News & Resources

Microsoft Server licensing – Do you REALLY know the rules?

In Software & Cloud Economics, Consulting Services, Managed & Subscription Services, Thought Leadership

Microsoft server licensing can be summed up in one word – confusing! With Microsoft’s move to the Per Core model, licensing your servers became more complicated. To add to the confusion, the rules for licensing Windows Server and System Center Server are different than licensing SQL Server. So in the simplest of terms, how in the world do you license these products?


Windows Server and Systems Center

Windows Server and System Center are licensed in the same way. (thank goodness!) First you count the number of total cores on the PHYSICAL machine, with a minimum of 8 cores per processor, or 16 cores per server. Next you must consider how many VMs (Virtual Machines) are going to be hosted by each physical machine. As a general rule, you should consider Datacenter Edition when you’re hosting 10 VMs for a single host. If you’re not familiar with Datacenter Edition and Standard Edition rules, once the physical machine or host is fully licensed with Datacenter Edition you have the ability to run unlimited VMs. Licensing the host with Standard edition allows 2 VMs. You’re required to fully license the host again to run an additional 2 VMs. This method of purchasing Standard Edition is called “Stacking” the licenses. The key thing to remember with Windows Server and System Center is the licensing is ALWAYS based on the PHYSICAL machine. There is no option to license the VMs.


SQL Server

Now let’s jump to SQL Server and the rules change. With SQL Server in the Per Core licensing model, you have the option of licensing the physical machine OR the VMs. Licensing the VMs is fairly straight-forward. You license the total number of cores on the VMs with a 4-core minimum requirement. You may choose instead to license the physical machine by licensing the total number of cores with a 4-core minimum. This provides greater flexibility in determining the most cost-effective way to license your SQL Servers. An additional benefit of SQL Server Enterprise is the ability to license the total cores on the physical machine or host with SQL Server Enterprise with Software Assurance and get the ability to run unlimited virtual instances.

There are additional things to consider on how best to license Windows Server, Systems Center and SQL Serve. Crayon has the experts that can guide you through this process. Just remember, Per Core licensing can be confusing and we’re to help! 


Need more help? Contact your Crayon Account Manager or contact at

Cheri Cogburn - SAM BDM

+1 469 646 4050