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Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 is the cloud-ready operating system that supports your current workloads while introducing new technologies that make it easy to transition to cloud computing when you are ready. The following information provides an overview of the editions and licensing options.

Licensing editions

Compare features and pricing to determine the ideal edition for your virtualization and cloud computing needs.

Compare features in all editions to determine the ideal solution for your virtualization and cloud computing needs.

Choose from three primary editions of Windows Server, based on the size of your organization as well as virtualization and datacenter requirements:

  • Datacenter edition is ideal for highly virtualized and software-defined datacenter environments.
  • Standard edition is ideal for customers with low density or non-virtualized environments.
  • Essentials edition is a cloud-connected first server, ideal for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices. Essentials is a good option for customers currently using the Foundation edition, which is not available with Windows Server 2016.

Edition overview

Edition

Ideal for...

Licensing Model

CAL requirements

Datacenter Highly virtualized and software-defined datacenter environments Per Core/CAL*
(Core-based)
Windows Server CAL**
Standard Low-density or non-virtualized environments Per Core/CAL*
(Core-based)
Windows Server CAL**
Essentials Small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices Specialty Servers
(Server License)
No CAL required

*All physical cores on the server must be licensed, subject to a minimum of 8 core licenses per physical processor and a minimum of 16 core licenses per server.

**CALs are required for every user or device accessing a server. See the Product Terms for details.


Windows Server 2016 offers additional features in Standard and Datacenter editions. Features exclusive to the Windows Server 2016 Datacenter edition include Shielded Virtual Machines, software-defined networking, Storage Spaces Direct, and Storage Replica. While no features from the Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard edition have been removed, we have added features like Nano Server and unlimited Windows Server containers to the Windows Server 2016 Standard edition.

Features

Datacenter

Standard

Core functionality of Windows Server XX
Operating System Environment (OSEs/Hyper-V containers) Unlimited 2*
Windows Server containers Unlimited Unlimited
Host Guardian Service XX
Nano Server** XX
Storage features including Storage Spaces Direct and Storage Replica X
Shielded Virtual Machines X
Networking stack X

*Standard edition permits use of one running instance of the server software in the physical OSE on the licensed server (in addition to two virtual OSEs), if the physical OSE is used solely to host and manage the virtual OSEs.

**Software Assurance is required to deploy and operate Nano Server in production.

Note: For more information on features, visit the Windows Server 2016 product page.

How to buy

Find out how to buy the right edition of Windows Server 2016 for you.

Learn about the benefits of the new licensing model and compare pricing and features for each edition.

Datacenter edition is ideal for highly virtualized and software-defined datacenter environments. Server licensing for Datacenter edition has transitioned from being processor-based to being core-based. When all physical cores on a server are licensed, Datacenter edition provides rights to unlimited Operating System Environments (OSEs) or Hyper-V containers and unlimited Windows Server containers. Each user or device that accesses the server(s) requires a Windows Server CAL.

Standard edition is ideal for customers with low density or non-virtualized environments. Server licensing for Standard edition has transitioned from being processor-based to being core-based, the same as Datacenter edition. When all physical cores on a server are licensed, Standard edition provides rights to two Operating System Environments (OSEs) or Hyper-V containers and unlimited Windows Server containers. Each user or device that accesses the server(s) requires a Windows Server CAL.

Essentials edition is a cloud-connected first server, ideal for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices. Essentials is a good option for customers currently using the Foundation edition, which is not available with Windows Server 2016. The licensing for Essentials will continue to be server-based and does not require CALs. This edition will give rights for a single Operating System Environment (OSE).

For more information on the transition from processor-based to core-based licensing, download the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet (PDF, 741 KB).

How to buy

You can purchase Windows Server 2016 licenses through multiple licensing programs, such as Volume Licensing, Server and Cloud Enrollment, and Cloud Infrastructure Server Suites, providing you with optimum flexibility and choice to acquire the software. Learn more about licensing programs below and determine the option that best meets your needs.

Volume Licensing

Microsoft offers volume licensing programs to help reduce administrative overhead and software-management costs for your organization, while enabling product licensing on an ongoing basis at considerable discounts. The various licensing options enable you to choose the program that works best for your management and operational needs.

Server and Cloud Enrollment

The Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE) is an enrollment under the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that enables highly committed customers to standardize broadly on one or more of the four Server and Cloud technologies from Microsoft. In exchange for making an installed-base–wide commitment to an SCE component, Server and Cloud Enrollment customers receive a range of benefits, including new cloud-optimized licensing options, simplified license management, and the best pricing and terms. Learn more.

Core Infrastructure Server Suites

The Core Infrastructure Server Suites (CIS Suites) are the simplest and most cost-effective way to acquire the software for Microsoft’s private cloud solutions. The CIS Suites include Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft System Center 2016 and are offered in two editions: CIS Suite Standard and CIS Suite Datacenter. Licensing the CIS Suites will be core-based after Windows Server 2016 becomes generally available.

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Planning for Windows Server 2016

When planning to deploy Windows Server 2016, either through upgrades or new licenses, remember the following:

  • Renewing Software Assurance is the best way to protect investments and provide access to new versions, Deployment Planning Services, and technical assistance.
  • Core Client Access License (CAL) and Enterprise CAL Suites continue to be the most cost-effective way to purchase server products.
  • Select your edition of Windows Server 2016 based on virtualization rights:
    • Datacenter edition for highly virtualized and software-defined datacenter environments
    • Standard edition for low-density or non-virtualized environments
    • Essentials edition for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices

For more information, download the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet (PDF, 741 KB).

FAQ

Find answers to questions about the transition from processor-based to core-based licensing here.

Find answers to questions about features, licensing models, and determining which edition is right for you.

Server licensing for Datacenter and Standard edition has transitioned from being processor-based to being core-based. Customers with Software Assurance will transition to core-based licensing upon their first renewal, following the General Availability of Windows Server 2016. Licenses with active Software Assurance on or after General Availability may upgrade to Windows Server 2016 at any time.

  • The licensing of Datacenter and Standard editions is moving from processors to physical cores, which aligns licensing of private and public cloud environments, provides a consistent licensing metric, and simplifies licensing across multi-cloud infrastructures. Customers licensing Windows Server 2016 on servers with 8 cores or fewer per processor and 16 cores or fewer per server will pay the same extended amount (unit price x quantity) as they did when licensing 2012 R2 with two-processor licenses. Datacenter edition provides rights to run unlimited OSEs and unlimited Windows Server containers when all physical cores on the server are licensed. Standard edition provides rights to run up to two OSEs or two Hyper-V containers and unlimited Windows Server containers when all physical cores on the server are licensed.

    With Windows Server 2016:

    • Each physical server will be required to be licensed for all physical cores
    • Each physical processor will be required to be licensed with a minimum of 8 physical cores
    • Each physical server will be required to be licensed with a minimum of two processors, totaling a minimum of 16 physical cores
    • Core licenses are sold in packs of two (i.e., a 2-pack Core License)

  • Core licenses are sold in packs of two (i.e., a 2-pack Core License) and each processor needs to be licensed with a minimum of eight cores (i.e., four 2-pack Core Licenses). Each physical server, including single-processor servers, will need to be licensed with a minimum of two processors and 16 cores (i.e., eight 2-pack Core Licenses). Additional cores can then be licensed in increments of two cores (i.e., one 2-pack Core License) for gradual increases in core density growth.

    How are core licenses sold table
  • Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions will continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server (see the Product Terms for exceptions). In addition to the Windows Server CAL, some functionalities will continue to require the purchase of an Additive Access License. These are CALs or External Connector licenses, which provide rights to access additional or advanced functionalities such as Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.

  • The move to core-based licensing came into effect upon the commercial General Availability of Windows Server 2016. Customers will begin transacting Windows Server using core-based licensing at the time of their Software Assurance renewal or when net new licenses are purchased after General Availability outside of existing Microsoft agreements (e.g., when purchasing net new Windows Server 2016 licenses via MPSA, or when buying net new server licenses directly from an OEM).

  • The transition from processor-based licensing to core-based licensing will not affect customers with Software Assurance until their first renewal after General Availability of Windows Server 2016. Prior to renewal, customers with active Software Assurance on Window Server licenses may upgrade to and use Windows Server 2016 during the remainder of their then-current term. Net new licenses (e.g., new licenses purchased through MPSA or from an OEM) will be core-based for Windows Server 2016. At renewal, customers who have licenses with Software Assurance will transition to core-based licensing.

    To support the transition of on-premises customers to Windows Server 2016, customers with active Software Assurance on Windows Server licenses are eligible for two types of core grants: Full Core Licenses and Additional Core Licenses. For each Windows Server processor license with active Software Assurance, customers will receive a Full Core License grant of 16 core licenses for Windows Server 2016. Customers who have Windows Server processor licenses with active Software Assurance assigned to licensed servers with more than 8 cores per processor and 16 cores per server will be eligible for Additional Core License grants. At renewal, Software Assurance will be based on the number of new core licenses a customer has.

    Microsoft is working with customers to facilitate smooth transitions. Please contact your Microsoft representative for guidance related to your specific situation.

    • Core licenses will be granted to on-premises customers with eligible licenses, which include Windows Server processor licenses with active Software Assurance as of October 1, 2016, and Windows Server processor licenses with Software Assurance subsequently obtained under the same agreement through a programmatic true-up.
      • Full Core License grant: Each eligible license will be granted 16 core licenses for Windows Server 2016.
      • Additional Core License grant: For servers with more than 8 cores per processor and more than 16 cores per server, customers will be eligible for additional core license grants.
    • To be eligible for additional core license grants, customers must establish and maintain a record of the physical hardware and the configuration of the licensed server to which their eligible licenses are assigned. This record must be established as of expiration of Software Assurance term for the eligible licenses or September 30, 2019, whichever is earlier.
    • To establish and maintain a record of their servers, customers may use either the Microsoft Software Inventory Logging (SIL) tool or any equivalent software.
    • Documentation should include date-stamped inventory of software, servers, processors, and cores for all production hardware on which Windows Server is currently installed.

  • The Azure Hybrid Use Benefit (Azure HUB) lets you bring your on-premises Windows Server license with Software Assurance to Azure. Rather than paying the full price for a new Windows Server virtual machine, you will only pay the base compute rate.

    Azure HUB enables customers’ use of Windows Server on Microsoft Azure through Azure Virtual Machines (“Base Instances”). Azure HUB does not include the cost of Base Instances, and Base Instances do not include Windows Server. Each set of 16 Windows Server core licenses with Software Assurance (and each Windows Server processor license with Software Assurance), entitles customers to use Windows Server on Microsoft Azure on up to 16 virtual cores allocated across two or fewer Azure Base Instances. Each additional set of 8 core licenses with Software Assurance entitles use on up to 8 virtual cores and one Base Instance.

    With Azure HUB, customers can move or add incremental workloads into Azure and pay non-Windows (Linux) pricing. With Datacenter Edition, customers get lower-cost instances in Azure as well as rights to maintain existing on-premises deployments. Standard Edition still provides lower-cost instances in Azure, but you must assign the licenses to Azure and decommission the corresponding on-premises workloads.

  • With Windows Server 2016 customers who have active Software Assurance may decide to select the Nano Server installation option, which provides a more active servicing model that is similar to the experience with Windows 10. Specifically, these periodic releases are known as Current Branch for Business (CBB) releases. This approach supports customers who are moving at a “cloud cadence” of rapid development lifecycles and wish to innovate more quickly. Learn more about Nano Server.

  • With the Current Branch for Business (CBB) servicing model, Nano Server continues to receive new features and functionality. For this reason, Software Assurance is required to deploy and operate Nano Server in production. Customers who choose to install Windows Server 2016 with Desktop Experience or Server Core will be on the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) model, which comes with five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. Learn more about Nano Server.

  • Yes. Core Infrastructure Suite includes Windows Server and System Center together at a discount, and is a very popular way for customers to license. Server licensing for Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016 Datacenter and Standard editions has transitioned from being processor-based to being core-based. The move to core-based licensing came into effect upon General Availability of Windows Server 2016.

  • Windows Server Premium Assurance is a new offering that will allow customers to extend product support for Windows Server for an additional six years beyond extended support. The offering provides security updates and bulletins rated "critical" and "important" for Windows Server, and is available for Windows Server 2008 and newer versions. Windows Server Premium Assurance requires Software Assurance coverage, and will be available as an add-on SKU starting March, 2017.

For more information on the transition from processor-based to core-based licensing, download the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet (PDF, 741 KB).


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