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7 Things About Microsoft's New Licensing Rules for Windows Server 2016

14 Dec 2015 by Jessica Hall

Change. It’s inevitable — especially in the IT world. One of the latest changes in the technology industry is with Microsoft Windows Server 2016 licensing.

Microsoft recently announced that its licensing model for Windows Server 2016 will change to a per-core basis on the physical server on which Windows is running. Replacing the two-processor license with a two-core license means that a quad-core processor will equate to four cores, requiring two Windows 2016 two-core licenses.

“Servers have evolved over time,” explains Joe Benik, Microsoft product specialist at Insight. “It used to be that the difference between a big and small server was the number of processors; now the difference is in the number of cores. A larger server has more cores, and therefore can handle larger workloads. Microsoft made this same change to its licensing of SQL Server in 2012.”

Here are seven things about Microsoft Windows Server 2016 new licensing rules:

New minimums

With the shift, companies will need a minimum license of eight cores per processor and 16 cores per server. “Most servers have two processors with eight cores each, for a total of 16 cores,” says Benik.

About the same price

“If you go from two processors to 16 cores, it will likely be about the same price,” Benik explains. “The price of eight, two-core licenses will be roughly the same for both the Standard and Datacenter Editions. “If the number of cores per processor is greater than eight, then it will come at a higher cost.”

Renewing Software Assurance licensing

Companies that have Windows servers under Software Assurance (SA) licensing can renew their coverage under the recently announced per-core model when their existing coverage expires. Two-processor licenses will convert to two-core licenses at a ratio of eight to one.

Transitioning Enterprise Agreement licenses

Customers with Enterprise Agreement (EA) licenses will also need to transition to the per-core license after current agreements run their course. Until then, EA licenses with locked-in pricing can continue to acquire the processor-based licenses.

“With agreements lasting up to three years, those with Enterprise Agreements have more time to adjust and plan,” says Benik. “You just need to figure it out before your agreement ends.”

Counting cores

Companies with SA coverage for servers with more than eight cores per processor should take an inventory of servers. When documenting the actual number of cores, you can acquire the appropriate licensing to match your company’s real stock.

“There is a danger of getting it wrong,” Benik warns. “If you’re under-licensed, you risk an audit from Microsoft, but if you’re over-licensed, you’ll spend more than you need to on software.”

Bonus features

Windows Server Datacenter Edition includes extra technology that isn’t incorporated in Windows Server Standard Edition. The bonus features include Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Replica, Shielded Virtual Machines, Host Guardian Service and New Azure-inspired features for advanced virtualization scenarios.

System Center 2016

This transition will also affect System Center 2016, too. Licensing for this solution will also move to a core basis. “We're expecting this to happen in Q3 of 2016,” says Benik.

As this change can affect your fiscal year budget, it’s important to plan now. Contact your Insight representative to set up a call, and we can walk you through this transition. “We’ll discuss how the changes will affect you, as well as what your next steps are and how to time them,” Benik says.

Schedule a call with a specialist today to begin planning for this change in licensing, including help with getting an accurate core count.