SQL 2012 Editions & Licensing Announced … What Are They Smoking?

Every year they promise us simplification.  Let’s see how they’ve score this time around …

The major versions are:

  • Enterprise: moves up to replace the now gone Datacenter, and is only licensed on a per-core basis.  Yup, not server + CAL.
  • Business Intelligence (BI): slots in the middle and is only available under server + CAL (just to confuse).
  • Standard: Available under server + CAL, as well as per-core.

By the way, there is a lovely contradiction about Enterprise being available and limited on server + CAL basis.  But everywhere else, it says per Core only for this edition.  There’s a reason (see later).


We are told that:

“SQL Server 2012 will continue to be available in Developer, Express and Compact editions. Web Edition will be offered in a Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA – hosting licensing) model only. Datacenter Edition is being retired with all capabilities now available in Enterprise. Workgroup and Small business Editions are also being retired”.

If you are licensing per core then you buy the licenses in 2-core packs, with a minimum of 4 cores per physical processor.


If you are licensing on a per-VM basis then you have two options:


Note how they are counting virtual cores?  It used to be that we had a formula to count physical CPUs being used by the VM and licensed that.  Maybe the price works out similarly – I’ll have to check that out later.

More on virtualised SQL 2012:

  • To license a VM with core-based licenses, simply pay for the virtual cores allocated within the virtual machine (minimum of 4 core licenses per VM).
  • To license a VM under the Server + CAL model (for the Business Intelligence and Standard Editions of SQL Server 2012), you can buy the server license and buy associated SQL Server CALs for each user.
  • Each licensed VM that is covered with Software Assurance can be moved frequently within your server farm or to a third party hoster or cloud services provider.
  • The Enterprise Edition with Software Assurance allows you to deploy an unlimited number of database VMs on the server (or server farm) in a heavily consolidated virtualized deployment to achieve further savings.

They note that:

  • Further savings can be achieved by operating a database server utility or SQL private cloud. This is a great option for customers who want to take advantage of the full computing power of their physical servers and have very dynamic provisioning and de-provisioning of virtual resources.
  • Customers will be able to deploy an unlimited number of virtual machines on the server and utilize the full capacity of the licensed hardware.
  • They can do so by fully licensing the server (or server farm) with Enterprise Edition core licenses and Software Assurance based on the total number of physical cores on the servers.  This allows customers the ability to have unlimited virtual machines to handle their dynamic workloads and fully utilize the hardware’s computing power.

In other words, if you will have lots of SQL VMs then you should have a dedicated virtualisation (any platform) cluster for your SQL VMs, and license it using Enterprise per-core licenses with SA.  That’s what we currently advise to save on licensing – you have to do the maths on additional Windows Server + hardware + power + management time/licenses VS SQL license cost reduction.

If you want to license Enterprise SQL via server + CAL then you better move quick:

“New Server licenses for EE will only be available for purchase through 6/30/2011. Additional EE licenses in the Server and CAL license model will not be sold thereafter.

Both newly purchased Server licenses for SQL Server EE 2012 or EE licenses with SA upgraded to SQL Server EE 2012 will be limited to server deployments with 20 cores or less. If you purchased SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition in the Server + CAL model with Software Assurance and at the launch of SQL Server 2012 are running on a server with > 20 physical cores, contact your Microsoft representative for help transitioning to the new licensing model”.

The SA upgrade story looks confusing.  I’m not going to try interpret it.  I’ll leave it with this thought …. WTF are they thinking and who OKd this!?!?!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it in public now: this stuff makes an EU treaty look easy to comprehend.  My advice to MSFT is to burn the licensing rules, and start over.

BTW, I am one to say I told you so:

“Microsoft licensing never stays still for very long. Microsoft licensing is a maze of complexity that even the experts argue over. Microsoft will lose revenue as host/CPU capacities continue to grow unless they make a change. And Microsoft is not in the business of losing money”.

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4 thoughts on “SQL 2012 Editions & Licensing Announced … What Are They Smoking?”

  1. “New Server licenses for EE will only be available for purchase through 6/30/2011.”

    That was roughly 4 months ago. Do they mean 2012?

  2. In the FAQ this is stated:
    “License individual Virtual Machines (VM), and when licensing per core, buy core licenses only for the virtual cores (threads or physical cores) assigned to the VM.”

    I wonder how that should be interpreted with regard to Hyperthreading.

    Before you wanted the fastest CPU available to get max performance for the processor licenses. WIth this change to core licensing you want the fastest cores available to maximize performance for the core licenses. So that pretty much rules out AMDs latest CPUs with their 16 “low performance” cores (relative to Intels cores).


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