Core Licensing for Windows and SQL

11 Apr

In today’s article, we will review Per Core licensing in SPLA for Windows and SQL Server.

What products are licensed by core?

Application – SQL Server 2016

Per Core (OS) – Windows Server Standard 2016;Windows Server Datacenter 2016; Core Infrastructure Datacenter 2016; and Core Infrastructure Standard 2016.

How is it licensed for SQL 2016?

Physical Core – Removed the core factor table with the release of SQL 2016.  The number of licenses required equals the number of physical cores on the Server with a minimum of 4 cores per physical processor.  For Enterprise, you can run unlimited number of instances on the physical or virtual OSE’s (In other words, unlimited virtualization rights with SQL Enterprise).   For other editions, you can run unlimited instances on the physical server (not virtual).

Individual OSE (individual VM’s)  4 cores per minimum virtual OSE.  (license the number of cores you assign to a VM with a 4 core minimum) You are allowed to run unlimited instances on the virtual OSE provided that each virtual OSE is properly licensed.

SQL is sold in packs of two cores.  Again, you cannot license 1 – 2 core pack of SQL.  You would be found out of compliant pretty easily since the licensing rules state you must report a minimum of 4 cores not 2.

How is per core license with Windows?

Licensing is very similar to the old model, just licensed by physical core instead of each physical processor (minor change).

The number of licenses required equals the number of physical cores on the host machine.  It does not matter if it’s ESX host or Hyper-V.  Unlike SQL, there is a 8 core minimum per physical processor.  As with previous editions, Datacenter will allow unlimited VM’s and Standard will allow 1.  If you have more than 7 VM’s on a host machine, Datacenter edition is more economical.  With Standard edition, you have to license each physical core but it will only allow 1 VM.  If you have a second VM on that host, you must license each physical core a second time (Stack licenses to get more VM’s).  Like SQL, it is priced/sold in packs of two cores.

Other items to remember with Windows 2016:


Container is a technology, not a license definition.  It means an isolated place where an application can run without affecting the rest of the system.  It helps eliminate application delay and density.  Stuck watching an application icon spin for eternity because of volume?  Containers might be your answer.  There are two types of containers:

Windows Server Container – shares a kernel (not popcorn) with the container host and all containers running on the host.  It’s part of the operating system, which is why both Datacenter and Standard edition allow for unlimited Windows containers.

Hyper-V Containers –  are completely isolated virtual machines.  That’s why Datacenter is the only edition to allow unlimited Hyper-V-containers.  Each Hyper-V container has its own copy of the Windows kernel and have memory assigned directly to them.  In short, you can think of a Hyper-V container as a separate VM.

Nano Server Option –  This is not a separate license model, just a deployment option.  In volume licensing, it is a software assurance benefit.  In SPLA, it is included.

Other things to note


This is also a technology, not a licensing term.  It splits the physical core into two separate threads of power.  When hyper-threading is turned on, it creates two hardware threads for each physical core.  From a licensing perspective, you must license one core for one thread.  Since hyper-threading is for virtual cores, no need to worry about it when licensing by the physical core option only.

Fail-Over- When an end customer uses a license mobility right (transfers a license over to a third party’s dedicated VM) they can also move their failover rights that come with software assurance.  They cannot use the datacenter provider as the failover only.  In other words, they cannot install SQL with software assurance on premise and extend the fail-over to a third-party datacenter.  The end customer would have to transfer via license mobility to the datacenter provider in order for failover rights to be applicable in an outsourcer scenario.

Thanks for reading,




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