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How will System Center licensing change?

The price of your System Center license is due to change when Microsoft implements a per-core pricing model with the release of System Center 2016.

As with System Center 2012 R2, Microsoft's upcoming System Center 2016 management platform will be available in Standard and Datacenter editions in the third quarter of 2016. System Center licensing will move to a per-core model, which means organizations should pin down the costs to upgrade and migrate licenses.

Server Management Licenses for System Center 2016 are required for servers under management that run operating system environments and will move to a per-physical core model.

Both System Center versions are expected to provide the same suite of features including Configuration Manager, Data Protection Manager, Endpoint Protection, Operations Manager, Orchestrator, Service Manager and Virtual Machine Manager. The principal difference between the two System Center editions, however, is the number of supported instances. The Standard edition supports up to two physical or virtual operating system environments (OSEs) while the Datacenter edition supports an unlimited number of OSEs. An OSE can have one or more processor cores assigned to it, though a virtual OSE -- the OS and application deployed in a virtual machine -- will use virtual processor cores.

Server Management Licenses for System Center 2016 are required for servers under management that run OSEs and will move to a per-physical core model. This is in line with the licensing changes expected for Windows Server 2016, and typically means that all cores in the server being managed will require licenses. Microsoft stipulates that a minimum of eight core licenses are required for each processor in the server, and 16 core licenses are required for each server. System Center 2016 Standard edition allows multiple core licenses assigned to the same cores to manage additional OSEs. Client Management Licenses are also required for managed devices that use non-server OSEs and are sold per-OSE or per-user.

As a Standard Edition example, a low-end server with one processor and two cores will still need eight two-core pack licenses while a server with two eight-core processors will still require eight two-core pack licenses per processor, and a four processor server with two -- or more -- cores would need 16 two-core pack licenses. Microsoft has said the System Center 2016 licensing costs for most server deployments should be about the same as System Center 2012 R2.

It's a good idea to discuss System Center licensing with your current Microsoft VAR or other source to get a detailed estimate of anticipated System Center 2016 licensing costs and license migration -- from previous System Center versions -- logistics. This will help ensure all servers remain under management once System Center 2016 is deployed in production, while having few -- if any -- unexpected impacts to licensing budgets.

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