About Windows Server

 
Windows Server 2019 is the operating system that bridges on-premises environments with Azure services, enabling hybrid scenarios that maximize existing investments. Increase security and reduce business risk with multiple layers of protection built into the operating system. Evolve your datacenter infrastructure to achieve greater efficiency and scale with Hyper-converged Infrastructure. Enable developers and IT pros to create cloud native applications and modernize their traditional apps using containers and micro-services.
 
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. Datacenter edition is licensed under the Per Core/CAL* license model and requires a Windows Server CAL for access to the server.
  • Standard edition is ideal for customers with low density or non-virtualized environments. Standard edition is licensed under the Per Core/CAL* license model and requires a Windows Server CAL for access to the server.
  • 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 has been discontinued. Essentials edition is licensed under the Specialty Servers license model and does not require Windows Server CALs to access the server.

*For more details about the Per Core/CAL license model, please see the licensing brief, Introduction to Microsoft Core licensing.

Feature comparison

Windows Server offers additional features in Standard and Datacenter editions. Features exclusive to the Windows Server Datacenter edition include Shielded Virtual Machines, software-defined networking, Storage Spaces Direct, and Storage Replica. Windows Server also includes features like unlimited Windows Server containers.

Feature/Right

Standard edition

Datacenter edition

Core Windows Server functionality

Hybrid integration

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Unlimited

OSEs/Windows Server Containers with Hyper-V isolation

Two

Unlimited

Windows Server Containers without Hyper-V isolation

Unlimited

Host Guardian Service

Storage Replica1

Shielded virtual machines (VMs)

Software-defined networking

Software-defined storage

1 Windows Server Standard edition license limited to single Storage Replica volume up to 2TB.
 

FAQ

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Core licenses are sold in packs of two (a 2-pack of Core Licenses), and packs of 16 (a 16-pack of Core Licenses). Each processor needs to be licensed with a minimum of eight core licenses (four 2-packs). Each physical server, including single-processor servers, will need to be licensed with a minimum of 16 Core Licenses (eight 2-packs or one 16-pack). One core license must be assigned for each physical core on the server. Additional cores can then be licensed in increments of two packs or 16 packs .

Windows Server Standard and Datacenter editions continue to require Windows Server CALs for every user or device accessing a server (see the Product Terms for exceptions), or Windows Server External Connector licenses for servers accessed by external users. In addition to the base Windows Server CAL or External Connector license, some functionalities require the purchase of an Additive Access License. Examples of additional or advanced functionalities include Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services.

The Azure Hybrid Benefit 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.

 

Each set of 16 Windows Server core licenses with Software Assurance entitles customers to use Windows Server on Microsoft Azure on up to 16 virtual cores allocated across two or fewer Azure virtual machines. Each additional set of eight entitles use on up to eight virtual cores and one Base Instance. In other words, once a minimum initial allocation of 16 licenses with Software Assurance is made, customers can add virtual cores (up to eight) to an existing or new virtual machine with incremental sets of eight licenses. Each incremental set of eight licenses must be allocated to a single virtual machine.

 

With Azure Hybrid Benefit, customers can move or add incremental workloads into Azure and pay non-Windows (Linux) pricing. With Datacenter Edition licensing, customers get these lower-cost instances in Azure while maintaining existing on-premises deployments. This is referred to as dual use rights. Standard Edition licensing provides lower-cost instances in Azure, but does not provide dual use rights.

 

Use of Windows Server on Azure is subject to Azure Services in the Product Terms site. This means access to base Windows Server functionality on Azure does not require base Windows Server CALs, and customers can leverage the Azure hosting clause to host their own customer solutions.

License Mobility through Software Assurance is available for some of Microsoft’s application servers and allows customers to move licenses to authorized public clouds subject to terms and conditions stated in the license terms. There is no License Mobility through Software Assurance for Windows Server. Customers may use Windows Server on other public clouds via infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings through authorized Service Providers.

In order to provide customers with a variety of options to license Windows Server, Microsoft makes licenses for Windows Server available to Service Providers for sale to customers as part of Service Provider solutions. This is done through agreement between Microsoft and Service Providers. Pricing for these Windows Server licenses that are provided by the Service Provider is set by the Service Provider.​