windows server

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.