Monday, November 7, 2011

Microsoft Reveals SQL Server 2012 Licensing Model


Microsoft Reveals SQL Server 2012 Licensing Model

Licensing costs for SQL Server 2012 won't substantially change except for Client Access Licensing (CAL), which will be higher.

Microsoft unveiled a new licensing and pricing model for its upcoming SQL Server 2012 product family, which is expected in the first half of next year.

The new licensing model is based on an organization's computing power, number of users and use of virtualization. Licensing costs won't substantially change compared with SQL Server 2008 R2, except for Client Access Licensing (CAL) costs, which will be about 25 percent higher.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012(formerly code-named "Denali") promises self-service business intelligence features and other new capabilities when commercially launched. However, organizations still have to figure out complicated licensing considerations and costs. Microsoft attempted to kick-start that effort by publishing its "SQL Server 2012 Licensing Datasheet" document last week, which can be downloaded here.

The company expects to release SQL Server 2012 in the first half of next year. Rob Horwitz, research chair at the Directions on Microsoft independent consultancy, thinks the product may appear sometime in the second quarter.

Edition Changes
SQL Server 2012 will be available in three editions: Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard. The Enterprise edition is an all-inclusive product in terms of its features, and Microsoft is positioning it for "mission critical applications and large scale data warehousing" uses. The Business Intelligence edition is a new product offering. It adds BI features while also including all of the features in the Standard edition. Microsoft recommends the Standard edition for "basic database, reporting and analytics capabilities," according to its white paper.

Microsoft rolled much of the SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter edition licensing rights into the SQL Server 2012 Enterprise edition, so the old Datacenter edition will disappear as a top product-line offering. Microsoft will offer a Web edition of SQL Server 2012, but only to organizations signing a Service Provider License Agreement. Developer, Express and Compact editions will still be available after the SQL Server 2012 product is released, Microsoft indicated.

Licensing Changes
The biggest licensing change for SQL Server 2012 is Microsoft's shift from counting processors to counting cores (see table). The licensing describes four cores per physical processor as being the minimum licensing basis.

Microsoft Reveals SQL Server 2012 Licensing Model

[Click on image for larger view.]  

SQL Server 2012 Licensing Options. "*Requires CALs, which are sold separately." 

Those organizations using virtualization with SQL Server 2012 have two licensing options. Organizations can license virtual machines based on core licenses or they can license virtual machines based on server plus CALs. Four cores per virtual machine is the minimum requirement on licensing. Maximum virtualization (that is, no limits on the number of virtual machines) is only available only with the Enterprise edition of SQL Server 2012, with Software Assurance being required.

Licensing Costs
The licensing costs stayed the same, decreased or increased. It all depends on how you look at it. Horwitz shared his views in an e-mail, where he laid out the changes in bullet points.

"The price of the SQL Server CAL does go up, about 25%. "The per-server license for Standard Edition remains the same price as before. "The per-server license for BI server is the same price as the server license for SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise…though this isn't an apples to apples comparison given the difference in SKU features. "The per-core price for SQL 2012 Standard and Enterprise edition is one quarter the price of per-proc licenses for equivalent editions of SQL 2008 R2. So effectively, if you have more than 4 cores per physical processor in the server, your licensing fee goes up."

Paul DeGroot, another Microsoft software licensing expert who now serves as principal consultant of the independent consultancy Pica Communications after working for Directions on Microsoft, offered other insights into Microsoft SQL Server 2012 licensing costs. DeGroot noted that the CAL price increased substantially from $164 to $209 and speculated that Microsoft felt that raising the price of the CALs would have less of an impact on customers than raising server licensing costs. Still, other price changes were somewhat neutral, he contended.

"Overall, I'd say they [the prices] stayed the same or went down, with the reservation that the change from per proc to per core is significant, but may not have a huge impact on a lot of customers, since quad-core procs are probably a common choice for running high-end editions of SQL Server," DeGroot said in an e-mail. He estimated that the price would remain much the same for organizations "so as long as you're using quad-core procs."

Cost considerations largely killed the Datacenter edition of SQL Server 2008 R2, DeGroot contended. "That cost $54,990 per proc, or twice the per proc price of SQL 2008 R2 Enterprise," DeGroot said, adding that "reading between the lines, I'd say that SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter sold poorly, and that's not surprising." With SQL Server 2012 Enterprise edition "customers will get Datacenter power at half the price that Datacenter was," he explained.