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.


Windows Server 2016
Licensing editionsHow to buyBuyer's GuideFAQ

Licensing editions

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

EditionIdeal for…Licensing modelCAL requirements

Datacenter

Highly virtualized and software-defined datacenter environmentsPer Core/CAL*
(Core-based)
Windows Server CAL**

Standard

Low-density or non-virtualized environmentsPer Core/CAL*
(Core-based)
Windows Server CAL**

Essentials

Small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devicesSpecialty 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

DatacenterStandard

Core functionality of Windows Server

Operating system environment (OSEs/Hyper-V containers)

Unlimited2*

Windows Server containers

UnlimitedUnlimited

Host Guardian Service

Nano Server**

Storage features including Storage Spaces Direct and Storage Replica

Shielded Virtual Machines

Networking stack

*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

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 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 provides rights for a single OSE.

For more information on the transition from processor-based to core-based licensing, download the Windows Server 2016 Licensing Datasheet (PDF, 774 KB).

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 about Server and Cloud Enrollment on the Enterprise Agreement page.

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 2016 Suites is core-based.

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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, 774 KB).

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