Microsoft adds Virtual Core licensing to Windows Server

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Microsoft has announced a major overhaul to its Windows licensing regimes that 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, as opposed to paying for the OS based on the physical processor cores in host machines. “Today, Windows Server is licensed by physical core, which means customers must have access to the physical server hardware to ensure that they have enough Windows Server licenses to cover all physical cores in the machine,” Microsoft’s chief partner officer Nicole Dezen explained in a Monday announcement. “With the virtual core licensing option, customers can elect to license Windows Server by the number of virtual cores they are using in virtual machines, making Windows Server easier to license when virtualizing or outsourcing.”
Microsoft’s aim with this change is to get users migrating Windows Server into 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 run by Microsoft’s partner community. We're also told the new rules otherwise apply worldwide.

Windows 10 and 11 have also been given a similar update, with holders of a Microsoft 365 F3, E3, or E5 license able to run the operating systems “on their own servers or on outsourcers’ servers … regardless of whether the user’s primary device has a Qualifying Operating System (QOS) — eg, Windows 11 Pro — and without the need for any additional licenses.” That’s a change from the current regime that requires customers who lack a primary device with a QOS to acquire an add-on license to virtualize Windows 10 or Windows 11.
 

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