Microsoft has announced a major overhaul of its Windows licensing regimes that will make it rather easier to use its operating system in the cloud — without highlighting the reason for the change is to get the European Union off its back.
The biggest change is a virtual core licensing option for Windows Server, rather than paying for the operating system based on the physical processor cores in host machines.
“Today, Windows Server is licensed by physical core, which means customers need to access the physical server hardware to ensure they have enough Windows Server licenses to cover all physical cores in the machine,” said Microsoft’s chief partner. officer Nicole Dezen in a Monday announcement.
“With the virtual core licensing option, customers can choose to license Windows Server based on the number of virtual cores they use in virtual machines, making Windows Server easier to license through virtualization or outsourcing.”
Customers can choose to license Windows Server based on the number of virtual cores they use in virtual machines
Microsoft’s goal with this change is to let users migrate Windows Server to the cloud. But not just any cloud – the new license does not apply to Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft. Instead, the target is clouds managed by Microsoft’s partner community. We were also told that the new rules would otherwise apply globally.
Windows 10 and 11 have also received a similar update, allowing Microsoft 365 F3, E3 or E5 license holders to run the operating systems “on their own servers or on outsourcers’ servers…whether the primary device is the user is a Qualifying Operating System (QOS) — e.g. Windows 11 Pro — and without the need for additional licenses.”
That’s a change from the current regime that requires customers who don’t have a primary device with a QOS to purchase an add-on license to virtualize Windows 10 or Windows 11.
Microsoft disclosed the changes in an advisory to partners and the aforementioned statement from Dezeen, both of which detail the real reason for the changes.
That reason is the legal action brought by European clouds that believed that Microsoft’s software licensing programs were unfairly competing and putting them at a disadvantage. The Redmond giant made concessions to end those lawsuits, promising Microsoft president Brad Smith: “We will make it easier than ever to license Windows Server for virtual environments and the cloud by easing the licensing rules that reflect old software licensing practices, where licenses are tied to physical hardware,” a May 18 message.
Three and a few months later, the US mega-corporation is turning the introduction of these promised licenses as a generosity to its partners, in a nod to its peace offerings with European cloud providers.
Dezen’s announcement briefly references that truce, adding her comment that “we welcome continued feedback from cloud providers, customers and other stakeholders as these changes are made.” And Microsoft’s corporate blog calls the licensing a responsible change that helps smaller players thrive, without specifically mentioning the legal action.
Perhaps readers will want to remember this the next time Microsoft brings up its ethics?
The new licenses will be available on October 1. Microsoft said training for customers and partners will begin in the coming weeks.
Other changes include that cloud solution providers (CSPs) can sell customers one- or three-year subscriptions “for many products, including Windows Server, Remote Desktop Services (RDS), and SQL Server.” More monthly billing options will also become available for one-year offers.
Microsoft has also added a CSP “hoster” program that allows partners to “pre-build hosted desktop and server solutions that they can sell to customers along with licenses in CSP (license-included hosting), or to customers who already have licenses (customer BYOL -to-partner solutions).”
The desktop version of that program further complicates Microsoft’s virtual desktop options, which already include Windows 365 Cloud PCs, Azure Virtual Desktops, and the ability to run desktop-as-a-service wares from Citrix and VMware in Azure. Good luck figuring out how the new Windows client licenses apply to all that area. ®