With the release of SQL Server 2014, we get to learn all kinds of new licensing changes. While I don’t work for Microsoft legal, I do have a PDF reader and a web browser. You can follow along in the SQL Server 2014 Licensing Datasheet… if you dare.
Server + CAL Licensing is Still Around
It’s only for Standard Edition and BI Edition.
Microsoft are highly recommending that VMs be licensed as Server + CAL (rather than per core). This can make a lot of sense when there are small, single application SQL Servers that cannot be consolidated for security reasons. Having a number of Server + CAL license for 1 or 2 vCPU instances can be much more cost effective than having a large number of core based licensed.
Of course, it makes even more sense to just license the entire VM host…
Standby Servers Require Software Assurance
Prior to SQL Server 2014, many shops were able to deploy a single standby server without licensing SQL Server. Log shipping, mirroring, and even failover clustering allowed for an unlicensed passive node, provided that the passive node didn’t become the primary for more than 28 days.
If you want to have a standby node, you’ve got to pony up and buy software assurance. Head over to the SQL Server 2014 Licensing Datasheet; at the bottom of page three, it reads “Beginning with SQL Server 2014, each active server licensed with SA coverage allows the installation of a single passive server used for fail-over support.” The passive secondary server doesn’t need to have a complete SQL Server license, but Software Assurance is a pricey pill to swallow. In short, Software Assurance (SA) is a yearly fee that customers pay to get access to the latest and greatest versions of products as well as unlock additional features that may have complex deployment scenarios.
In case you were confused, high availability is officially an enterprise feature. Note: I didn’t say Enterprise Edition. I mean enterprise with all of the cost and trouble that the word “enterprise” entails in our modern IT vernacular.
All Cores Must Be Licensed
You heard me.
To license a physical server, you have to license all of the cores. Don’t believe me? Check out this awesome screenshot:
It’s even more important to consider alternatives to having a number of SQL Servers spread throughout your environment. SQL Server consolidation and virtualization are going to become even more important as SQL Server licensing changes.
Finding new ways to analyze, tune, and consolidate existing workloads is going to be more important than ever before. Your ability to tune SQL Server workloads is going to be critical in successful SQL Server deployments. The days of worrying when the server hit 25% capacity are fading into history – as licensing costs increase, expect server density and utilization to increase, too.
Standard Edition has a new definition
“SQL Server 2014 Standard delivers core data management and business intelligence capabilities for non-critical workloads with minimal IT resources.” You can read between the lines a little bit on this one – SQL Server Standard Edition isn’t getting back mirroring or anything like it. In fact – SQL Server Standard Edition sounds an awful lot like the database that you use to run your non-critical ISV applications, SharePoint, and TFS servers.
Software Assurance Gives You Mobility
If you want to move your SQL Server around inside your VM farm, you need to buy Software Assurance. VM mobility lets teams take advantage of VMware DRS or SCOM VMM. This isn’t new for anyone who has been virtualizing SQL Servers for any amount of time. What is explicitly spelled out, though, is that each VM licensed with SA can be moved frequently within a server farm, or to a third-party hoster or cloud services provider, without the need to purchase additional SQL Server licenses.”
In other words – as long as you’re licensed for Software Assurance, those SQL Servers can go anywhere.
SQL Server 2014 Licensing Change Summary
Things are changing. DBAs need to take stock of their skills and help the business get more value from a smaller SQL Server licensing footprint. Realistically, these changes make sense as you look at the broader commercial IT landscape. Basic features continue to get cheaper. More resources are available in SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition, but complex features that may require a lot of implementation time, and Microsoft support time, come with a heavy price tag.