Microsoft Windows Server 2016's Core-Based Licensing Explained


Windows Server logo.jpgMicrosoft® Windows Server® 2016 has come with many changes and enhancements that set it apart from earlier versions. Perhaps, it is no surprise that along with the introduction of Windows Server 2016 came the introduction of a new licensing model. So, what has changed? The licensing models for Windows Server 2016 Standard edition and Datacenter edition have changed from processor-based to core-based licensing (Windows Server 2016 Essentials edition will continue to be on the processor-based licensing model). 

Why the changes? No, they're not here to confuse you! Simply put, moving to a core-based licensing model establishes a "common currency" for computing resources on-premises or in the cloud. This licensing model not only enables multi-cloud environments, but it also improves workload portability for Windows Server, and helps remove friction across different licensing models.

Here are the 3 main licensing rules that must be followed for the new core-based licensing model:

- License all of the physical cores in the server
- Ensure every processor is licensed to cover a minimum of 8 cores
- Ensure every server is licensed to cover a minimum of 16 cores

The Base License for the HPE OEM Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter editions (Reseller Option Kit/ROK and Factory Preinstalled) will cover up to 16 cores per system. Customers who need to license more than 16 cores can easily do so with Additional Licenses. Additional Licenses are available for 2, 4, and 16 cores.

For customers with Virtual Machine (VM) licensing needs, Windows Server 2016 Standard edition provides the rights for up to two Operating System Environments (OSEs) or Hyper-V containers when all physical cores in the server are licensed. For each additional 1 or 2 VMs, all of the physical cores in the server must be licensed again. **Note: Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition provides rights for unlimited VMs and Hyper-V containers.


Let’s take a look at a few licensing scenarios and how you could license these instances with Windows Server 2016’s core-based licensing model.

licensing scenario 1.jpg

Scenario 1: Let's say your customer is interested in licensing 1 physical server that has 1 processor and 4 cores. Your customer will need one Base License (which covers 16 cores and 2 processors per server) even though the server has only 1 processor and 4 total cores (remember rules 2 and 3, a minimum of 8 core licenses is required per processor, and a minimum of 16 core licenses is required per server).

licensing scenario 2.jpg

Scenario 2: Your customer wants to license 1 physical server that has 2 processors with 8 cores each. For this, your customer requires just one Base License to license their 2 processors and 16 total cores.

With these first two examples, only 1 Base License was needed… But what if your customer needs to license a server that has more than 16 cores? 

licensing scenario 3.jpgScenario 3: Now, your customer is upgrading their server and they need to license one physical server with 2 processors and each processor has 12 cores. Now, they would need one Base License (which covers 2 processors and 16 total cores) plus Additional Licenses to cover the remaining 8 cores so the total 24 cores are licensed (remember rule 1, all physical cores must be licensed).

If you have specific scenarios you would like to test out, we've got good news for you! HPE has created a Windows Server 2016 Core Licensing Calculator to help you determine the licensing requirements for your customers’ systems. You simply select the edition (Standard or Datacenter), input the number of processors and cores that need to be licensed, and it will calculate the number and type of licenses that are required.


Don't forget the CALs!!
Before we sign off, we have to mention that this licensing model includes both Cores + Client Access Licenses (CALs). Each user and/or device accessing a license of Windows Server 2016 Standard edition or Datacenter edition requires a Windows Server CAL. To learn more about CALs, read our blog, "Ensure your customers’ Windows Server 2016 Client Access License (CAL) needs are filled!"


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Willa manages the HPE | Microsoft Coffee Coaching program. Follow along to learn more about the latest HPE OEM Microsoft product releases and how the HPE Microsoft partnership can benefit partners and customers.