Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SQL Server 2012 : Edition and Licensing Information

Microsoft’s new SQL Server 2012 release, code-named Denali, marks some significant changes in the SQL Server product lineup. Taking steps to simplify the platform's licensing options, Microsoft has retired the Datacenter Edition, Workgroup Edition and Small Business Edition previously available for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2.

SQL Server 2012 Express Edition
replaces the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) as the free version of SQL Server for application development and lightweight use. It’s a great tool for developing and testing applications and extremely small implementations, but that’s about as far as you can run with it.

SQL Server 2012 Web Edition
is a specialized version for use in web hosting environments that is nearly identical to Standard Edition. This edition is available only to Services Provider License Agreement customers, which means your hosting provider.

SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition
remains the workhorse of the product line for serious database applications. It can handle up to 16 cores with an unlimited amount of RAM.

SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence Edition
is designed specifically to support business intelligence applications.

SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition
is designed for mission critical data center operations and large data warehouses.

SQL Server 2012 Developer Edition
is a great tool for developers needing the full features of SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition for use in a non-production environment. This product has the same functionality as Enterprise Edition and offers a direct upgrade path to convert Developer servers to production licensing.

Having trouble choosing an edition? The Microsoft article "Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2012" offers a detailed look at each edition.

SQL Server 2012 Licensing

Now that you have a SQL version in mind, it’s time to talk pricing. There's no question that licensing is one of the trickiest aspects of any Microsoft product to figure out — it's often harder to understand the licensing than it is to figure out how to use the product and its features. Changes in editions, the new core-based licensing, and the different availability options that are brought about by new features have made SQL Server 2012 licensing more confusing than ever. Let's take a closer look:
  • SQL Server 2012 Standard
    can be licensed either per core or per server and Client Access License (CAL).
  • SQL Server 2012 Business
    is licensed only per server and CAL.
  • SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
    is licensed only per core.

In a virtual environment, each "virtual processor" or "logical processor" counts as one (1) core. For example, if you have a virtual server with four (4) processors, you will need a four (4) core license for your SQL version. SQL Server 2012's licensing requires that you purchase a minimum of four (4) core licenses with additional core licenses available in packs of two (2). This means you will pay for a four (4) core license even if you have a single, dual or tri-core virtual processor VM.

In a fully dedicated environment the structure is much the same. For example, if you have a single quad (4) core processor, you will need a four (4) core license or one (1) server + CALs license. With today’s 12- core+ processors, Microsoft knew you were getting a good deal with socket-based licensing on late SQL versions.

If you’re planning to use the standard edition of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 in your environment, you have a major choice to make: should you opt for the per server licensing or the per core licensing? Be sure to count your cores. Depending on the environment (dedicated or virtual) it may make sense to license by server and CALs rather than core-based licensing.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Core Factor Table*
Processor TypeCore Factor
All processors not mentioned below1
AMD Processors
(31XX, 32XX, 41XX, 42XX, 61XX, 62XX Series Processors with 6 or more cores)
Single-Core Processors4
Dual-Core Processors2

* This is an example of how to calculate core license requirements and the core factor table. The core factor table is subject to change. You can find the core factor table at any time, updated at the link below.

For more information on the SQL Server 2012 Core Factor Table, including how to determine and use the appropriate core factor when licensing SQL Server 2012 under the Per Core model, visit:

Licensing SQL Server for High Availability

One of the most compelling features in the upcoming SQL Server 2012 release is the new AlwaysOn Availability Groups, but Microsoft's use of the term AlwaysOn is a bit confusing. AlwaysOn actually refers to two separate but related technologies: AlwaysOn Failover Clustering and AlwaysOn Availability Groups. AlwaysOn Failover Clustering is essentially the same thing as SQL Server failover clustering in earlier releases. It entails running a SQL Server instance on a Windows failover cluster. However, the AlwaysOn Availability Groups feature is completely new to SQL Server 2012, and it brings several new availability enhancements to SQL Server. If you're using database mirroring, AlwaysOn Availability Groups could be a good reason to upgrade to SQL Server 2012.

What if I have a failover cluster that includes a dedicated backup server? Do I need to license this server as well? No, both Failover Clustering and AlwaysOn Availability Groups allow you to skip licensing the backup server if it is truly passive (i.e., only used when the primary system isn't active).

What about Enterprise solutions where SQL needs high-availability in a fault-tolerant dual hardware solution? Using redundant hardware, will you be required to double the licensing costs? No, fortunately not. This is where Microsoft observes some sympathy and considers these multi-hardware solutions as a single system, thus no additional SQL license costs. The catch is, Microsoft only requires you to license the "active" system. In the event of a failover, switching the licensing to "active" on the receiving server will suffice.

For more information about licensing SQL Server 2012, including what is new with this version, please visit Microsoft's SQL Server website.