Microsoft licenses

When you use Microsoft software, you are responsible for understanding and complying with any licensing agreements that you might have with Microsoft. Google provides this documentation only to describe the licensing options that are available to you on Google Cloud. For detailed information about your licenses or software rights, work with your legal team, license vendor, or consult the Microsoft Licensing Guide for Google Cloud (PDF download).

This document describes how Compute Engine supports the following licensing options for Microsoft software:

This document also provides a flowchart to help you choose a licensing option.

Purchase on-demand Windows Server or SQL Server licenses from Google

On-demand licenses for Microsoft software are new licenses that are provided by Google and that do not require an up-front investment nor a long-term commitment. With on-demand licenses, you pay-as-you-go for the cost of the license only while the VM is running. Licenses for Microsoft software are typically not eligible for discounts. For information about other software that is not eligible for discounts, see Discount Exclusions.

Pre-built premium images

Custom images

  • When you bring your own Windows Server or SQL Server image, you can attach a Google-provided on-demand license during the import or migration process. The license section of the operating system details page for Windows Server and SQL Server contains license strings for each software version. If you use Google-provided on-demand licenses for SQL Server on Windows Server, you must attach a license string for each of these pieces of software.

Remote Desktop Services Client Access Licenses (RDS CALs)

  • Two concurrent remote desktop sessions for administration are included with the on-demand Windows Server and SQL Server image. For other requirements, you must purchase Remote Desktop Session (RDS) Client Access Licenses (CALs). For more information, see License your RDS deployment with client access licenses (CALs).

User-based Client Access Licenses (User CALs)

  • When you license Windows Server with an on-demand license from Google, User CALs are included. You don't need to purchase User CALs.

  • Active Directory domain controller VMs running in a Managed Microsoft Active Directory domain or any Windows VMs that are domain-joined to such a domain don't require any additional CALs. For more information, see Managed Service for Microsoft Active Directory documentation.


  • If you use on-demand licenses from Google, Google ensures compliance with the licensing requirements and managing the reporting of license usage.


Bring your own licenses to sole-tenant nodes

If you have existing investments in perpetual Microsoft licenses that require dedicated hardware, you can bring these licenses to Google Cloud by using Compute Engine's sole-tenant nodes. Sole-tenant nodes are physical Compute Engine servers that are fully dedicated for your use. For information about which operating system image licenses you can bring to sole-tenant nodes, see OS details.

Using these licenses on sole-tenant nodes might be more cost effective than using on-demand Microsoft licenses. For example, some licensing agreements allow unlimited virtualization with physical core licenses. In this case, you can bring your own licenses to sole-tenant nodes, and then overcommit the CPUs on your sole-tenant VMs.

When bringing existing licenses, you are not billed again for your licenses; you are only billed for the Compute Engine infrastructure—sole-tenant nodes—that you reserve.

In most cases, sole-tenant nodes fully support per-core and per-CPU licenses, and can host Windows Server, SQL Server, and Microsoft application servers.


Using License Mobility with Microsoft server applications

License Mobility through Software Assurance helps customers running Microsoft application servers transition to Google Cloud using perpetual or term subscription licenses acquired through their Microsoft Volume Licensing agreements. Compute Engine lets you import Microsoft images, apply existing application licenses to the imported images, and then deploy Microsoft server applications on Google Cloud without paying additional licensing fees for those applications.

With License Mobility, you are responsible for managing true ups and renewals according to your agreements. For the licenses to remain valid, you must maintain Software Assurance coverage with Microsoft.

You can use licenses covered by Microsoft Software Assurance on sole-tenant nodes or multi-tenant hosts.


  • You must be an existing Microsoft Volume Licensing customer with eligible server applications that are covered by active Software Assurance contracts with License Mobility.

  • You must maintain appropriate Client Access Licenses (CALs) with Software Assurance in your Volume Licensing agreement.

  • After deploying a license within a region, you cannot move that license to another region for 90 days. For more information, see the Microsoft Product Terms site.


License Mobility requirements for SQL Server

The number of licenses required for running SQL Server on a Compute Engine Windows instance depends on the version of SQL Server and the machine type of the instance.

Microsoft's SQL Server Product Terms state that you must assign one core license for each Virtual Core in each Virtual Operating System Environment (OSE), subject to a minimum of 4 core licenses per OSE. In Compute Engine, a VM instance is the equivalent of a Virtual OSE, and each Compute Engine vCPU visible in the OSE is equivalent to a Virtual Core. Therefore:

  • If you are planning to run SQL Server on a Compute Engine instance with 4 or more vCPUs, you must assign a core license for each vCPU visible in the OSE.

  • If you run an instance with fewer than 4 vCPUs visible in the OSE, you must still assign 4 core licenses.

  • If you configure threads per core and visible CPU cores, you can reduce the vCPU count visible in the OSE and virtual core licenses required.

If you are using SQL Server Enterprise Edition, you might have additional use rights. For detailed information about License Mobility requirements for SQL Server, see Microsoft SQL Server Product Terms or the licensing guide for SQL Server.

Instead of using License Mobility, you can purchase on-demand licenses by using a SQL Server instance, which is a Windows Server instance that includes an installation of SQL Server. With this image, Google manages the licensing of both Windows Server and SQL Server and you pay-as-you-go. Google Cloud also offers Cloud SQL for SQL Server, a managed database service that helps you set up, maintain, manage, and administer your SQL Server databases. The license for SQL Server is included in this service on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Verification of License Mobility

To use License Mobility, you must complete the license verification process, during which Microsoft ensures that your licenses are eligible for License Mobility. You can submit your License Mobility information for verification through Google or directly to Microsoft. Microsoft provides confirmation to you and to Google after verification is complete.

For specific information about your License Agreement, including how to determine your Microsoft Agreement Identifying Number, see the License Summary FAQ.

Submit License Mobility information through Google

Use the License Mobility verification form to submit your License Mobility information through Google. You can access this form directly or when you are creating a VM in the Google Cloud console.

Submit License Mobility information directly to Microsoft

  1. Visit Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center.

  2. Read the License Mobility through Software Assurance Verification Guide for Customers (PDF download).

  3. Specify Google as the Authorized Mobility Partner by using the following information:

    • Authorized Mobility Partner Name: Google LLC
    • Authorized Mobility Partner Website URL:
    • Authorized Mobility Partner Email Address:

Choosing between on-demand licenses and bringing existing licenses

The following flowchart can help you determine for Windows Server software whether to purchase new on-demand licenses from Google or to bring your existing licenses to Google Cloud.

Choosing between on-demand licenses and bringing existing licenses.

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