Windows Server 2016 Licensing

Windows Server 2016 Licensing 1920 480 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

With the advent of Windows Server 2016 in mid-October comes Microsoft’s transition to core licensing. For those familiar with SQL Standard and Enterprise licensing the core licensing model for Windows Server is much the same albeit with different minimum requirements. What it means is that Microsoft has deprecated the processor (socket) licenses and now Windows Server and Datacenter can only be licensed under the new core model.

What you need to know:

  • Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter licensed per physical CPU cores.
  • Core licensing is sold in 2-core packs with all physical cores (not sockets) required to be licensed.
  • Minimum core licensing requirement is for 8 physical cores or 4x 2-core packs.
  • If all physical cores are licensed with Standard cores the entitlement is 2x virtual OSEs under OEM/VL and 1x virtual OSE under SPLA. Under SPLA each subsequent virtual OSE requires the re-licensing of all physical cores.
  • If all physical cores are licensed with Datacenter cores the entitlement is unlimited virtual OSEs under OEM, VL or SPLA.
  • Core licensing model applies retrospectively to all Windows Server operating systems once a Windows Server 2016 instance is deployed or your licensing agreement is renewed.

When this new model applies to your business will depend on your licensing arrangement with Microsoft and the agreement type it falls under.

If you are reporting license consumption via an MSP under SPLA then the transition will occur either as soon as Windows Server 2016 is in use anywhere or when the license provider’s agreement is renewed whichever occurs first.

If you have your own volume licensing as either OVL or OVS then the licensing model and pricing changes will not apply until the end of the agreement term. If you have bought perpetual licenses, then the core licensing model will not apply to you unless at some point you decide to renew Software Assurance.

Microsoft is notorious for being unclear and ambiguous on the details of their products especially when it comes to license compliancy, for that reason we have compiled a few example scenarios of how to license various environments correctly.

Window Server 2016 Licensing model

In the previous licensing model only the number of processors (sockets) and the number of operating system environments (OSEs) determined the licensing requirements. When applying the new licensing model to the same environment the 3 Windows Server OSEs now need to be licensed individually with the amount of Standard 2-core license packs equal to the number of physical cores on all sockets. Since there are 20 physical cores in the host, 10x Standard 2-core license packs are required for each two OSEs under OEM or Volume Licensing and the same amount for every one OSE under SPLA. So under an OEM/VL licensing model the environment requires 20x Standard 2-core packs for an entitlement of up to 4x virtual OSEs which covers the current 3 virtual servers. As under SPLA the entitlement is only one virtual OSE per fully licensed physical cores, 30x Standard 2-core packs are required. 10x for each virtual server.


In this scenario the environment has been upgraded with two new physical servers both running Server 2016 workloads. The virtual host has a total of 16 physical CPU cores. 4 virtual OSEs need to each be licensed with core licensing under SPLA (8x 2-core packs per OSE) or every 2 OSEs needs to be core licensed under OEM or Volume Licensing (8x 2-core packs per 2 OSEs). The bare metal server also needs to be licensed under core licensing with 4x 2-core packs for the single physical OSE. Even though it only has 4 physical cores, Microsoft licensing minimums dictate that at least 8 physical cores must be licensed regardless. Since only one OSE needs to be licensed the requirement is the same under both OEM/VL and SPLA.

Server Virtualisation explained

Server Virtualisation explained 1000 450 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

This is the first in a 10 part series on Server Virtualisation.servers

You’d probably be surprised to learn that the concept of virtualisation actually goes all the way back to the infancy of computing when in the 1960s virtual partitioning was used to allow segregated space on the same storage medium. In much more recent years, many businesses have begun to embrace the continuously growing benefits of server virtualisation. Whether it be on-premise virtual infrastructure or cloud-based hosting, the expanding number of available platforms and competition between technologies has made virtualisation options increasingly attractive for businesses of any size.

So what is virtualisation? For those new to the concept; virtualisation is a rapidly developing technology that combines hardware and software engineering that is fundamentally changing the way people make use of their IT infrastructure. In simple terms, hardware virtualisation is the ability to run your Windows or Linux server infrastructure as operating systems running on a software layer, known as a hypervisor, over underlying physical hardware. What this means is that previously the only option was to run physical hardware for each server you required whereas you now have the ability to run many servers in a software-container on a single piece of hardware.

Example: You are looking at refreshing your current IT infrastructure which consists of three physical servers: A domain controller, Exchange server and an SQL server. Instead of purchasing new hardware for each, you decide to purchase a single piece of hardware and run all three, still as individual servers but now running as a software instance known as a “guest”, on that one physical device or “host”.

There are a number of methods for performing bare-metal conversions (physical to virtual) each varying depending on the hypervisor you decide to deploy but the benefits of virtualising your servers in this way applies to all.

  • Consolidation of servers into virtual machines greatly reduces the amount of physical hardware required as well as the associated costs of space, power, cooling and maintenance requirements.
  • Virtual machine density (i.e. the number of guests capable of running and performing as required on any given host) can be increased by refining required virtual resources across the virtual machines allowing you to potentially run more guests on the same hardware.
  • Servers running as virtual machines will start/restart faster and can dynamically adjust their memory and storage resources with no downtime.
  • Management and monitoring complexities of IT infrastructure is greatly reduced and can be controlled from a single pane of glass.
  • Virtual infrastructure deployments are created with expansion in mind providing fast new server provisioning and scalability as needed.
  • Extending the life of older/custom applications that can run alongside newer operating systems on the same hardware.

By now you are probably thinking “Doesn’t grouping all my servers onto one physical piece of hardware create a single point of failure for all?”. This is where clustering comes in. Most virtualisation deployments will include at least two hypervisor nodes containing either local storage or connected to one or more SANs creating redundancy at both the virtual machine and storage level. A deployment of this type can and often does include considerations for high-availability as well as redundancy. The exact technologies available vary between hypervisors and the level of licensing but common HA functions include:

  • The use of virtual machine replicas (offline continuously updated copies) residing on multiple hosts able to be automatically failed over in the event of one or more hosts being lost.
  • The shifting of running virtual machine workloads including storage from one host to another without disruption.
  • Hybrid deployments incorporating both on-premise and cloud virtualisation providing geographical redundancy for mission-critical systems.

A clustered infrastructure implementation can be suitable for any sized business but is more common in medium to enterprise-scale deployments. Having said that, it is understandable that most smaller businesses may only want to budget for a single virtual host when planning for a hardware refresh and whilst it does present a single point of failure it can and should be complimented by a robust backup and disaster recovery solution. Ultimately the final configuration must be reviewed on a case by case basis and determined whether or not the inherent risks are acceptable for the business.

Next week: Virtual Storage.