Windows Server 2016 Licensing and Pricing

Disclaimer here: All information on the blog are coming from the Microsoft papers released in December 2015. The information maybe change in the future or are not correct written on my blog. This blog post just wants to give you a little consolidated overview about the licensing changes. If you want to make sure you will be licensed correctly, connect with Microsoft and/or Microsoft Partner.


Microsoft still will have two version of Windows Server 2016 with Datacenter and Standard edition, as they had in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. There are two big changes in licensing of Windows Server 2016. For Windows Server 2016 Microsoft is changing from a per-processor licensing to per-core licensing for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions. And the second big change is that there is no feature parity between Standard Edition and Datacenter Edition. In Windows Server 2012 R2 you basically had the same features in both editions and the only difference were Virtual Machine use rights. (Except for one feature called Automatic Virtual Machine Activation.) There is also some interesting scenarios for hybrid cloud deployments using the Azure hybrid use benefit.

I picked some of the interesting parts out of the Microsoft released papers:

Windows Server 2016 Editions:

  • Datacenter Edition for highly virtualized private and hybrid cloud environments.
  • Standard Edition for non-virtualized or lightly virtualized environments.
  • Information about other editions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows Storage Server 2016 will be provided in Q1 2016

Windows Server 2016 Editions
What does the change to a Cores + CAL based licensing model bring:

To license a physical server, all physical cores must be licensed in the server. A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor in the server and a minimum of 16 cores is required to be licensed for servers with one processor.

  • The price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard Edition will be same price as the 2 proc license of the corresponding editions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 version.
  • Standard Edition provides rights for up to 2 OSEs or Hyper-V containers when all physical cores in the server are licensed. Multiple licenses can be assigned to the same cores for additional OSEs or Hyper-V containers.
  • Each user and/or device accessing a licensed Windows Server Standard or Datacenter edition requires a Windows Server CAL. Each Window Server CAL allows access to multiple licenses Windows Servers.
  • A Windows Server CAL gives a user or device the right to access any edition of Windows Server of the same or earlier version.
  • Some additional or advanced functionality such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL.

How to license the physical cores for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter Editions

Windows Server 2016 core licenses

  • License all the physical cores in the server
  • Minimum of 8 core licenses required for each proc
  • Minimum of 16 core licenses required for each server
  • Core licenses will be sold in packs of two.
  • 8 two-core packs will be the minimum required to license each physical server.
  • The two-core pack for each edition is 1/8th the price of a two proc license for corresponding 2012 R2 editions.


Some information form the Microsoft FAQ;

  • How do I license Nano Server?
    Nano Server is a deployment option within Windows Server 2016. It is included as part of the licensing of the edition from which it is deployed. There is no unique or separate licensing for Nano Server.
  • Where is the information about other editions of Windows Server, Windows Storage Server, Azure Stack and other products coming next year?
    More information is coming in Q1CY16 about Azure Stack, Windows Server Essentials and the rest of the Windows Server editions and other related products.
  • Are CALs still required for Windows Server 2016?
    Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server.. Some additional or advanced functionality will continue to require the purchase of an additive CAL. These are CALs that you need in addition to the Windows Server CAL to access functionality, such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.
  • What are the changes for Hyper-V?
    Standard Editions still allows you to use two virtual OSEs and Datacenter allows you to use unlimited virtual OSEs, but they are now not licensed on processor or servers, they are now licensed based on cores.
  • What about Hyper-V Containers and Windows Containers?
    Hyper-V Containers are licensed the same as Hyper-V Virtual Machines. No information about Windows Containers right now.
  • How should I think about hyper-threading in the core based licensing?
    Windows Server and System Center 2016 are licensed by physical cores, not virtual cores. Therefore, customers only need to inventory and license the physical cores on their processors.
  • If processors (and therefore cores) are disabled from Windows use, do I still need to license the cores?
    If the processor is disabled for use by Windows, the cores on that processor do not need to be licensed. For example, if 2 processors in a 4 processor server (with 8 cores per processor) were disabled and not available for Windows Server use, only 16 cores would need to be licensed. However, disabling hyper threading or disabling cores for specific programs does not relieve the need for a Windows Server license on the physical cores.
  • I read that Windows Server 2016 will support nested virtualization-a VM running inside a VM. How do you license that scenario?
    Windows Server 2016 Datacenter licensing allows for unlimited virtualization and so would easily cover this scenario. Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition licensing is for low to no virtualization scenarios and supports up to two virtual machines. A virtual machine running inside a virtual machine counts as two virtual machines from licensing perspective.

You can get more information about the next version of Windows Server on the Windows Server 2016 website. And the following resources:

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