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 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/windows-server-2016/ and Microsoft has a detailed licensing FAQ is available at http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/2/9/7290EA05-DC56-4BED-9400-138C5701F174/WSSC2016LicensingFAQ.pdf with a datasheet available at http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/2/9/7290EA05-DC56-4BED-9400-138C5701F174/WS2016LicensingDatasheet.pdf.
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