Intel 18-Core CPUs Surely Will Affect Microsoft Server Licensing

Read MVP Didier Van Hoye’s take here.

I’ve been thinking for some time (I think VMware even quoted my blog a few years ago) that Microsoft would eventually switch to per-core licensing for Windows Server. I think the emergence of 18-core CPUs makes that inevitable. Right now, if you want 36 cores, you’re probably looking at using 4 x 10-core CPUs, which is 2 Windows Server licenses (each license covers 2 CPUs). Those new CPUs halve Microsoft’s revenue on the upper end of the market.

I would be surprised if, come April, there isn’t an announcement of a change to Windows Server licensing, in conjunction with the GA of Windows Server “2015” (Threshold) in (maybe) May.

The key things here would be:

  • There must be a smooth transition process – when MSFT switched SQL Server to per-core it was quite confusing for resellers and customers. Note that resellers choosing to work with a good distributor helps out quite a bit here, and in turn helps their customers get best value and stay legit!
  • The price for smaller deployments cannot increase. In my opinion, the cost of Windows Server Standard/Datacenter must stay the same on a machine with 2 x 6-core CPUs before and after the release of Threshold. If one dual-CPU (covering 2 6-core CPUs) copy of WS2012 R2 costs $882, then a per-core license should cost $73.50. We can then license that same server with “WS2015” for 12 x 73.50 ($882).

If Microsoft gets it right, then the transition could be smooth. To be honest, I think it might even simplify licensing – the non-techy people who buy licensing struggle with the per-dual CPU model of WS2012 and WS2012 R2.

However, if the ivory tower residents get it wrong (i.e. those same folks think that only Fortune 1000’s and cloud hosters run servers – kids, drugs are baaaad) then we could be looking at a VMware vRAM type of backlash that would do serious damage to the current hot streak that the cloud OS is on.

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4 thoughts on “Intel 18-Core CPUs Surely Will Affect Microsoft Server Licensing”

  1. Valid prediction—MS will modify licensing concurrent with the next Server release—but if you think they’re going to be altruistic or generous and make it so small core-count licensing will cost the same as today’s socket licenses in conversion, think again. The only folks that will make hay on this is Microsoft; prices go up with each version, and unless you have a valid Software Assurance subscription on all those existing sockets, you’re going to pay to put the new version in your datacenter. The only thing we should hope for is a program similar to the one available when SQL went to per-core: audit your existing physical infrastructure’s legitimately licensed sockets, and get at least X cores per socket in conversion, up to what you physically have in inventory.

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