Windows Server 2016 licensing

Windows Server 2016 licensing

Q. How will Windows Server 2016 be licensed?

A. Windows Server has historically been licensed by physical processors/sockets with a minimum of 2 sockets being licensed for each server and all sockets must be covered by licensing. Looking at todays modern processors that have a huge number of cores (look at the new many-core processors, for example Xeon Phi with 61 cores) and a shift to the cloud where processors are abstracted and only cores surfaced, Windows Server 2016 moves to core licensing.

Full details can be found at and Microsoft has a detailed licensing FAQ is available at with a datasheet available at

Essentially the following applies to both standard and datacenter (which retain the same OS instance rights for virtualization, 2 for standard, unlimited for datacenter):

  • Every processor must be licensed for at least 8 cores
  • Every server must be licensed for at least 16 cores (this is equivalent to previous versions that requires two sockets minimum to be covered)
  • All enabled cores must be covered by licensing
  • Hyper-threads do not have to be licensed, only physical cores
  • Core licenses are sold in packs of two which means the minimum number for each server is 8 2-core packs
  • 8 2-core packs will be the same price as the corresponding Windows Server 2012 R2 SKU which means providing servers have processors with 8 cores or less then price will be the same. Only for servers with processors that have more than 8 cores will require additional licensing
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