What to Know About Upgrading to Windows Server 2016 with Software Assurance

man walking past a row of servers

Apr 13, 2017 by Seth Rodriquez

adobestock_123013856-1Do you have Software Assurance (SA) on your Windows Server licenses? If so, you may be wondering how your licenses will be upgraded from 2012 to 2016. And if you’re not wondering about that, you should be! Here’s what you need to know.

Reviewing the Basics

Let’s start by reviewing the basics. Why is this important? With the release of Windows Server 2016 last October, Windows Server is now licensed per core, not per processor. With Windows Server 2012, all you had to do was count your processors. Now you need to count all the cores within those processors.

Here’s a quick refresher course:

  • All the cores in the server need to be licensed. And the license gets assigned to the physical machine, not the virtual machines.
  • You must buy at least 16 core licenses for each physical server. So even if you have a server with less cores, you still need to buy 16 core licenses for that server.
  • You must buy at least eight core licenses for each physical processor. So if you have four processors in a single server, you will need at least 32 core licenses for that server (8 x 4 = 32).

Check out my post for more details on the basics of Windows Server 2016 licensing.

Upgrading to Windows Server 2016 through SA Benefits

What if you have SA on your Windows Server licenses? As you probably know, Software Assurance includes a benefit called “New Version Rights.” This is probably the reason you bought SA in the first place (although there are other good reasons to buy SA). With the switch from processor licenses to core licenses, the question arises: How many core licenses is Microsoft going to give you for Windows Server 2016?

At a minimum, Microsoft is going to grant you 16 core licenses of Windows Server 2016 for each license of Windows Server 2012 that is covered by SA. This will give you the minimum number of licenses you will need to run Windows Server 2016 on a machine that has up to two processors and up to 16 cores. This type of license grant will happen automatically. In other words, this is what Microsoft will give you by default.

But what if you currently are running Windows Server 2012 on a machine that has more than 16 cores?  Microsoft has vowed to do what is right for their customers who have SA, so they have said that they will grant you whatever quantity of core licenses you need to cover your current configuration. If you have a server with 20 cores running Windows Server 2012 with Software Assurance, then Microsoft will grant you 20 core licenses for Windows Server 2016.

Preparing for Future Upgrades

But here’s the catch … You must provide Microsoft with sufficient documentation to receive the extra licenses. By default, they will grant you 16 core licenses. If you need more, then you will need to provide Microsoft with sufficient proof.

So what should you do? The recommended solution is to run a scan on your servers before your SA expires. To do this, you can use the Software Inventory Licensing (SIL) tool. Using that tool, generate a report that shows how many processors and cores you are currently using. (If you need help, give Mirazon a call. We have engineers who can do this for you and a variety of much more robust reporting.) Then save that report in a place where you can find it later.

When you are ready to upgrade, send the report to Microsoft so they can update your license count on their licensing portal. Or when you come up on your SA renewal, provide that documentation to your reseller to show that you are entitled to additional core licenses. Just be aware that when you renew your SA, you will need to pay for SA on the total number of core licenses you have been granted.

For more information and recommendations, read this report produced by Directions on Microsoft. One piece of advice they provide is particularly helpful … Are you thinking about upgrading your server to something more powerful with more processor cores? Save yourself some money and do it before you are due for an SA renewal. If you get the new hardware before your SA expires and install your Windows Server 2012 processor licenses on that machine, then Microsoft will grant you the extra core licenses you need to upgrade to Windows Server 2016 (again, with the proper documentation).

The moral of the story? Get your documentation in place today. Don’t miss your chance for some extra licenses from Microsoft.

Still have questions about upgrading to Windows Server 2016? Send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404 and we can help you sort it out!

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