In December 2015, Microsoft has issued a document describing main changes in the versions, licensing policy and pricing policy for its flagship in the server OS niche — Windows Server 2016, which will be released in the second part this year.
Server Core Licensing
The main innovation in Windows Server 2016 licensing policy is the move from physical processor licensing (learn more about Windows Server 2012 R2 licensing) to processor core licensing. Now the price of a license will be calculated depending on the number of cores(similar to Microsoft SQL Server licensing), not on the number of processors.
One Windows Server 2016 license will cost eight times cheaper than Windows Server 2012 license on two processors, but one new license will cover only two physical cores.
This Microsoft initiative is actually expected, since processor developers has significantly increased the number of cores (and, consequently, the performance) in last years. In particular, Intel is already offering its customers a 60-core Intel® Xeon Phi processor costing 2,500$. Microsoft has estimated their losses in case of mass use of such systems under their previous model and quickly released a new licensing policy.
The rules of licensing the physical cores of a server is as follows:
- All physical cores of the server have to be licensed (Hyper-threading cores are considered a single core)
- The minimum number of licenses purchased on the cores of one processor – 8
- The minimum number of licenses on the cores of one server – 16
- If a processor is disabled on the system level, its cores don’t need to be licensed
Thus, to license one physical server with two 4-core processors, you will need to purchase 8 sets of doublecore licenses (which is equal in price to Windows Server 2012 license on two processors). To license a singe-processor 16-core server, you will also need 8 sets of doublecore licenses.
Windows Server 2016 Editions
Today there are two known Windows Server 2016 editions (like it was with Windows Server 2012/ 2012 R2):
- Windows Server 2016 Datacenter
- Windows Server 2016 Standard
Unlike Windows Server 2012 R2, in which the difference between Standard Edition and Datacenter Edition was in the number of supported virtual machines (2 and unlimited, correspondingly) and the feature of automatic virtual machine activation in Datacenter edition. In Windows Server 2016 there are some other functional differences, in addition to virtualization features.
In particular, Windows Server 2016 Datacenter supports the following technologies:
- Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) is the extension of Storage Spaces technology to create HA storages for clusters
- Storage Replica is the technology of block-level, synchronous, multisite replication between clusters
- Shielded Virtual Machines is the technology of creating shielded virtual machines with the content protected from the administrator of Hyper-V host system
- Host Guardian Service is a server role to support shielded virtual machines and data on them from unauthorized access
- Network Fabric
- Microsoft Azure Stack is an SDN stack based on Azure
Client Access License (CAL)
Windows Server Standard and Datacenter still require Windows Server CAL for all devices or users using the server.
Client Access Licenses on Remote Desktop Services and AD Rights Management Services have also be purchased separately.
Windows Server 2016 Pricing
Microsoft has also published the official prices of Windows Server 2016. A set of licenses on 16 cores (8 sets of doublecore licenses) will cost:
- Windows Server 2016 Standard — 882 $
- Windows Server 2016 Datacenter — 6,155 $
Windows Server 2016 Licensing FAQ
In this section I will answer the frequently asked questions on Windows Server 2016 licensing
- How is Nano Server licensed? Nano Server is an installation option of Windows Server 2016 and doesn’t require any additional licensing.
- How are Hyper-Threading processor licensed? In Windows Server and System Center 2016 only physical cores are licensed. From this point of view, a core supporting Hyper-Threading technology is considered a single core.
- Do I need to purchase a license on a processor/core if it is disabled and not used by Windows? Disabled processors and cores do not require to be licensed.
- How are Hyper-V Containers licensed? Hyper-V Containers are licensed as common Hyper-V virtual machines. In Standard edition you can run 2 virtual machines, and in Datacenter edition the number of virtual machines is unlimited.