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Microsoft makes Windows Server 2022 licenses a little less cynical

Addresses annoyances like 20-core VMs requiring 24 licenses

Microsoft has made the terms on which it licenses Windows Server 2022 a little more generous.

In early April the OS giant changed the Product Terms Page for Windows Server Standard, Datacenter, and Essentials. The changes appear not to have rated a blog post or other prose publication.

Microsoft's terms page, by the way, offers a table and not much else. The Register is therefore indebted to the folks at Licensing School and Cloudy With a Chance of Licensing, who spotted three significant changes:

  • Dropping the requirement to have 16 Core licenses before being permitted to apply licenses to virtual machines, or use the Azure Hybrid Benefit that offers lower prices for licenses used in Microsoft's cloud;
  • Removing the requirement in the Azure Hybrid Benefit to require Windows Server Core licenses to be kept in groups of eight when licensing a virtual machine with more than 8 cores. Before this change, a VM with 20 cores needed three groups of eight licenses – a waste of four licenses. Microsoft now lets you match actual core count to licensed cores;
  • When users license Windows Server through a subscription sold by a cloud service provider, they can use Standard licenses with Windows Server Datacenter virtual machines. That little upsell is allowed when using VMs on-prem, or with an Authorized Outsourcer.

The inscrutability of Microsoft's announcement-by-table means there's no explanation for the changes, and there's no obvious regulatory need for the change – as was the case when Microsoft allowed per-core licensing largely under pressure from the European Union.

The Register fancies the changes address licensing irritants that could get users grinding their teeth about being treated unkindly. Windows Server is the dominant proprietary server OS and therefore represents revenue worth defending, so some kind tweaks to licenses make good sense for Microsoft.

But Linux is widely believed to have surpassed Windows Server's market share. Microsoft has even admitted that more VMs in Azure run Linux than Windows Server.

Linux is, of course, free and open source, and very technically mature thanks to the efforts of the likes of Red Hat, SUSE – and often Microsoft itself.

Even as Microsoft uses structures like the Azure Hybrid Benefit to lower licensing costs, penguin power therefore makes Linux a more than viable alternative. With cloud migrations continuing – and new applications more often than not built on cloud-native architectures – orgs have excellent reasons to consider platforms other than Windows Server.

Knocking a few barnacles off Windows Server licenses, therefore, might keep a few customers around for longer. ®

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