AMD helps Dell, HPE, Lenovo to cut Windows Server 2019 licence costs – if you buy tin packing Epyc Rome CPUs

Two cores for the price of one, under eleven-month ‘pilot’ scheme

Updated HPE has announced a scheme to make its AMD-powered servers an exceptionally well-priced option for users of Windows Server 2019.

The “Microsoft AMD Pilot Program” means that if you buy a 32-core Windows Server 2019 Standard or Datacenter licence from HPE, and run it on an HPE server packing an AMD Epyc Rome processor, that licence will run on all the CPU cores the processor possesses.

As the Epyc Rome range includes 48-core and 64-core parts, HPE is effectively giving away Window Server 2019 licences on those machines.

The offer applies to single and dual-socket servers.

The Register understands that Dell and Lenovo offer the same scheme.

HPE's offer relies on a special licence available from August 3rd 2020 until June 30, 2021 – and perhaps longer given the program is a pilot.

The offer is only available if you also buy new AMD-powered servers from HPE, an entanglement that goes some way towards explaining how HPE will make this pay.

HPE could certainly do with extra server revenue because its market share slipped in Q2 2020 thanks in part to a certain pandemic.

But this offer is more significant for it showing how AMD uses its high core counts to lure customers. The most famous example of that was Lenovo’s 2019 offer of an AMD-powered 32-core single-socket server that made it possible to run VMware software at a significant discount. So steep were those discounts that VMware later changed its licensing rules so that CPUs with more than 32 cores count as two CPUs under its per-CPU licensing scheme.

Microsoft may not need to make the same change as HPE has made this offer under the OEM licences that let it resell Windows Server 2019 licences. If HPE choses to take a bath on those licences, Microsoft won’t care as long as it still gets paid what it considers to be the appropriate amount.

Consider also that HPE might feel that very generous offers are what it takes to get buyers interested in new on-prem Windows Server 2019 licences and hardware. Microsoft has hardly promoted the OS to end-users or partners, citing the fact that few customers leap onto new server operating systems in the first year after their release. Indeed, Microsoft scarcely recommends on-prem anything these days and has made Azure both its marketing priority and the cheapest way to consume Windows Server when run on three-year deals for Azure reserved instances.

Don’t forget, too, that HPE also sells Intel-powered servers. Which could make for an awkward chat between the two vendors’ relationship managers. Maybe someone’s video camera will mysteriously fail just as that talk starts. ®

Updated to add

Since the publication of this article, The Register has learned Dell is making the same offer, and launched it in December 2019, and that Lenovo launched it in March 2020.

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