Understanding Microsoft SQL Server Licensing

In this article, you will learn all you need to know about Microsoft SQL Server licensing. Specifically, you will learn about licensing methods, licensing the different SQL server editions, and finally, licensing passive SQL server instances and readable replicas.

Methods of licensing

There are two main methods for licensing Microsoft SQL Server: The Server + CAL method, and the core licensing method. Core licensing began with SQL Server 2012 and has continued in the newer editions.

The main difference between these two methods is that in Server + CAL, you need a Client Access License for each server access instance. Therefore, Server + CAL works best in scenarios where you know the exact number of clients that will be connecting to the system, and you can buy the appropriate number of licenses.

On the other hand, with core licensing, there is no Client Access Licensing (CAL) required. Rather than licensing according to the number of instances to the server, you license according to the total number of cores you will be using. Microsoft requires that you buy a minimum of 4 core licenses. Since core licensing from Royal Discount doesn’t license according to the number of server instances, core licensing is generally best for most internet and cloud-based implementations.

Editions and licensing costs

There are three Microsoft SQL Server licensing editions, as determined by the licensing requirements. These include the SQL Server Standard Edition, SQL Server Business Edition, and SQL Enterprise Edition.

The Standard Edition supports both server + CAL and Core licensing. The Business Edition supports only server + CAL licensing, while the Enterprise Edition only supports Core licensing.

It’s also possible to split the server components into the three different editions. For example, you could have your database engine on one server edition, the analysis component on another server, and the reporting component on yet another server edition.

However, each of these different installations would require its own full license, which means that this technique should only be used for enhancing server performance, not for cost savings.

The Standard Edition retails at about $7,171 per 4 cores and $3,585.50 for each additional 2 cores. The Business Edition costs $8,592 per server and an additional $170 per each named user in the CAL. Finally, the Enterprise Edition costs $27,495 per 4 cores and $13,747 for each additional 2 core packs.

Licensing instances

Microsoft SQL Server licensing allows for 2 different types of instances: Passive SQL instances and readable replica instances. The passive SQL server sequence is a server instance that doesn’t run a workload, such as queries or backups, but only waits for a fail-over event to happen.

Therefore, passive SQL instances do not require a server license. On the other hand, readable replicas allow for queries and backups, meaning that your server needs to be licensed for you to have replica instances.

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