Windows Server Licensing

For complete details on how Microsoft licenses Windows Server or any other product, please see the Microsoft website.

This topic provides an overview of recent changes to Microsoft Windows Server 2016 licensing agreements. These agreements are now based on the number of cores, while earlier agreements and agreements governing other Microsoft products are based on the number of processors or installations. When it's time to renew or upgrade previous Windows Server products, the unit of measurement (core or processor) can vary depending on the following, and you may need to update your line items and contracts to maintain compliance:

  • Product version: Windows 2016 Server licensing is always based on number of cores; although previous versions (such as Windows Server 2012) are based on number of processors, you may need to migrate to core-based licensing when you upgrade or renew.
  • License channel: OEM, retail, volume without Software Assurance (SA), or volume with SA.
  • Contract start/renewal date: The core-based licensing requirement became effective for contracts that start on or after October 1, 2016.

The following table summarizes this information and provides a reference you can use to correct any line item exceptions in License Analytics (or Purchasing) or migrate any contracts in Purchasing.

License Channel Contract Start/Renewal Date Contract Units Pre-WS 2016 Units Post-WS 2016 Units
OEM Any n/a Processor Core
Retail Any n/a Processor Core
Volume with no SA n/a n/a Processor Core
Volume with SA Before 10/1/2016 Processor Processor Processor
Volume with SA On or after 10/1/2016 Core Core Core
Product editions for small businesses (like Essentials) are still licensed on a per-installation (not processor or core) basis.