Microsoft Windows Server 2016 has been available for a while and will have an impact on your licensing costs and models.   To help understand what has changed I had the opportunity to speak with our senior analyst Danny Bedard.  Danny lives and breathes software licensing and spent several years working at Microsoft in licensing related roles.

Danny, what’s new with Microsoft Windows Server 2016?

 With Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Microsoft has made a big licensing change.  Windows Server is transitioning from a Processor or Server/Client Access License model to a Core and Client Access License model similar to Microsoft SQL Server.  The big different from the Microsoft SQL Server model is that with Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Client Access licenses are still required.

Link to Microsoft Brief on Windows Server Core/Client Access Licensing: https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/Licensing/learn-more/brief-licensing-by-cores.aspx

 Why is Microsoft making these changes?

 Clearly Microsoft wants to take advantage of the additional revenue which can be gained from licensing by computing power as opposed to physical processors.   Over the years servers have gained computing power and become more robust and Microsoft wants to capitalize on this opportunity to increase their revenue.

How does this increase Microsoft Windows Server 2016 costs?

 A typical server that we see has 2 physical CPU’s.  Under the old (Pre-Windows Server 2016) model you would need one CPU license (sold in a pack of two).  This server is, in Microsoft’s view, equivalent to 16 Cores as this is standard transition that Microsoft is offering.  The standard conversion that Microsoft is offering is 2 CPU licenses of Windows Server converts to 16 cores and in this situation the client’s costs stay flat.

 2 CPU -> 16 Cores

What happens if you have more than 16 Cores per server?

 If your core count exceeds the standard Microsoft conversion model of 2 CPU -> 16 Cores then this is where your licensing and future Software Assurance costs start to go up.   It’s important to remember that it’s not just the costs of acquiring the additional new licenses but it’s the ongoing Software Assurance costs that you have to factor in.

Related Content – Migrating Microsoft SQL Server to the Cloud  

When does this impact people?

 The licensing model changes to cores when two events occur.  The first event happens as soon as you deploy Microsoft Windows Server 2016.  The second situation occurs if you have a current shortfall of Microsoft Windows Server 2015 R2 (or earlier) licenses.   Microsoft has removed the old products from the price lists which means you can only purchase core based Microsoft Windows Server 2016 licenses.  You can of course deploy older versions of Microsoft Windows Server but any new licences you require will have to be purchased on a per core basis.

What Can Clients Do To Prepare?

 I recommend that people access their Microsoft Windows Server estate/physical footprint to maintain any installations which are not the 2016 version for as long as possible.  Try to leverage legacy entitlements wherever possible.   On the virtual side of things there are other considerations.   In a VMware environment, there are additional considerations as once you add a single Windows Server 2016 virtual machine, your legacy licenses are no longer sufficient to provide coverage.   In this case, you would have to convert all other Windows Server licenses to cores.  You could mitigate this by locking the environment down via a cluster or a VMware process to a dedicated host for Windows Server 2016.  The best way to mitigate unfortunately is to migrate to cores for Windows Server 2016 hosts.

How Can We Help?

 MetrixData360 has a Windows Server Assessment offering.  We will review your environments and your business requirements and provide a detailed report with your licensing position and your licensing options.   If a client has active Software Assurance and has a Microsoft contract which is near renewal this is a really important exercise.   The assessment is needed to capture the server with greater than 16 cores so that the client can push Microsoft for increased core grants.  Without a solid case Microsoft will default to their standard 16 core conversion we have talked about.

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