Windows Server 2016 licensing model

In an earlier post I highlighted that the licensing model for Standard and Datacenter were changing with Windows Server 2016, and in this post I’ll introduce the changes. This information is pulled from the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet, and if you need more details you can also download the Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 licensing FAQ.

The Windows Server 2016 licensing model includes both Cores + Client Access Licenses (CALs). Each user and/or device accessing a licensed Windows Server Standard, Datacenter or Multipoint edition requires a Windows Server CAL or a Windows Server and a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CAL. A Windows Server CAL gives a user or device the right to access any edition of Windows Server of the same or earlier version. Each Window Server CAL allows access to multiple licenses of Windows Server.

After the General Availability of Windows Server 2016, the business model for Standard and Datacenter editions will transition from processor-based to core based licensing. Core-based licensing provides a more consistent licensing metric across multi-cloud environments, improves workload portability for Windows Server through benefits like Azure Hybrid Use Benefit, and helps remove friction across different licensing models.

Core based licensing: Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter

• All physical cores in the server must be licensed. Servers are licensed based on the number of processor cores in the physical server.

• A minimum of 16 core licenses is required for each server.

• A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor.

• Core licenses will be sold in packs of two.

• Eight 2-core packs will be the minimum required to license each physical server.

  • The 2-core pack for each edition is one-eighth the price of a 2-processor license for corresponding Windows Server 2012 R2 editions.

• Standard Edition provides rights for up to two OSEs or Hyper-V containers when all physical cores in the server are licensed. For every two additional VMs, all the cores in the server have to be licensed again.

• The price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard edition will be the same price as the 2-processor license of the corresponding editions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 version.

• Existing customers’ servers under Software Assurance will receive core grants as required, with documentation.

Number of 2-core pack licenses needed

(Minimum 8 cores/processor; 16 cores/server)


Core Licensing

Moving to core-based licensing

Even though Software Assurance is not part of OEM licensing, it can be applied to OEM Windows Server purchases. After the General Availability of Windows Server 2016, the transition from processor based licensing to core-based licensing will not affect customers with Software Assurance until renewal of the agreement. For more details of Core grants under Software Assurance please take a look at the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet and if you have any questions, please contact your Microsoft Volume Licensing Specialist.

Skip to main content