SQL 2012 Licensing Changes

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 licensing details have recently been released, replacing per-processor licensing with per core or per-virtual-core, but grandfathering rights minimize the impact on existing licenses with Software Assurance.  The move from CPU to core, and the consolidation to three products are major changes.  The removal of an existing license right for Virtual Mobility is another huge change.  These changes could cause issues for anyone with virtualized SQL Servers.  Plan now to optimize for these changes.

According to InformationWeek’s article, Microsoft requires about 6 pages to explain its new simplified licensing model and the changes that it brings.  You best be reading the actual article.


Quick Synopsis:

  • SQL Server Datacenter Edition will be retired.
  • Now only 3 editions of SQL Server; Standard, Business Intelligence and Enterprise
  • Standard can be licensed either in server/ CAL (as it is now) or per core.
  • Enterprise can only be licensed per core (but grandfathered for existing servers).
  • Virtual Mobility is now a Software Assurance benefit.  Previously it was included in the Product Use Rights as a base entitlement
  • Software Assurance (SA) is mandatory for unlimited virtualization rights.
  • An SQL Server CAL will allow access to either standard or BI editions.

Conversion from CPU (currently defined as a physical processor or Socket) to Cores will be done on the basis of:

  • Current deployments, with a minimum of 4 cores per CPU for existing Standard and Enterprise licenses, and 8 for Datacentre edition or
  • If licenses aren’t deployed, 4 cores per CPU for existing Standard and Enterprise licenses, and 8 for Datacentre edition.

Licensed per core:

  • Minimum requirement of four core licenses per physical processor.
  • Each virtual core — whether mapped to a thread or a physical core — requires a core license.
  • Core licenses are sold in two-core packs at about $7k per core.

New SQL Server Business Intelligence (BI) Edition:

  • The product is priced the same as SQL Server 2008 R2 EE.
  • Includes SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition (SE) features plus the current (2008 R2) and new (2012) BI features available in EE.
  • Licensed only by Server/CAL.

SQL Server SE:

  • The per-processor license model is replaced by per core.
  • Minimum requirement of four core licenses per physical processor.
  • The Server/CAL model continues, but CAL price will increase by 27%.

Prices will increase for customers licensing with Server/CAL or those running servers with more than four cores per physical processor.  Microsoft grandfathering rights eases the transition.  New Server/CAL licenses for SQL Server 2012 EE may be purchased through June 2012.  Customers with Enterprise Agreements (EAs) or Enrollments for Application Platform (EAPs) can continue licensing new SQL Server EE on a Server/CAL basis or per processor until their next renewal.  After that, new EE licenses must be per core.

Licensing per core is more aligned with the proliferation of virtual servers.  A virtual server will only need a license for each virtual core it is configured to run, and will resolve to a physical core or thread if hyperthreading is enabled.  In contrast, Oracle’s per-core licensing requires every core in a server farm to have a license, regardless of whether or not it is running Oracle software.

Existing EE Server/CAL licenses with SA can be upgraded to SQL Server 2012 at no additional cost.  EE server SA can be maintained to provide access to future software updates.  Each EE or SE processor license with SA can be upgraded to a minimum of four core licenses.  SQL Server Datacenter processor licenses (with SA) can be exchanged for a minimum of eight EE core licenses.  If a processor has more than four cores (or eight, in the case of Datacenter), customers may claim all the core licenses needed to cover the number of cores.

Examine your SQL environments to determine how these changes impact your licensing costs.  Revise any current database implementation plans to optimize the impact of licensing changes when upgrading to SQL Server 2012.  Work with your reseller to update your software entitlements when SQL Server 2012 is released.  Marketing collateral is not contractually binding and subject to change, so document any terms and policies in legal contracts that may be beneficial to you.