Geoff N. Hiten Blog

SQL Server thoughts, observations, and comments

SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts

The only thing more controversial than new Federal Tax plans is new Licensing plans from Microsoft.  In both cases, everyone calculates several numbers. 

  1. First, will I pay more or less under this plan? 
  2. Second, will my competition pay more or less than now? 
  3. Third, will <insert interesting person/company here> pay more or less? 

Not that items 2 and 3 are meaningful, that is just how people think.

Much like tax plans, the devil is in the details, so lets see how this looks.  Microsoft shows it here:

First up is a switch from per-socket to per-core licensing.  Anyone who didn’t see something like this coming should rapidly search for a new line of work because you are not paying attention.  The explosion of multi-core processors has made SQL Server a bargain.  Microsoft is in business to make money and the old per-socket model was not going to do that going forward.

Per-core licensing also simplifies virtualization licensing.  Physical Core = Virtual Core, at least for licensing.  Oversubscribe your processors, that’s your lookout.  You still pay for  what is exposed to the VM.  The cool part is you can seamlessly move physical and virtual workloads around and the licenses follow.  The catch is you have to have Software Assurance to make the licenses mobile.  Nice touch there.

Let’s have a moment of silence for the late, unlamented, largely ignored Workgroup Edition.  To quote the Microsoft  FAQ:  “Standard becomes our sole edition for basic database needs”.  Considering I haven’t encountered a singe instance of SQL Server Workgroup Edition in the wild, I don’t think this will be all that controversial.

As for pricing, it looks like a wash with current per-socket pricing based on four core sockets.  Interestingly, that is the minimum core count Microsoft proposes to swap to transition per-socket to per-core if you are on Software Assurance.  Reading the fine print shows that if you are using more, you will get more core licenses:

From the licensing FAQ.

15. How do I migrate from processor licenses to core licenses?  What is the migration path?

Licenses purchased with Software Assurance (SA) will upgrade to SQL Server 2012 at no additional cost. EA/EAP customers can continue buying processor licenses until your next renewal after June 30, 2012. At that time, processor licenses will be exchanged for core-based licenses sufficient to cover the cores in use by processor-licensed databases (minimum of 4 cores per processor for Standard and Enterprise, and minimum of 8 EE cores per processor for Datacenter).

Looks like the folks who invested in the AMD 12-core chips will make out like bandits.

Now, on to something new: SQL Server Business Intelligence Edition. Yep, finally a BI-specific SKU licensed for server+CAL configurations only.  Note that Enterprise Edition still supports the complete feature set; the BI Edition is intended for smaller shops who want to use the full BI feature set but without needing Enterprise Edition scale (or costs).  No, you don’t get ColumnStore, Compression, or Partitioning in the BI Edition.  Those are Enterprise scale features, ThankYouVeryMuch.  Then again, your starting licensing costs are about one sixth of an Enterprise Edition system (based on an 8 core server).

The only part of the message I am missing is if the current Failover Licensing Policy will change.  Do we need to fully or partially license failover servers?  That is a detail I definitely want to know.

Legacy Comments

Mike Connolly
re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts
"Looks like the folks who invested in the AMD 12-core chips will make out like bandits." - Could you explain how someone running 12 core chips will benefit from this new licensing model? It seems to me that anyone running more than quad core chips are going to get hit pretty hard additional core licensing fees.


re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts

The "make out like bandits" remark is for customers on Software Assurance. The license trade-out starts at 4 cores per EE socket license, but can be adjusted by Microsoft on an individual basis to match the actual cores in production.

re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts
What about developer editions?

re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts
No official word on Developer edition. I would be surprised if they changed the existing license costs.

re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts
The Developer Edition will still be available and the way this is licensed will be the same with SQL 2012 comes out.

Heather Miller
re: SQL 2012 Licensing Thoughts
At the time of forced transition to core licensing (could be quite a while for clients who have agreements renewing before general availability), per proc customers will need to run a MAP analysis to determine how many cores they're actually using. If they choose not to do that, Microsoft will assign the # of cores they're entitled to via a default formula.