Microsoft Windows Server 2016 to move to per-core licensing

Microsoft's Windows Server 2016, due in the third quarter of 2016, will be moving from per-processor to per-core pricing.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's Windows Server 2016 isn't due out until the second half of 2016, but Microsoft execs are starting to communicate some of the licensing and pricing changes coming to its next server operating system release.

One of the most noticeable changes will be a move from per-processor licensing to per-core licensing for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions. That's according to a new pricing and licensing PDF I found via a link tweeted by Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft.

Microsoft officials are attributing the change from processors to physical cores to a desire to align the licensing of its public and private cloud offerings to be both per-core-based and thus simplifying licensing across multi-cloud environments, the PDF said. The change also will align Windows Server licensing with the per-core licensing already offered for Azure, SQL Server and BizTalk.

The change won't likely have much of an impact for most customers, said Miller. There will be some exceptions: Customers using :core-dense servers at the very top of the market (not the majority), and older servers with lots of processors and a low core count each," could pay more, Miller said.

The change "really just reemphasizes the fact that Datacenter is what you want to be using for high density virtualization," Miller added.

In 2013, when Microsoft introduced Windows Server 2012 R2, the company raised the price of the Datacenter SKU by 28 percent to more than $6,100. The prices of the other Server SKUs remained constant with what they were with Windows Server 2012, with Standard coming in at $882. (Update: The Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Data Sheet, link provided by Miller, confirms these are the new prices.)

Here are some of the early Windows Server 2016 pricing specifics from the PDF:

"Licenses for servers with 8 cores or less per proc will be same price as the 2012 R2 two-proc license price. Core licenses will be sold in packs of 2 for incremental licenses needed above the required 8 cores per proc. The Standard Edition of Windows Server and System Center will license up to 2 VMs when all of the physical cores on the server are licensed."

Customers with processor licenses who have Software Assurance will be able to upgrade to Windows Server 2016 for no additional cost. Customers in existing licensing agreements with Microsoft, like Enterprise Agreements or Server and Cloud Enrollment, will be able to continue to buy per-processor licenses through the end of their current agreements.

The Windows Server 2016 licensing shifts also align with some of the other server licensing moves Microsoft telegraphed earlier this year. In October, Microsoft officials said customers with Windows Server licenses with Software Assurance would be eligible to upload their Windows Server images to Azure in a non-Windows VM via a new Bring Your Own License plan. Microsoft execs also said at that time that users would be able to run Windows 10 on Azure, but didn't share specifics as to how, licensing-wise, this will work.

Microsoft is promising more pricing and licensing information about its various Windows Server 2016 editions and Azure Stack in the first quarter of calendar 2016, the PDF said. Q1 2016 is also when the hybrid Azure/Server benefit becomes available to Software Assurance users. And by the way, the PDF also specifies that Microsoft is targeting the third calendar quarter of 2016 for Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 availability.

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