SQL Server 2012 licensing

There’s no doubt that licensing is one of the trickiest aspects of any Microsoft product to figure out. SQL Server licensing is certainly no exception. In fact, it’s often harder to figure out the licensing than it is to figure out how to use the different technical product features. Major factors that make SQL Server 2012 licensing confusing are the changes in editions, the new core-based licensing, and the different availability options that are brought about by new features such as AlwaysOn Availability Groups. In addition, you might wonder how the new core licensing affects fault-tolerant systems that have duplex hardware. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more confusing SQL Server 2012 licensing issues.

SQL Server 2012 includes several new licensing changes. For example:

  • SQL Server 2012 Enterprise is licensed only per core
  • SQL Server 2012 Business is licensed only per server and CAL
  • SQL Server 2012 Standard can be licensed either per core or per server and CAL

SQL Server 2012’s licensing requires that you buy a minimum of four core licenses. You can purchase additional core licenses in packs of two. When you implement SQL Server 2012 in a virtual machine (VM), each virtual processor equates to a core. For example, if you license SQL Server 2012 Standard per core and install it onto a VM with four virtual processors, then you need to buy four core licenses. The only exception to this is if you buy SQL Server 2012 Enterprise and then license all of the cores on the physical machine. Then you can run an unlimited number of SQL Server instances in VMs on that host.


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