A Concise SQL Server 2012 Licensing Overview


Josh Condie – With the Release Candidate for SQL Server 2012 now available it is now more important than ever that Microsoft effectively communicate the significant licensing changes that are coming with the new release.  Below is the best, concise summary that I have seen.

SQL Server 2012 will be released in 3 main editions:

  • Enterprise for mission critical applications and large scale data warehousing
  • Business Intelligence, a new product edition, providing premium corporate and self-service BI
  • Standard for basic database, reporting and analytics capabilities

The main editions are now offered in a consistent, tiered model which creates greater consistency across editions, features and licensing. Enterprise Edition will include all features available in SQL Server 2012. The Business Intelligence Edition will include premium BI features as well as all of the Standard Edition features.

Core-Based Licensing:

  • The Enterprise Edition and the Standard Edition of SQL Server 2012 will both be available under core-based licensing. Core-based licenses will be sold in two-core packs.
  • To license a physical server properly, you must license all the cores in the server with a minimum of 4 core licenses required for each physical processor in the server.
  • Core licenses will be priced at ¼ the cost of a SQL Server 2008 R2 (EE/SE) processor license.


Server and Client Access License (CAL) Licensing:

  • The Business Intelligence and Standard Editions will be available under the Server and Client Access License (CAL) model.
  • This licensing model can be used when the number of users can be readily counted (e.g., internal database applications).
  • To access a licensed SQL Server, each user must have a SQL Server CAL that is the same version or newer (for example, to access a SQL Server 2008 SE server, a user would need a SQL Server 2008 or 2012 CAL).
  • Each SQL Server CAL can provide access to multiple licensed SQL Servers, including the new Business Intelligence Edition as well as
    3Standard Edition Servers and legacy Enterprise Edition Servers.
  • The SQL Server 2012 CAL price will increase by about 27%.


Virtualization Licensing:

Individual Virtual Machines

  • As server hardware gets more powerful, it will become more common for each database to use just a fraction of its server’s computing power.
  • When deploying databases on Virtual Machines (VMs) that use just a fraction of a physical server, savings can be achieved by licensing individual VMs.
  • To license a VM with core licenses, customers can simply buy a core license for each virtual core allocated to the virtual machine (minimum of 4 core licenses per VM).
  • To license a VM with a server license (for Business Intelligence or Standard only), buy the server license and buy matching SQL Server CALs for each user.
  • Each licensed VM that is covered with Software Assurance (SA) can be moved frequently within a server farm or to a third party hoster or cloud services provider without buying additional SQL Server licenses.

Maximum Virtualization

  • Further savings can be achieved by operating a database server utility or SQL Server private cloud. This is a great option for customers who want to take advantage of the full computing power of their physical servers and have very dynamic provisioning and de-provisioning of virtual resources.
  • Customers will be able to deploy an unlimited number of virtual machines on the server and utilize the full capacity of the licensed hardware.
  • They can do so by fully licensing the server (or server farm) with Enterprise Edition core licenses and Software Assurance based on the total number of physical cores on the servers. This allows customers the ability to run an unlimited number of virtual machines to handle their dynamic workloads and fully utilize the hardware’s computing power.


-Josh Condie