Overview of SQL Server 2012 Licensing

SQL Server 2012 is package loaded with features and promises to deliver phenomenal results in terms of improvements in performance. Reading or acquiring information about the licensing policy and procedure may be the last thing that a SQL professional would like to do. But for availing the best features of a product and to get maximum benefit from the same it is an important act to be done.

A specific feature and objective of SQL Server 2012 is that it presents information in an altogether intelligent manner to the organization and assists the organization to analyze the data and the information. Some of the features helping SQL 2012 Server deliver the above mentioned objective are AlwaysOn availability, Contained Databases, Uptime enhancement and ColumnStore Index a fast query tool.

While on the other side, the new licensing policy at Microsoft results in increased expenses for the customers. It is also important to bear in mind that to take full benefit of the enhanced features of SQL 2012 means that enhanced network bandwidth is required which is again an additional burden on the Information Technology Department.

SQL Server 2012 is available in 3 versions – Standard, Business Intelligence and Enterprise. The maximum number of new features are available in the SQL 2012 Enterprise Version. Microsoft has also proceeded to replace the licensing model based on per CPU basis to per core.

For the earlier versions of SQL, only one license was required to be bought for every physical processor irrespective of the number of CPU cores in it. Smart choices made at the time of buying server hardware allowed buying up to eight CPU processors for the price of a single SQL Server license. This would allow saving of licensing fee. For procuring the license for SQL Server 2012 for the same server, one would need 8 core licenses. While the new core license fee is reduced than the earlier per CPU fees, but in case someone has an aptitude to do some serious mathematics, it is easy to see the SQL 2012 Server’s prices have increased considerably.


Figure 1: Comparative Features of SQL 2012 Editions

SQL Server 2012 Licensing Tips

Microsoft released a licensing report for all its customers thinking of associating themselves with this upgraded, brand new technology. Reports by independent agencies like Kirkland brief the SQL 2012 licensing requirements and also offers advice on what issues to take into consideration before buying SQL Server 2012. The important licensing tips are:

  • Understand the Need: In order to make the right decisions regarding licensing, it is imperative to look at and understand the IT requirements of the organization and have complete information about the emerging technologies and the licensing requirements.
  • Understand the Costs: Organizations are required to pay the Server and Client Access License (CAL) costs for procuring a license.
  • Know what is being offered: The process of licensing with respect to SQL Server 2012 has been greatly simplified by Microsoft. Licenses are offered for two SQL editions – Datacenter and Standard. Largely the capabilities of the two editions are identical with one major difference that the Datacenter edition offers unlimited virtualization rights. Allocation of server licenses for Windows Server 2012 is done following a 1: 2 ratio, where one license offers coverage to two processors.

Licensing in case of up gradation from Windows Server 2008

Organizations may also like to procure up gradation rights from Windows Server 2008 R2. This is only possible if their license is covered under Software Assurance. As different editions are offered under Windows Server 2008 R2 licensing, up gradation to Windows Server 2012 requires that costs be calculated. To put it in simple words, it would prove less costly in case an organization resorts to licensing Windows Server 2012 for organizations that have “modest virtualization workloads”.
Before proceeding ahead with our discussion, it is important to understand Virtualization Rights.

Virtualization Rights

Microsoft advertises that the Datacenter edition of Windows Server 2012 offers “unlimited” virtualization rights. Even though an organization may have unlimited virtualization rights there is an upper ceiling limit with reference to the number of virtual machines that can run without resulting in any loss of performance. Experts have expressed their an opinion meaning that stacking of licenses (putting two Windows Server 2012 Standard Licenses on one single physical server in order to avail rights to four VMs).

It is also important to determine the number of servers available and how the VMs would be moved around the organization. There are also restrictions on how many times the licenses can be moved between the servers. This is important for volume license cannot be reassigned from one server to another within a period of 90 days.

There is also a possibility that an organization may be required to downgrade from Windows Server 2012 to 2008, in order to run an organization that may not be ready for Windows Server 2012. Down gradation is permitted in case of Datacenter editions.

Another thing that requires the notice of organizations is using the step up license purchases for this is available to Software Assurance customers only. A step up license purchase lets organizations swap a license to a lower edition with a license to a higher edition after paying the price difference.


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