How to license Microsoft Server 2016 in a virtual environment

Or maybe the title should have been “How to correctly license Microsoft Server 2016 in a virtual environment”

I know it’s not a new thing and there are many sites describing the procedure on how to find out what license packs you need when having to license correctly with the changes made to the license model beginning with Server 2016.

Even though I already knew how to go about this, I had to research it once again in order to confirm that what I knew was correct and also make sure that Microsoft hadn’t changed anything since the last time I had to use it.

When licensing for a virtual environment you previously had to choose between datacenter and standard (maybe even enterprise) according to the number of VM’s you intended to run and on the number of hosts available.

With the changes made to Server 2016 there is almost no choice as the Standard edition is more or less useless in a virtual environment, but I’ll come back to that.

To license a Server 2016 you now have to count the number of physical cores in the host – so having two CPU’s in a host each with 12 cores will cost you a 24 core license.

So why is the Standard edition not attractive?

Before 2016 we could use the Standard edition for very small environments – It could make sense as it was a lot cheaper than the Datacenter edition and you got two VOSE (virtual operating system environments) with each license. It was a counting game and not very flexible, but it was cheap(er).

As I mentioned, moving to Server 2016 means counting cores, for all editions!

So you have to license all your cores for all your hosts, but here comes the difference:

Where you get “unlimited” VM’s with the Datacenter license, you only get two VOSE with the Standard edition when you have fully licensed all your hosts.

To get two additional licenses you have to fully license all your hosts one more time and so on.

I sure you get the picture on how expensive and inflexible that is.

You will probably end up with the Datacenter edition, but either way, you have to do some core counting to make sure that you are not over or under licensed.

Our friend over at Hewlett Packard Enterprise has made this task a bit easier as they have made a form that will tell you exactly how many licenses you need to procure to be in compliance.

Windows Server 2016 Core Licensing Calculator

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