SQL Server Licensing Changes May Mean Something for DBAs

Posted in: Microsoft SQL Server, Technical Track

A DBA is kinda like a chauffeur, he doesn’t own the car but it would be nice to drive one that has Electronic stability control or Anti-lock braking system or airbags, etc…

For SQL server editions, it’s nice to have the Enterprise edition especially with big databases, we can use online index operations, fast recovery, peer to peer transactional replication, partitioning, etc…

Its the same for small databases, less than 10GB, standard/workgroup edition will be better than Express edition since more CPU cores can be used, more RAM can be added, you get SQL server agent, etc…

What changed?

Briefly, I won’t go over everything, the changes happened in two areas:

1- Editions change

SQL server 2012 will have three main editions: Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard. BI edition is Standard with some BI capabilities.

Here’s an idea of the capabilities of each edition:


Where’re the rest ?

Express and developer stay the same. Workgroup & small business are no more and Datacenter will be incorporated in the Enterprise edition. Web edition is still here but you can’t buy individually, you can license through a service provided (Amazon, Rackspace…etc).

1- licensing changes

This is what generated much buzz. The most important change is moving from processor model to core model with four cores minimum & voila you’ll need to count your cores!

ENT edition will be available only per core license model while STD will have core-based and server+CAL license model; for BI edition, only server+CAL license model will be available.

For core licensing, it’s identical to previous versions if you have four-core processors because a minimum of 4 core licenses is required for each physical processor in the server. Having processors with < 4 four cores will be waste of $$ and more = more $$ to pay out!

This is a simple outline of core-based license model:


CAL licenses price goes up by almost 25%

What about virtualization ?

Also two options: core-based (Four cores min) or server+CALs.

If you want unlimited virtualization with no limits on how many VMs you create then you need to acquire ENT edition with Software Assurance.

Here’s a summary of license fees:


Why the change

According to SQL Server 2012 – Editions and Licensing FAQ, this is why MS made the changes:

8. Could you explain why you are making these changes?

The changes to SQL Server licensing reflect the evolution of the database industry along with new hardware deployment practices. Internal customer research with hundreds of customers has shown us that database customers are comfortable with core-based licensing and consider licensing by core simple and predictable. There is also great enthusiasm for our virtualization and cloud-friendly licensing to help customers save money as their deployment practices evolve. With these changes, we will continue to offer industry leading TCO.

Hah? “In my understanding”, I can say that’s kinda logical for the following reasons:

1- Simpler model with fewer options.

I didn’t get why there should be Datacenter Edition beside ENT edition for example; nor why Workgroup/Small business beside Web edition.

This is better now, at least when looking at Editions comparison.

2- Cores revolution

Six and eight cores processors are now emerging and with old model, MS may find itself licensing fewer because people are doing fine with fewer physical CPUs.

3- Increased cost for product development & support

SQL server is getting more and more complex and maintaining its development and support must cost a lot.

4- Increased usage of virtualization

Same as cores story, this could mean less return for MS.

So, what’s the impact ?

Like earlier I said, DBAs don’t buy the licenses but what they support can be impacted by such change

On editions change side

– I didn’t see Datacenter in production so I don’t feel sorry for it.

– For those who used Workgroup to manage small databases (with SQL agent,snapshot repl, FTS..etc), they’ll have to shift to either Web edition (through a service provider) or Standard edition.

– This also means that DBs with more than 10 GB should go to STD or Web Edition.

– DBAs may need to consolidate instances to fewer ones.

On licensing changes side

– More than four cores per processor means more licensing fees. We can be OK with four cores, which is the majority now I think, but till when? most likely, CPUs in future will normally have more than four-cores and thus more license fees.

This can initially put off some customers who acquire systems with high-end processors and may decide to lower costs with adopting STD edition rather than ENT.

– It’ll be waste of money putting SQL server on a machine with less than four cores (Unlimited VMs model may be OK)

– If you license by Server + CALs, the cost can go higher depending on the number of users.

– Some clients may hesitate to upgrade their old servers in fear of increased license costs.


– Fewer set of editions is good for a less confusing license model, I’m glad this happened.

– Even if the new licensing model could mean more fees but this is logical given that the CPUs power is increasing and SQL server , from MS POV, may end being underpriced.

– Customers should note that paying higher license fees with good hardware and/or higher edition may be better than the maintenance cost of a degraded performance that may necessitate applications and/or database design. A lower initial license cost may turn up costly in the long terms in terms of maintenance (oh yea, love the consultants).

Dear DBA ? what do you think about that change and it’s impact on you?

For more info about the new license model , please see “Detailed FAQ” & “Licensing Datasheet” here



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