New server OS and IT operations management tools are on the way, but how does it affect your technology licensing?
Windows Server 2016 is on course to arrive in the second half of this year and alongside the release of System Center 2016, appears set to shake up the way Microsoft licenses its products.
With Windows Server 2016, Microsoft moves away from per socket licensing to per core, bringing the product in alignment with Windows Azure, SQL and BizTalk.
When its predecessor, Windows Server 2012 was brought out, it unveiled a great rationalisation of how Microsoft licensed its server OS. Its Standard and Datacenter editions had identical features and differed only in terms of the number of virtual operating system instances they supported with the Standard version supporting two virtual machines and the Datacenter version supporting an unlimited amount. Licenses for both editions of Server 2012 sold in two socket units; one license was needed for each pair of sockets a system contained.
But Server 2016 reinstates the differences between Standard and Datacenter editions with the latter including additional storage replication abilities, new advanced software-defined datacentre capabilities designed for highly virtualised private and hybrid cloud environments, and shielded virtual machines that protect those VMs from the administrator of the host operating system (these features do not appear in the Standard edition).
As we said before, licensing becomes per core. Instead of 2012’s two-socket license pack, 2016 will use a two core pack, with the license cost of each 2016 pack being an eighth of the price of the analogous two socket pack for 2012. Each system running Windows Server 2016 must have at least eight cores (four packs) per processor, and at least 16 cores (eight packs) per system.
System Center 2016 also moves from processor to physical core based licensing, although Microsoft says that licenses for servers with eight cores or less per processor will be same price as the 2012 R2 processor license price.
Microsoft has said the change to its core based licensing is one of several steps it is taking to “evolve” its server licensing to support hybrid cloud. It added that in October 2015 it announced an Azure benefit whereby customers with Windows Server licenses with SA are eligible to upload their Windows images to Azure and pay only the compute rates.
“The move of Windows Server and System Center 2016 to core licensing aligns the servers to a common and consistent licensing denomination that is already a standard measure for capacity across environments,” the firm said in its licensing FAQs.
For servers running two processors and up to eight cores per processor, the overall licensing cost shouldn’t change. Over this, things become more expensive. A single CPU, 10 core system should cost the same but a system with two or more sockets with 10 core processors will be more expensive.
Client Access Licenses (CALs) will be required with Windows Server 2016 licensing, although Microsoft doesn’t have them for SQL Server per-core licensing. Microsoft will also issue CAL charges for “advanced functionality,” such as using Remote Desktop Services or Active Directory Rights Management Services. But this is not a change from Server 2012 licensing.
These changes mean some customers could pay more and it may be a problem for firms that have Software Assurance agreements that cover systems that were licensed using 2012’s socket-based scheme. However, Microsoft has said that “customers will then begin transacting Windows Server and System Center by core-based licenses at the time of their software assurance renewal or at the time of net new license purchase outside of any Microsoft agreements.”
The changes may also catch organisations that have already invested in hardware without thought to how software licensing will be affected by Microsoft. If there is one takeaway from this, it is that organisations need to align technology strategy with licensing procurement and management in order to optimise their technology ROI and coherently deliver on their enterprise outcome objectives.
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