Pricing and Licensing SQL Server - Questions

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Sometimes as DBA's, we can manage all types of issues, simple ones, ORA-600, performance or slow queries. One of my current experiences was a good friend and colleague asked me about SQL Server and Oracle licensing, and by my surprise, I did not know anything about, I do not have an idea or at least nothing I had reading recently, so I'm going to take the research job.


SQL Server 2017 offers customers a variety of licensing options aligned with how customers typically purchase specific workloads. There are two main licensing models that apply to SQL Server:


Provides the option to license users and/or devices, with low cost access to incremental SQL Server deployments.

• Each server running SQL Server software requires a server license.

• Each user and/or device accessing a licensed SQL Server requires a SQL Server CAL that is the same version or newer – for example, to access a SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition server, a user would need a SQL Server

2012 or 2017 CAL.

• Each SQL Server CAL allows access to multiple licensed SQL Servers, including Standard Edition and legacy Business Intelligence and Enterprise Edition Servers


Gives customers a more precise measure of computing power and a more consistent licensing metric,

regardless of whether solutions are deployed on physical servers on-premises, or in virtual or cloud environments.

• Core based licensing is appropriate when customers are unable to count users/devices, have Internet/Extranet workloads or systems that integrate with external facing workloads.

• To license a physical server —when running SQL Server in a physical OSE — all physical cores on the server must be licensed.

• A minimum of four core licenses are required for each physical processor on the server.

Software Assurance coverage helps customers take full advantage of their SQL Server license investment.

Licensing for virtualization and containers

SQL Server 2017 offers use rights for virtual machines and containers, to provide flexibility for customers’ deployments. There are two primary licensing options for virtual machines and containers in SQL Server 2017 the ability to license individual virtual machines and containers and the ability to license for maximum densities

in highly virtualized or high-density container environments.


As hardware capabilities grow, it continues to be more common for each database to use a fraction of its server’

computing power. When deploying databases on Virtual Machines (VMs) or containers that use just a fraction of a physical server, savings can be achieved by licensing individual VMs or containers.

• To license a VM or container with core licenses, purchase a core license for each virtual core (virtual thread)

allocated to the VM or the number of cores configured for access by the container (with a minimum of 4 core

licenses per VM or container).

• To license a single VM or container with a server license (for Standard Edition only), purchase a server license

for each VM or container, and a CAL for each user or device.

• Each licensed VM or container covered 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.


Customers can deploy an unlimited number of VMs or containers on the server and utilize the full capacity of the licensed hardware, by fully licensing the server (or server farm) with Enterprise Edition core licenses and SA

coverage based on the total number of physical cores on the servers.

SA enables the ability to run an unlimited number of virtual machines or containers to handle dynamic workloads and fully utilize the hardware’s computing power.

Licensing for high availability

SQL Server software can be configured so that if one server fails, its processing will be picked up, recovered and continued by another server. Each active server licensed with SA coverage allows the installation of a single passive server used for fail-over support.

The secondary replica used for failover support does not need to be separately licensed for SQL Server as long as it is set to ‘not readable’. If it is readable or serving data, such as reports to clients running active SQL Server

workloads, or performing any “work” such as additional backups from secondary servers, then it must be separately licensed for SQL Server.

The server running the active replica must be licensed for SQL Server and covered with SA.

Each covered server running the primary replica allows for one secondary replica only, with up to the same mount of compute as the primary replica.

Licensing for non-production use

SQL Server 2017 Developer Edition provides a fully featured version of SQL Server software — including all the features and capabilities of Enterprise Edition — licensed for development, test and demonstration purposes only.

Customers may install and run the SQL Server Developer Edition software on any number of devices. This is significant because it allows customers to run the software on multiple devices (for testing purposes, for example) without having to license each non-production server system for SQL Server.

A production environment is defined as an environment that is accessed by end-users of an application (such as an Internet website) and that is used for more than gathering feedback or acceptance testing of that application. SQL Server 2017 Developer Edition is a free product, available for download at the SQL Server Application Development site:

Developers can also gain access to SQL Server Developer through the Visual Studio Dev Essentials program, which also provides access to many other valuable developer resources. For more information visit:

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