SQL Server 2012 Licensing in the Cloud for Database Administrators

The arrival of SQL Server 2012 brings Microsoft’s famous database product closely in line with cloud computing and the underlying technology, virtualization, while also representing a significant technical and licensing leap from earlier 2008 editions. Plus, database administrators need to keep an eye on the additional network bandwidth required (and operational issues), surely a challenge to smaller in-house IT departments.

Perhaps the biggest change in the new “cloud-aware” edition is the decision by Microsoft to retire the following from its predecessor SQL Server 2008:

  • Datacenter – its features will now be available in Enterprise Edition
  • Workgroup – Standard will become our edition for basic database needs
  • Standard for Small Business – Standard becomes our sole edition for basic database needs

The new nomenclature now lists Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard as the main editions with following licensing changes (initiated in April 2012)

•          Core-based Licensing for Enterprise

•          Server + CAL licensing for Business Intelligence

•          Choice of core-based licensing or Server + CAL licensing for Standard

Specifically, Microsoft is now aiming its software at the cloud computing arena and offers the following cloud-related licensing benefits in SQL Sever 2012:

  • 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.
  • License for high VM density by buying EE core licenses and Software Assurance (SA) for all the physical cores on the server (or server farm) and deploying any number of VMs on the licensed hardware.  Without SA, VM density is limited to one VM per core with EE.
  • License for VM mobility across private and public clouds.  VM license mobility is an SA benefit.  Without SA, licenses can be moved from one server to another only once every 90 days.

Microsoft said it was making the changes because database customers are comfortable with core-based licensing and consider licensing by core “simple and predictable.”

Microsoft believes its virtualization and cloud-friendly licensing will help customers save money as their deployment practices evolve give them industry leading TCO.

Microsoft will also be offering version upgrade rights for those with Software Assurance (SO).  Customers with qualified licenses for e.g. SQL Server 2008 R2 covered by SO will be automatically upgraded to the corresponding SQL Server 2012 edition.

“In cases where prior version editions have been discontinued, the SQL Server 2012 upgrade path may be to another product edition,” said Microsoft.


The SO is designed to facilitate a smooth transition to the new SQL Server 2012 product edition and licensing model changes.  For full details on the migration options and additional license grants available to current SA customers with eligible SQL Server 2008 R2 licenses, refer to the Microsoft Product List for Volume Licensing.

Renewal License Migration

Not Renewal License MigrationConclusion

Industry insiders appear to like the new 2012 features and although it does cost more, the benefits for some could be excellent but it might use quite a bit more bandwidth than earlier SQL Server versions.

Just a reminder that Virtual Internet runs a Tier 4 datacentre, well suited to running databases in the cloud.  Tier 4 datacentres feature redundant systems for power and cooling, with multiple distribution paths that are active and fault tolerant.  The cabling infrastructure connects to a redundant backbone allowing only 0.4 hours of downtime per year.  Further, bandwidth scaling is elevated with a Tier 1 network backbone (meaning that it that peers with every other network to reach the Internet).

This offers database administrators a powerful Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform to pursue high-workloads in SQL server 2012.

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