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Guide to SQL Server Editions and Licensing

Explore the available editions of Microsoft SQL Server

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TechSoup - November 11, 2012
Learn about the available editions of Microsoft SQL Server and the licensing requirements.

SQL Server 2012 is relational database server software offering tools for data storage, management, analysis, and reporting. It can be used as a back-end database server for internal applications or for powering a dynamic website.

You can use this guide to help you find the SQL Server edition and licenses appropriate for your organization's needs.

Editions

Microsoft offers SQL Server through TechSoup in the Standard, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise editions. The Standard and Business Intelligence editions are most suitable for medium-size charities and organizations. Enterprise Edition is most suitable for large organizations.

The Developer, Express, and Compact editions of SQL Server 2012 will continue to be available from Microsoft. The Web Edition will be offered only to hosters via the Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA).

Enterprise Edition includes the features of Datacenter Edition, which has been discontinued. The Workgroup and Small Business editions have also been discontinued in the 2012 version.

Standard

Standard Edition is designed for serving as a back-end database server for internal applications or powering a dynamic website. It offers basic database, reporting, and analytics capabilities. Microsoft offers this edition under the server/CAL and core-based licensing models.

Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence Edition contains all of the same basic features of Standard Edition, plus tools for analyzing business and financial data. Microsoft offers this edition only under the server/CAL licensing model.

Enterprise

Enterprise Edition contains all of the same basic features of Business Intelligence Edition, plus mission-critical applications and data warehousing features. Microsoft offers this edition only under the core-based licensing model.

All Editions Compared

Microsoft provides a basic summary and a full comparison of the features offered with each edition.

Licensing

Below are some of the major licensing requirements for SQL Server. Detailed licensing information can be found in documents on the Microsoft Product Use Rights page.

With the 2012 release, Microsoft has changed its licensing models for SQL Server. Some editions of SQL Server 2012 will continue to be offered under the server/CAL model. The earlier per-processor model has been replaced with a core-based model.

Server/CAL Licensing Model

Under this model, you will need a separate license for each client (client CAL) or device (device CAL) that accesses the server. This model allows you to license a physical, virtual, or cloud-based server based on the number of users or devices that access it. It is most appropriate for administrators who know the exact number of users and devices that will connect to the server.

The Standard and Business Intelligence editions are available under the server/CAL model.

Core-Based Licensing Model

Under this model, you will need to license all cores in a physical environment. It is most appropriate for administrators who:

  • Do not know the exact number of users and devices that will connect to the server
  • Have workloads that face the Internet or an extranet, or
  • Have systems that integrate with external-facing workloads

In a physical environment, you'll need to determine how many core licenses are required. To determine this number, see the SQL Server 2012 Core Factor Table.

For more information on SQL Server in virtual environments, see the Licensing Datasheet and FAQ (Word doc).

Once you've determined how many core licenses you'll need, you will need to obtain enough copies to cover the cores in the processors that you plan to use with SQL Server.

The Standard and Enterprise editions are available under the core-based model.

Virtualization

For databases using a fraction of a physical server's computing power, you can license individual database virtual machines (VMs).

To license a VM:

  • Under the core-based model, you will need licenses for only the cores allocated within the VM. There is a minimum of four core licenses per VM.
  • Under the server/CAL model, you will need SQL Server CALs for each user or device.

Servers licensed with Enterprise Edition core licenses that have Software Assurance allow you to deploy an unlimited number of database VMs on the server (or server farm) in a heavily consolidated virtualized deployment. Keeping your Software Assurance benefits renewed will ensure you maintain this feature.

Upgrading

If you are upgrading from SQL Server 2008 using Software Assurance, your edition and license model may change. Microsoft has discontinued its Datacenter, Workgroup, and Small Business Server editions in the 2012 version.

Microsoft has also retired its per-processor licensing model in favor of a core-based model. This means that when upgrading from 2008 under Software Assurance, you will receive a set number of core licenses for each processor license you have.

Renewing Processor Licenses into Core Licenses at the End of the Software Assurance (SA) Term
Qualified perpetual license under SA Eligible to renew into minimum number of cores
1 Datacenter Edition processor license 8 Enterprise Edition core licenses
1 Enterprise Edition processor license 4 Enterprise Edition core licenses
1 Workgroup Edition processor license 4 Standard Edition core licenses
1 Standard Edition processor license 4 Standard Edition core licenses

You can use Software Assurance to upgrade the SQL Server operating system and associated licenses for two years after you obtain the products in the left column.

Using Software Assurance to upgrade directly through Microsoft means that you don't need to request the new version through TechSoup, so it won't count as an additional title toward your two-year title limit.

CALs work for the version equal to or earlier than their server software. They must be upgraded only for use with newer server software. When you upgrade to the next version of SQL Server, you will also need to use Software Assurance to upgrade the CALs. CALs offered through TechSoup are always for the currently offered version.

For more information, see Volume Licensing Service Center – Software Assurance Benefits.

Down-Edition Rights

If you need an additional server license for SQL Server 2008 R2 or earlier version of Standard Edition, or any version of the Workgroup or Small Business editions, you can use an SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition license.

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