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Changes to Microsoft Licensing Model For SQL Server 2012

The anticipated changes to the SQL Server licensing model have been announced in conjunction with the release of SQL Server 2012 which is due in the first half of next year.


The two fundamental changes that will affect the majority of clients relate to the editions and the way you will license SQL Server 2012 under the new CPU Core licensing model.

We’ll cover the changes to the editions first. With 2012 the number of editions is reducing from six to five. The five editions will be Express, Web, Standard, BI and Enterprise. There are no key changes to the Express Edition. The Workgroup Edition is being dropped and we can advise you on your options when you want to upgrade. The Web Edition will also be removed from general availability and will only be accessible by hosting providers who will provide it as a part of their database services.

The Standard Edition will continue to be available in both the Server+CAL license model as well as the new CPU Core license model. The cost of CAL’s is going to go up in price and there will be a limit of sixteen cores for the Standard Edition. If the server has more than sixteen cores then SQL Server 2012 will only use the first sixteen cores.

The new Business Intelligence (BI) Edition will have all the features of the Standard Edition plus some extras including Data Quality Services, Master Data Services and Advanced Analytics. It will only be available in a Server+CAL model so if you need a CPU license you will have to buy the Enterprise Edition which includes all the BI features. The BI Edition database engine will support twenty cores compared to the sixteen in the Standard Edition. The BI Services will support up to the operating systems maximum number of cores.

The Enterprise Edition will become the premium offering as the DataCenter Edition will disappear for 2012 as the DataCenter capabilities will be built into the Enterprise Edition. You will no longer be able to purchase the Enterprise Edition with the Server+CAL license model, it will only be available as a CPU Core license model.

Microsoft has finally decided to follow the licensing model of most of the tier one vendors by licensing SQL Server 2012 on the number of CPU Cores as opposed to the current per physical processor model. CPU Core licenses will only be available for Standard and Enterprise Editions and will be sold in packs of two. A quad core CPU will require two packs and the minimum number of CPU cores you can license are four, therefore, if you have servers with only two cores per CPU you will have to purchase two Core packs per CPU. Fortunately the cost of each two core pack will be half the current cost of a SQL Server 2008 R2 per processor license so you will be no worse off.

If you have Software Assurance on your SQL Server licenses and you upgrade to 2012 you can continue to use your existing license model until the end of your Software Assurance cycle. This means that if you have CPU licenses under SQL Server 2008 R2 you can continue to use those CPU license under 2012 until your Software Assurance expires.

On expiration you will need to true up to the number of CPU Cores. For each CPU license you held it will count towards a minimum of four CPU Cores and each DataCenter Edition CPU license will count towards eight CPU Cores.

For users that have Server+CAL licensing with Software Assurance can upgrade to 2012 until your Software Assurance expires. At which point you will need to downgrade to the BI or Standard Edition or upgrade to the CPU Core license model to remain on the Enterprise Edition. There is a catch as upgrading to 2012 with the Server+CAL licensing option is limited to servers with twenty cores or less. With twenty cores or more you’ll need to discuss your options with your Microsoft License Partner.

In summary, the changes announced by Microsoft are going to raise further questions for the majority of SQL Server users who will be looking to upgrade to SQL Server 2012. For those users with four or less CPU cores per physical processor then costs shouldn’t change but anyone with more than four cores per CPU then there is going to be an increase in costs.

It would be advantageous for organisations looking at investing in SQL Server to consider purchasing Software Assurance with any new licenses to enable them to upgrade as 2012 becomes available.

The information above is only a summary of these changes and we would highly recommend a discussion with your Microsoft Licensing Partner to identify your SQL Server license position and plan for when these changes will come into place

Software Asset Management and Software Licensing

If you would like to find out how Ensemble - our SAM tool - could help you manage your software licenses you can email us at info@compass-sam.com or call on 01454 629 740 and we will get back to you as soon as possible. We are based near Bristol, ideal for our customers in the South West and Wales, although we service customers throughout the UK.

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