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Sql Server Licensing & Differences

Hi Friends, as we’ve already discussed about various Sql server versions and editions, it’s time to discuss about various sql server licenses available and what the difference among those is.

You can check various Editions here.

There are two type of licensing options available with Sql server 2012:

  1. Core based licensing
  2. Server+CAL licensing model

Core Based Licensing

Physical Machine:

In previous versions, sql server licenses were based on per processor based. Means if you are having one processor and this processor is having two cores then one license is enough to meet your needs.

But this is not the case in Sql 2012. Now we have core based licensing. That means if we are having a processor with 2 cores then we’ll need 2 Sql licenses.

Core-based licenses are sold in two-core packs with a minimum of 4 core licenses required for each physical processor. This means that at a minimum you need to purchase two of these two-core packs for each physical processor occupying a processor socket.

Below is the matrix for license required according to cores. We know that 2 double core license is minimum purchase so one will have to purchase license for 4 cores at minimum. As number of cores increases, number of sql server licenses also increase accordingly.

You can notice, even if you license a single or dual core processor, you still have to buy enough two-core packs to license the minimum of four cores. With this four-core minimum license per physical processor requirement of SQL Server 2012, it makes more sense to have a single four-core processor than two dual-core processors.

The  Per Core licensing option allows for unlimited users or devices to access SQL Server (both internally and externally). The major benefit of this option is that there is no requirement to try to quantify the number of users or devices accessing the SQL Server, be that direct or via indirect means using in between layers e.g. business logic layer.

Only Enterprise and Standard Editions of SQL Server 2012 are available for core-based licensing. 

Virtual Machine:

Let’s discuss how licensing will be required for virtual machines. Each virtual machine is treated as different machine and each core in these virtual machines will be considered as separate core.

Let’s take an example of one server:

These is one server. This server is having 2 VMs. One VM is having 2 Cores and second VM is having 6 cores.

  • Server-1
    • VM-1
      • Core-1
      • Core-2
    • VM-2
      • Core-1
      • Core-2
      • Core-3
      • Core-4
      • Core-5
      • Core-6

Now we know that for VM-1 we need sql server licenses for 2 cores but we know that we need to purchase minimum two 2-core packs i.e. we need to purchase licenses for 4 cores minimum.

So for VM-1 we need 4 sql server licenses.

In same way we need three 2-core packs for VM-2 which will give us 6 licenses. So to cover both VMs we need 10 licenses i.e. five 2-core packs licenses. 

Host server or server farm core licensing:

The total number of cores available on a host server or server farm can be licensed to maximize virtualization capabilities and take advantage of full computing power. To fully license a host server or server farm, Enterprise Edition core licenses along with Software Assurance are required.

There are different type of volume licencing options available:

Open Value License Program is the recommended program if you have a small to midsize organization with five or more desktop PCs and want to simplify license management, manage software costs, and get better control over your investment.

Open License Program is a Microsoft service that allows corporate, academic, charitable, or government organizations to obtain volume licenses for Microsoft products. It is ideally suited for companies with between 2 – 250 personal computers, but can accommodate organizations with up to 750 computers.

Select License Program was designed specifically for medium and large organizations with 250 desktop PCs or more that have mixed software requirements and want a simple, flexible, and affordable way to purchase the latest Microsoft technology on a “pay as you go” basis.

EA/SA (Enterprise Agreement/Software Assurance) Program is a volume licensing package offered by Microsoft. It primarily targets large organizations that have 500 or more personal computers. 

This type of licensing allows for an unlimited number of virtual machines and allows dynamic provisioning and de-provisioning of virtual processors.

Server + CAL Licensing

Physical Machine:

As name specified, in this model there will be one server license for server which will host Sql server. CAL is client access license which will be required for each and every user who is trying to connect to the Sql server.

These users may be connecting to Sql server directly by application installed on their desktops or these user can give call to any intermediate layer and this intermediate layer intern connect to the server. In both the cases same number of CALs are needed.

Now question may arise, why we need this licensing model.

The Server + CAL option is often the preferred licensing option when:

  1. Smaller SQL Server implementations exist and SQL is the supporting database for another application or smaller Intranet; and
  2. The number of users or devices accessing SQL Server can be quantified and Server + CAL is more cost effective than the Per Core model

Server + CAL Licensing for SQL Server 2012 is only available for the Standard and Business Intelligence Editions. Users need a CAL that is the same version or newer than the version of the licensed SQL Server they need to access. A SQL Server 2012 CAL can be used to access multiple licensed SQL Servers, including SQL Server 2012 Standard and Business Intelligence Editions. These new CALs can also be used for previous versions of SQL Server, including the Enterprise Editions of 2008 and 2008R2, for which the Server + CAL licensing model was still available.

Virtual Machine:

Now let’s discuss how Server+CAL licensing will be required for virtual machines. In this case also each virtual machine is treated as different machine but licenses are required for each VM, not for each core.

Let’s take above example once again:

These is one server. This server is having 2 VMs. One VM is having 2 Cores and second VM is having 6 cores. There are 20 users who are accessing these servers.

  • Server-1
    • VM-1
      • Core-1
      • Core-2
    • VM-2
      • Core-1
      • Core-2
      • Core-3
      • Core-4
      • Core-5
      • Core-6

So now there will be 2 sql server licenses required for both VMs. And 20 CALs are required for users who are accessing these servers.

Below is the matrix which shows which license is available with which edition.

Edition

Server + CAL

Core Based

Enterprise

NA

Yes

Business Intelligence

Yes

NA

Standard

Yes

Yes

Now you can think from your organization’s perspective, which one suite you.