Understanding & Transitioning to SQL Server 2012 Licensing

By Scott Rosenberg, CEO, Miro Consulting, Inc.

The arrival of Microsoft’s SQL Server 2012 in April was greeted with much fanfare, and more than a little concern. Many are concerned about SQL Server 2012’s impact on their budgets, virtualized environments and the new licensing model. Having a well-rounded overview of the changes and how to best transition over to SQL Server 2012 will minimize risks and reduce costs.

Overview of New Editions

With the appearance of SQL Server 2012, some of the editions have shifted as one would expect. Three main examples of this include:

  • The former Datacenter, Workgroup, and Small Business Editions have all been retired with the introduction of SQL Server 2012. However, all of the capabilities of Datacenter have been incorporated into the new Enterprise Edition of SQL Server 2012.
  • Business Intelligence Edition was introduced with SQL Server 2012.
  • What Microsoft refers to as its “main” editions are its new-and-improved Enterprise Edition, its all-new Business Intelligence, or “BI” Edition and its old-standby Standard Edition.

Many other editions – such as Standard, Developer, Express and Compact – are essentially the same with updated capabilities, features, functionalities and restrictions. While in other areas, new solutions will replace old solutions.

Transitioning to the New License Model

This year, Microsoft had a major shift in the way it licenses with SQL Server 2012. It is licensed by core, and that is mostly true. Core-based licensing is the only model for licensing Enterprise Edition. However, it is an option for Standard Edition. Standard Edition can also be licensed in the more familiar Server+CAL model, which is the only model by which BI Edition is offered. Therefore, Enterprise Edition and Standard Edition are both offered with this new Core-based licensing model (see chart below).





Business Intelligence


In some cases, having a Standard Edition licensed in the Server+CAL model may be more cost effective such as with the example of a development environment that has a small, static user population. The server configuration is often suitable for the anticipated workload.

In the case of the BI Edition, an ideal environment would be one where there is a defined user population. In this case, a Server+CAL model would work best.

What about costs?

Moving to Core-based licensing is not very difficult, but there are some stipulations that organizations may want work into their approach. There are two things to bear in mind. First, the approach described below covers only SQL Server deployments in the Per Processor license model that are covered by Software Assurance. Second, this approach will describe these as “qualified servers” or “qualified deployments.”

  • Using the Microsoft Assessment & Planning (“MAP”) Toolkit or another suitable inventory tool that timestamps the resulting report, the customer will identify the number of cores per server for each qualified server.
  • Microsoft will then provide the customers with the appropriate number of core licenses that allows them to continue their current deployment with no additional licensing required. Microsoft has imposed a limit of 20 cores per server.
    • Example 1: A server running SQL Server Enterprise Edition is configured as 2 processors, each with 2 cores. The required licensing under version 2008 R2 is two (2) Processor licenses. The customer would receive four (4) Core licenses (i.e., 2 processors X 2 core).
    • Example 2: A server running SQL Server Standard Edition is configured as 2 processors, each with 1 core. The required licensing under version 2008 R2 is two (2) Processor licenses. The customer would receive four (4) Core licenses. Though the number of total cores in the server is two (2), the customer would receive four (4) Core licenses because this is the minimum.
    • Example 3: A server running SQL Server Datacenter Edition is configured as 6 processors, each with 4 cores. The required licensing under version 2008 R2 is six (6) Processor licenses. The customer would receive twenty (20) Core licenses (i.e., 5 processors X 4 core – the maximum).
  • If the customer does not perform this self-inventory, they will receive the default:
    • 4 Core licenses for each Enterprise Edition or Standard Edition Processor licenses in their inventory.
    • 8 Core licenses for each Datacenter Edition Processor license in their inventory.
    • Important: The above minimums can potentially translate into increased license estate flexibility. For example, a server with four (4) Enterprise Edition Processor licenses would be exchanged for sixteen (16) core licenses. These licenses might then be deployed on two (2) dual-CPU, dual-core servers.
  • If the customer has SQL Server Processor licenses in an existing Enterprise Agreement (or an Enrollment for Application Platform program, or an Enterprise Subscription Agreement), they may continue to purchase Processor licenses throughout the end of the term. They will then perform the self-inventory as described above. Note: This is not to be confused with purchasing SQL Server Enterprise Edition in the Server+CAL license model. Availability of SQL Server Enterprise Edition in this model terminated June 30, 2012. However, customers with Enterprise Agreements or Enrollment for Application Platform programs will have until their next renewal to purchase SQL Server Enterprise Edition in the Server+CAL license model.

To be clear, the self-inventory occurs at the end of the current Software Assurance term, which effectively means the renewal of Software Assurance. With the elimination of single-year terms, investment in Software Assurance essentially means a three-year commitment.

SQL Server Core-based licensing is sold only in two-core packs. As new hardware with greater capacity is deployed, or new capacity is added to existing servers, the minimum purchase will be two additional cores. This should not be an issue, but bear this thought in mind as we proceed to a discussion of Core Factor.

Microsoft has also implemented some special allowances for current customers, many of which depend on the status of volume licensing program and/or Software Assurance.

Action Items for Moving Toward SQL Server 2012

With that in mind, here are some critical steps every organization must execute to take advantage of the program Microsoft is offering for upgrading to SQL Server 2012.

Before taking the critical steps to upgrade or migrate to SQL Server 2012, consider the following:

  • Organize a planning session or two to build a roadmap, which should include anticipated growth, contraction, configuration changes, consolidations and other influential events.
  • Complete an inventory assessment, using the Microsoft Assessment & Planning (“MAP”) Toolkit or another suitable inventory tool.
  • Review your current entitlements to ensure that there are no gaps between your deployment and your licensing.
  • Understand the status of Software Assurance on the candidate licenses.
  • Establish and sync up the timeline and a budget.
  • Negotiate with Microsoft.

Organizations need to take a more forward-looking view in their IT assets in order to obtain the best leverage and value from their software investment. With SQL Server 2012, it is important to understand not only the current license positions, but also the options available, especially as the environment.

Scott D. Rosenberg, CEO and Founder

Scott Rosenberg is responsible for creating and driving the vision of Miro Consulting, which he founded in August 2000. With more than 25 years of engineering and operations experience, Mr. Rosenberg’s leadership has fostered significant company growth. Today, Miro Consulting has over 500+ clients across North America and has overseen more than $1.5 billion in Oracle and Microsoft transactions.

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