Sep 07, 2016

6 Ways to Keep Cores from Burning Your Microsoft Licenses

There are new releases of Microsoft Windows Server 2016 and Microsoft System Center 2016 planned for this October — that’s less than a month away! The big news is that the software licensing model for these products will change from a CPU-based metric to a core-based metric.

Why is Microsoft changing their model? Because of technology improvements over recent years, many customers have moved to powerful physical servers with fewer physical CPUs and more cores per CPU. It makes sense that Microsoft would capitalize on this shift in the industry.

So, what does this mean for you? You have new metrics to manage carefully. Otherwise, you may find that core-based licensing will burn through your company’s inventory and budget. Let’s look at how to prevent that.

New smoke signals: From CPU/CAL to Core/CAL

The product licensing for Windows Server 2016 will use a Core/CAL model. The current model is CPU/CAL, which licenses the CPUs of the physical server. But the new Microsoft approach is core based, though hardware properties are still taken into account with this new model.

This means that in the future, a physical server licensed by Windows Server 2016 will require at least 16 core licenses per physical server and at least 8 core licenses per physical CPU, regardless of the edition. The demand for client access licenses (CALs) for user and/or devices remains the same.

As with Microsoft’s earlier Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, there will be two editions: Standard and Datacenter. The virtualization rights will not change. A customer is still permitted to run up to 2 virtual machines on a properly licensed physical server with 2016 Standard licenses. An unlimited virtualization right is linked to 2016 Datacenter licenses when assigned correctly to a physical server.

Six ways to slow the burn

This kind of license metric change is not the first time in Microsoft’s history. Which is great — well, sort of! — since we are able to look at lessons learned. Here are 6 aspects that you should consider when planning the licensing for Windows Server 2016:

  1. If you have an existing licensing agreement (such as EA or SCE), you can continue to purchase processor licenses through the end of your agreement term.
  2. If you have an active Software Assurance (SA) at the general availability date of Windows Server 2016, you can upgrade at no additional cost. You can continue to use the CPU/CAL model until the end of the SA term, then transition to the Core/CAL model. 
  3. The migration path follows a standard ratio from 16 core licenses (8 two-core packs) for each 2-processor license with an SA.
  4. The pricing for 8 two-core packs will be the same as for a 2-processor license.
  5. For a properly licensed server with more than 2 CPUs and/or more than 8 cores per CPU, Microsoft will grant additional licenses if you do a self-inventory to state the physical environment at the point of transition. If no self-inventory is done, only the standard ratio will be used!
  6. You can do the self-inventory with an inventory tool and happily, you’re not limited to Microsoft’s tools, such as Assessment Planning Toolkit or Software Inventory Logging Aggregator. It is important to document the assigned licenses in the physical server environment that were migrated.

In conclusion: Don’t fan the flames

The summary: If your company is using Microsoft Windows Server, you should carefully prepare for migration to the new 2016 edition. Otherwise, you may burn through your software usage and licenses. It’s possible that your company is already using too many licenses, or that existing licenses will get lost in the transition to Core/CAL.

First, check if it’s worthwhile to purchase licenses with Software Assurance before the general availability of Windows Server 2016. Next, figure out how to ensure a sufficient self-inventory for the inevitable transition phase. All of these steps will lower your licensing costs.

The bottom line: To ensure Microsoft license optimization, don't let cores burn your licenses!

Topics: Microsoft, SAM Insights