How SQL Server Licensing Works [Video]

You have a sneaking suspicion that your servers aren’t all paid for, and you need to get a rough idea of how SQL Server licensing works. You’ve never bought a box of SQL Server before, and you have no idea where to get started.

Microsoft Certified Master Brent Ozar will break it down into a few simple, easy-to-understand slides and show you the most popular licensing options. He’ll also explain 3 classic licensing mistakes and help you avoid ‘em in this 20-minute video.

To ask licensing questions after watching the video, join our weekly webcast for live Q&A. Not only do we answer your questions, we also give away a prize at 12:25 PM EST – don’t miss it!

Have questions? Feel free to leave a comment so we can discuss it on Tuesday!

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21 Comments. Leave new

  • Alphonso Delard
    September 29, 2014 8:33 am

    Great video with some useful tips… Totally agree with common mistake number three, and once you’ve gotten that control over what is licensed and what isn’t, keep control… “No licence, no install” my new mantra…

  • Kris Gruttemeyer
    September 29, 2014 11:45 am

    Great article, Brent. Licensing can be that red-headed step child that no one wants to talk about but everyone needs to be aware of. We are preparing to deploy 2014 in February and this definitely gave me the information I need to make sure we are deploying correctly and with the correct licenses for the version we are deploying (Enterprise). Looking forward to the Q&A tomorrow.

  • Blair Hendrickson
    September 29, 2014 1:21 pm

    I seem to recall recently seeing where I could purchase at a reasonable price (approx $3200 list price) a 2 socket SERVER plus 10 CAL license for SQL Server 2014 Standard edition.
    However the video seems to indicate that SQL 2014 standard is only licensed by the CORE and not Server + CAL.
    In those situations where I have a clear, limited set of users (we are a pretty small company) can I deploy , say, a server w/ dual Xeon 6 core CPUs (24 logical CPUs) 256KB RAM w/ standard edition, setup perhaps 2 “instances” of SQL server on that server and still be license compliant?

    Another related question: does Server and/or Core licensing limit you to have a number of instances installed on a physical server? or does each SQL server instance need it’s own licensing? Or is it a bad idea to install multiple SQL server instances on the same physical server?

    • Blair – generally I don’t recommend installing multiple SQL Server instances on the same physical server. That’s where virtualization comes in as a much better solution.

    • Hi Blair,
      My interpretation of Microsoft’s licensing for Server + CAL is:
      – a server license allows unlimited Instances to run (on the single, physical or virtual server)
      – each user/device must have a CAL
      – a CAL grants the user/device access to multiple (licensed) servers

      If you really can count the individual users/devices which connect (and no, a single service account on a webserver doesn’t comply!) then Server+CAL is definitely cheaper for Standard Edition. Very approx prices:
      $900 for server license; $210 per CAL.
      eg. server + 10 users = $900 + $2100 = $3000.

      The price differential is even greater if the server has multiple sockets & cores. As Brent says though, it may not be a good idea to run multiple separate Instances on the one server (even though you would be licensed to do so).

  • Developer edition has Enterprise features. Could I use the standard edition in development in order to effectively turn off the enterprise features? We use maximum virtualization licensing at the host level and should not pay for it.

  • Just to clarify, if I have a physical server with a single quad core processor that I want to license SQL 2014 standard I would need to purchase two – 2 core license pack only (4 cores total). I would not have to purchase a SQL server license to go along with the core license purchase. Am I correct? I would only buy the SQL 2014 server license if I am going to purchase the CAL’s to go with it and not use core licensing.

  • Just to clarify, if I have a physical server with a single quad core processer that I wanted to license SQL 2014 standard on by using core licensing I would need to purchase two – 2 core license packs (4 core total) and that would be it. I would not have to purchase a SQL 2014 standard server license to go along with the core licenses. Is this correct? I would only need to purchase a SQL 2014 standard license if I am going to purchase CAL’s to go along with the server license.

  • I have one sql standard edition server + 50 SQL cals.I am planning to install another instance on same box?.Do I have to purchase another SQL server license+ 50 cals as I ma planning to host Microsoft ERP database on second host and there will be 50 users connecting to ERP database

  • what I believe is that I can have more than one SQL server instance .I need only one SQL server license and same is true for CALS.e.g 50 USERS cals can access both the instances.
    Kindly note it is server based license and assumption is SQL server standard edition.

  • Is there any way to find what license is applied on an existing sql server

    We have a production sql server but it is slower than the QA server, is there any way to find the licencing difference between two servers?

  • Hi Brent!,
    I’m in doubt with this, I got a KEY license for 8 cores (4x2packs).
    I have a VM for PROD with 4 vCPUS, then I have another VM for PRE-PROD with 4 vCPUS
    Can I use this 8 license cores splited between my two VM’s?

  • Hi Brent,
    How do I count the nos. of CALs if I have two web servers connected to two SQL nodes (Fail over clustered) and around 50 websites hosted in those two web servers hitting the database (two SQL nodes)?

    • If you mean a classical two node FCI (Failover Cluster Instance), then only one node will be active at one time. Assuming you have SA (Software Assurance) then you only need to license the single active node. However, counting the number of “devices” for a web server is almost impossible; so you need CPU licensing not Server+CALs.

      Also note this forum is quite old (original post from September 2014) and advice has changed…


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