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Windows Server 2022 Licensing Guide

How is Windows Server 2022 licensed?

Similarly to the previous version Server 2019, the latest Windows Server 2022 software is licensed per-core. A minimum of 16 cores must be licensed even if your server has fewer than this - and any additional cores must then be licensed via the 'Additional Core' packs (sold separately). For example, a server with two 16-core processors has a total of 32 cores to license.

Windows Server 2022 Editions

Windows Server 2022 Standard
The most popular option for most businesses, available as OEM, ROK and via CSP/OLP - Requires User or Device CALs to be purchased seperately. Allows for 2 x OSEs when all cores are licensed, and additional OSEs can be added by licensing cores again via 'additional core' packs.
Windows Server 2022 Datacenter
For highly virtualised environments typically found in the datacenter due to unlimited OSE allowance. Available as OEM, ROK and via CSP/OLP. Requires User or Device CALs to be purchased separately. Allows for 2 x OSEs when all cores are licensed.
Windows Server 2022 Essentials
A popular option for small businesses or branch offices, Essentials is limited to a maximum of 25 users and 50 devices. Restricted to single-CPU servers with 10 or fewer cores. Available as ROK only (no OEM offering) but requires no additional CALs. It is important to note that Server 2022 Essentials can't be used as a member server on an existing domain, or have member servers on the same domain. It can't be used as a terminal server. If any of these features are required, Server 2022 Standard is recommended as a minimum.

Windows Server 2022 and Virtual Machines

With Windows Server 2022 Standard Edition, you have an entitlement to two Windows Server OSEs (Operating System Environments) - Basically two Windows Server VMs. If you'd like more than this, licensing all the cores again (via the 16 Additional Core pack plus any additional packs required to cover all cores in the system) will give you an additional two Windows Server OSEs. This process can be repeated to add as many extra Windows Server OSEs as are required. Windows Server 2022 Datacenter allows unlimited OSEs.

Important note: When adding additional core packs for extra OSEs, be aware that even on systems with fewer than 16 cores, the minimum additional cores is still 16. For example, if you have an 8-core server and would like four Windows Server OSEs, the minimum requirements is at least the 16-core base license and a 16 additional core pack.

Is it cheaper to buy Windows Server 2022 Datacenter?

It depends how many Windows Server OSEs you require - There becomes a point at which it's cheaper to purchase Windows Server 2022 Datacenter with its unlimited Windows Server OSE entitlement than to keep adding Additional Core packs to Windows Server 2022 Standard. This point is dependent upon two things: How many Windows Server OSEs you require, and how many cores are in the server (and therefore how many additional core packs you'd need to purchase).

Different methods of licensing Windows Server 2022

If you are buying a new server and would like Windows Server 2022 software, you can choose between Microsoft OEM or vendor-specific ROK software. The OEM/ROK base license that includes the installation media and COA (Certificate of Authenticity) is available in 16-core and 24-core versions for both Standard and Datacenter. Additional Core packs are available if your system has more cores than this.

What is ROK software?

ROK stands for Reseller Option Kit, and it's essentially the identical Windows Server 2022 software as the Microsoft OEM but BIOS-locked to only be installable on the ROK vendors servers. For example, if you purchase the HPE ROK version of Windows Server 2022 it will not install on a Dell/Lenovo/Fujitsu etc. server.

The benefits of ROK software over Microsoft OEM is that it's often cheaper and completely supported by the vendor. Should you need to make a support call to the vendor, you won't risk being passed back and forth between Microsoft and the vendor if there is any uncertainty if it's a software issue or hardware issue. With ROK software, the support of both hardware and software is entirely with the vendor.

What are CALs?

A Client Access License (CAL) is a license to allow either a user or a device to access a Windows Server domain. They are required alongside the Server 2022 Standard or Datacenter software if the server is a domain controller. If you are upgrading a member server to Windows Server 2022 and the existing CALs are for a previous version, you will need to upgrade the CALs to 2022 also.

There are two types of CALs - User CALs and Device CALs. Typically if you have more devices than users, it is best to license the users - and vice versa - if you have more users than devices, it's better to license the devices. In addition, if you have users or devices that need to access the domain remotely, then RDS CALs are required in addition to the local CALs.

Licensing Examples