It has been nine months since I wrote about Windows Server® 2016 and the licensing changes it would bring. The most notable change is that Microsoft’s® flagship server OS platform will now be licensed on a per-core basis, rather than per-processor, as has been the case in the past.
Windows Server 2016 and corresponding System Center products will reach general availability during the Ingite developers conference, which begins September 26.
Many organizations will be tempted to immediately upgrade from its predecessor, Windows Server 2012 R2, and it will likely be a wise move for some, but it’s important to carefully consider the cost of doing so. For some, if not most, the upgrade will have little or no effect on their overall cost, but for others, particularly those with core-dense servers or those using older servers with lower core counts, could see a significant increase in licensing fees. Microsoft will now sell licenses at the rate of eight cores minimum per processor; sixteen cores minimum per server. If an organization is running small servers with fewer than sixteen cores, they will be forced to pay for more cores than they actually have. Alternatively, those with many cores will pay for all of them, whereas they were charged per-processor in the past. Each user or device accessing the servers will still require an appropriate CAL.
Organizations with Software Assurance (SA) may upgrade to Windows Server 2016 when it becomes available and will not be impacted by the licensing changes until the renewal of their agreement.
Of course Microsoft is emphasizing the benefits of consistency among licensing models, particularly as an increasing number of organizations deploy hybrid IT environments which combine on-prem datacenters with the cloud.
I’m not suggesting that organizations shouldn’t upgrade, as there are reportedly a number of significant improvements over Windows Server 2012 R2, but the implications of the new licensing model need to be carefully considered to avoid a potential cost or compliance issue in the future.