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Windows Server “Per Core” Licensing

Microsoft Window Server Per Core licensing here we come! With the general release of Version 2016 expected in the second half of 2016, Windows Server will switch from “Per Processor” licensing to “Per Core”. As might be expected, there are caveats to this.

Microsoft architected a transition for SQL Server 2008 R2 in the “Per Processor” metric to SQL Server 2012 in the “Per Core” metric. And Microsoft will adopt a similar process for Windows Server. First off, customers with active Enterprise Agreements or Server & Cloud Enrollments will continue to be able to license Windows Server in the “Per Processor” metric through the end of their agreements.

Pricing has been adjusted to allow for a transition from existing licenses to the new metric. For both Windows Server Datacenter and Windows Server Standard covered by Software Assurance, each two-processor license will be exchanged for eight (8) two-core licenses (or total licensing for 16 cores) or the actual number of cores. By providing Microsoft with configuration information via the Microsoft Assessment & Planning (“MAP”) Toolkit, servers with a greater core density can be licensed without additional immediate cost – but Software Assurance renewals will be based on the higher number of licenses.

The new license construct is especially important as part of planning hardware upgrades. This is not only true for determining the cost of the required software, but also for virtualization. An important change to the licensing rules for Windows Server Standard requires that all cores be licensed in order to be eligible for just two (2) virtual instances. The strategy of “stacking” licenses of Windows Server Standard now must be measured against the cost of licensing the entire server a second time. . . or a third time or more. So as experts have pointed out, Windows Server Datacenter, with its unlimited virtualization benefit, is the platform for virtualized environments.

One last thought: When Windows Server 2012 was released, it marked the first time that the Datacenter Edition and the Standard Edition were technologically equivalent. Their only difference was in their virtualization rules. However, with Version 2016, there are some features and functionality that are only available with Datacenter Edition. Namely, the new storage features including Storage Spaces Direct and Storage Replica, and the Shielded Virtual Machines, Host Guardian Service, and Network Fabric features.

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