Microsoft Workloads on AWS

Exploring licensing options for your Microsoft workloads on AWS

Migrating your Microsoft workloads to the cloud requires a well-thought-out licensing strategy. AWS offers various ways to support your licensing needs and help you understand the options. Whether you aim to lower costs, enhance security, or improve the price-performance of your applications, AWS has three options to ensure you meet your objectives.

The infographic illustrates the three options to help you rightsize your licensing strategy: “Bring Your Own Licenses,” license-included, and modernization. We’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each in this post.

3 options for your Microsoft licenses on AWS

Option 1: Bring Your Own Licenses (BYOL)

When considering migrating your on-premises Windows workloads to AWS, a key challenge is figuring out what to do with the significant investments you have made in purchased Windows Server and SQL Server licenses. Not to worry: AWS offers many options to bring your own licenses when you migrate.

Benefits of BYOL

  • Reduce costs. Benefit from AWS cloud efficiency while reducing costs by bringing your previously purchased, on-premises licenses and software. Any licensing costs associated with the product you bring are not included in the price of the instance.
  • Manage your licenses. With BYOL, you maintain control over how you deploy your licenses. Using AWS License Manager, you can stay compliant throughout the lifecycle of your licenses.
  • Extend software version lifecycle. Extend the lifecycle of legacy software versions by bringing your own licenses—subject to Microsoft terms and conditions. (We have even had a customer running a legacy version of SQL Server 2000. So anything is possible!)
  • Deploy a wide variety of products not offered as license-included. If you’re running a product that is not currently available as license-included, there are several BYOL options that allow you to use these products on AWS.

License eligibility

It’s important to consider BYOL eligibility, which can depend on purchase dates, tenancy, or version requirements. While BYOL eligibility is determined by each product’s license terms, the following Microsoft licensing agreements and programs—not limited to, and subject to change—can allow BYOL:

  • Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA)
  • Microsoft Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE)
  • Microsoft Enterprise Subscription Agreement (EAS)
  • Microsoft Product and Services Agreement (MPSA)
  • Microsoft Open Value and Open Value Subscription

One thing to consider: Windows Server and SQL Server licenses purchased through a cloud solution provider (CSP) are not eligible for BYOL on AWS.

License Mobility

License Mobility is a Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) benefit that allows you to bring specific product licenses to shared cloud infrastructure, including to default (shared) tenancy Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. Active Microsoft Software Assurance is required to be eligible for License Mobility. Microsoft requires you to fill out the License Mobility Verification Form when using License Mobility through Software Assurance.

Products without License Mobility

If you bring Microsoft software without License Mobility, you can still reduce costs by bringing licenses with Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts. This lets you use your existing per-socket, per-core, or per-server software licenses, such as Windows Server Datacenter or SQL Server Enterprise, on AWS. You can bring products without License Mobility, such as Windows Server, to Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts if the licenses are perpetual and purchased before October 1, 2019, and are running a version released prior to October 1, 2019. Windows Server 2019, or prior versions, are eligible for BYOL on AWS. Bringing Windows Server Datacenter or SQL Server Enterprise core licenses to Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts provides a virtualization benefit through licensing by total physical cores.

AWS License Manager

There are many factors to consider as you migrate software to the cloud, such as remaining compliant with changing license terms and not using more licenses than you own. AWS License Manager makes it easier for you to centrally manage your software licenses across AWS and your on-premises environments. Get control and visibility into how you use your licenses, set limits on licensing overages, and reduce the risk of non-compliance and misreporting. Additionally, you can integrate AWS License Manager with other AWS services, such as Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts.

AWS makes it easy to bring your licenses

If you’re bringing licenses to AWS, you will be required to bring your own media, software, and images. AWS VM Import makes this easy by helping bring virtual machine images from your on-premises environment to AWS.

As you can see, BYOL is a great option for businesses with stable and predictable workloads, letting you take advantage of the benefits of the AWS Cloud while using your existing licensing.

Option 2: License-included instances

The license-included option allows you to use instances with licensing costs bundled into the instance price. The benefit of this approach is its pay-as-you-go model, ensuring you only pay for the resources you require when you need them.

For example, as an online retailer experiencing increased traffic during the holiday season, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to pay upfront for licenses and hardware required only during peak times. By adopting a license-included, pay-as-you-go strategy when migrating to the cloud, you can minimize unnecessary expenses by paying only for resources when they are needed.

Customers pay for instances that include Windows Server and SQL Server licensing on a per-virtual core, per-second basis. You can find pricing examples in the AWS Pricing Calculator.

Benefits of license-included

  • Pay as you go. Pay for resources when you need them, then stop paying when you turn them off.
  • Run current or legacy versions. The pay-as-you-go, license-included option lets you run either current or legacy versions of Microsoft software. AWS offers Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) for any version of Windows Server or SQL Server still supported by Microsoft.
  • Reduce vendor lock-in. Pay-as-you-go, license-included EC2 instances won’t lock you into complex and restrictive licensing terms or ongoing maintenance costs, as with Software Assurance.
  • Access the latest software versions. You no longer need to pay for Software Assurance to have access to the latest version of software. AWS makes new versions of Microsoft software available right away at no added cost.
  • Let AWS handle compliance. AWS runs and secures the data center and handles license compliance, while you focus on your business.
  • Ready to modernize infrastructure. Finally, if you plan to move off of Windows Server or SQL Server to modernize and move to an AWS service, license-included instances allow you to smoothly make the transition. When you’re ready, you can simply stop using and paying for your Windows Server or SQL Server license-included instances.

Windows Server and SQL Server with license included are available on shared (default) tenancy Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon EC2 Dedicated Instances, and Amazon EC2 Spot instances. Windows Server license included is also available on Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts.

Along with Windows Server and SQL Server, AWS offers the following options for license-included cloud desktop and application streaming:


  • Windows 10 Experience built on Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019
  • Option to add Office Professional as license-included

AppStream 2.0

  • Windows Server 2019 R2
  • Windows Server 2019
  • Windows Server 2016

Option 3: Break free from license complexity with modernization

If the cost and complexity of running Microsoft workloads is a concern for your business, there is a third option for you to consider: modernization.

AWS can help you transform your existing, on-premises applications and infrastructure to higher-value services built for the cloud, such as up-to-date services like Amazon Aurora. Cloud-native services create new business capabilities, accelerate your ability to innovate, and ultimately reduce technical debt.

Modernization can help you transform your IT infrastructure:

  • Accelerate innovation and deliver features at speed.
  • Mitigate or remove unpredictable costs of licensed software; cloud services are often open source or available with less expensive licensing.
  • Scale to meet varying traffic demands and your users’ expectations as their environments grow.
  • Alleviate technical debt challenges around maintaining your legacy architecture.
  • Reduce the risks associated with older software, including security, end of support, and compliance.
  • Develop additional skill sets as you transition from on-premises to cloud models.

Modernization options for Windows Server and SQL Server software

AWS provides several offerings to help you modernize your Microsoft business infrastructure. The following list contains modernization tools and services that can help you transform your business from an on-premises architecture to one that harnesses the speed, scalability, and cost-saving effectiveness of AWS:

Optimization and Licensing Assessment (OLA)

AWS can help you rightsize your resources, reduce costs, and fit your licensing options to your business requirements with the Optimization and Licensing Assessment program. It’s free for new and existing customers to analyze on-premises and cloud workloads.

OLA focuses on determining your CPU, RAM, storage, and actual resource consumption (ARC) data. Then it provides a recommendation that may be a mix of BYOL and license-included, which could result in cost savings of over 40% for licensing and compute.

Database Freedom program

AWS also offers Database Freedom. It’s a program that provides discounts on Amazon RDS for SQL Server, while customers migrate and modernize their databases to our native solution (Aurora) to achieve freedom from licensing. Like the OLA program, Database Freedom can help you assess your systems, provide an expert recommendation for your migration, and make migration with Database Freedom partners, AWS Professional Services, and Amazon Database Migration Accelerator.

AWS Migration Acceleration Program for Windows

The Migration Acceleration Program (MAP), provides automation, cost reduction, training, live expertise, and a host of tools to help simplify the migration of your on-premises investments to AWS. When considering moving your on-premises systems to AWS, MAP can help accelerate and offset the costs of your migration.

AWS Pricing Calculator

The AWS Pricing Calculator is an invaluable tool to help you with your licensing strategy. You can add and configure your services, then create a no-commitment estimate. If you’re taking advantage of the BYOL option, the AWS Pricing Calculator maps your current instances to Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts for Windows Server or SQL Server Enterprise.


When assessing the number of options and the needs of your organization’s infrastructure, figuring out your licensing strategy can be daunting. You don’t have to settle on a single option as your strategy. In fact, we recommend a mixed licensing approach. AWS lets you take advantage of the above options, meaning you can tailor your licensing strategy to the workload you’re running. BYOL is a great option for stable and predictable workloads, where you can retain previously purchased licenses in shared or dedicated infrastructure to further reduce cost. The license-included, pay-as-you-go strategy is ideal for a varied infrastructure, requiring less management and overhead. And we are here to support you when you’re ready modernize your infrastructure and take advantage of cloud-native services, reduce licensing costs, innovate faster, and reduce technical debt.

We would love to hear your story and help your efforts to rightsize your licensing strategy or modernize your infrastructure for your business. Send us an email with questions or comments to You can also download our latest ebook, Top 10 questions customers ask about Microsoft workloads on AWS. Licensing continues to be a hot topic, but there are others. Check them out.

Top 10 questions ebook

AWS can help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join the millions of AWS customers that trust us to migrate and modernize their most important applications in the cloud. To learn more on modernizing Windows Server or SQL Server, visit Windows on AWSContact us to start your migration journey today.

Lance Spratt

Lance Spratt

Lance Spratt (Senior Manager-Licensing) is a global subject matter expert on Microsoft licensing on AWS. Lance joined AWS in 2016 after spending 11 years at Microsoft where he worked in sales, licensing, compliance, and auditing. In his current role at AWS, Lance assists customers, partners, and internal AWS service teams with Microsoft licensing strategies and best practices that are effective in lowering the cost of Microsoft workloads on AWS.

Christine Megit

Christine Megit

Christine Megit is a Microsoft Licensing Sales Enablement Lead at AWS. Christine joined AWS in 2021 after spending almost 10 years at a Microsoft reseller where she worked in sales administration and licensing assessments. Today, Christine supports customers, partners, and internal AWS service teams by providing guidance on effective Microsoft licensing strategies and best practices for optimizing Microsoft workloads on AWS.

Kevin Huff

Kevin Huff

Kevin Huff is an AWS Product Marketing writer and editor. When he's not writing about cool, new AWS products, he spends his time hiking with his dogs, cooking with his family, and learning new songs on the guitar.