cores minimum per server, but will max to the total number of physical cores in the server. This is a good change, as Microsoft is saying that each 2Proc license today actually covers 16 total cores. This is a big change from SQL 2012, which had a core factor of only four.

Microsoft has not provided us with an exact date when the product will hit the price list – but what we’re hearing is mid-2016. This will give you some time to prepare for this regarding your acquisition of 2012R2 licenses with Software Assurance. Any Windows Server License acquired after the release of 2016 will be subject to the product terms of the new version even if you plan to downgrade.

What to Look for:

Run a MAP scan (or a scan with your preferred asset inventory tool) and take a look at your VM hosts. You’re looking for any host that runs more than 16 total cores.

• If you’re using Windows Standard 2-Proc licenses to cover any standalone or lightweight VM hosts, take note of those as well – especially ones where you’re stacking Standard licenses to cover multiple VMs on the host. The licensing rules under 2016 are going to be different for applying Standard licenses to VM hosts. There will be more on that as we study it and can better model the effects.

• Look for any physical servers that have more than 8 cores/processor.

The above is going to be the hosts and servers you want to pay close attention to in the 2016 model. Remember, though, the 8:1 conversion ratio with Windows is twice what we got with SQL. Also remember that if you are currently licensed through an EA, your pricing is locked for the duration of the agreement and you will not be affected on future TrueUps until your agreement(s) renew.

Even if you don’t have a renewal for a couple of years, we recommend taking a look now to see how much this will impact your environment when you convert to the new model. It’s never too early to do an evaluation – and we’ve got tools, experts, and spreadsheets to help you, so don’t go it alone. Let us help.