This content is part of the Essential Guide: SQL Server 2012 features: Weighing the benefits, limitations
Problem solve Get help with specific problems with your technologies, process and projects.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 pricing, licensing packed with changes

SQL Server 2012 pricing includes some significant adjustments, including a reduction in the number of editions and the change from processor- to core-based licensing.

More on SQL Server pricing and licensing

Read about Microsoft changing SQL Server virtualization licensing with 2008 R2

Learn how to license a standby server for SQL Server replication

SQL Server 2012 pricing and licensing will undergo a shift when the database releases in a virtual launch Wednesday, with the main changes being a reduction in the variety of editions and a move from processor- to core-based licensing.

The release will be available in three main editions: Enterprise, Business Intelligence and Standard. The Enterprise is the all-inclusive database platform, with Microsoft saying it is ideal for mission-critical applications, large data warehouses and highly virtualized environments. The Standard Edition is for “departmental databases” and “limited business intelligence projects,” according to a vendor presentation. And the new Business Intelligence edition strikes a balance between the two. It is the Standard Edition with some added BI capabilities such as data quality, master data management and advanced analytics.

SQL Server 2012 licensing changes
With the different editions come options. One of the biggest changes with SQL Server 2012 pricing is that Microsoft is moving from processor-based to core-based licensing on Standard and Enterprise editions. It also will offer a server plus client access license (CAL) model on the Standard and Business Intelligence editions. The CAL license is increasing about 25% to $207 per CAL. The Standard Edition pricing per server remains the same.

Under core-based licensing, you will have to license all the processing cores in a server, with a minimum of four licenses required for each physical processor in the server. So you should be running at least quad-core processor servers for SQL Server 2012; otherwise, you’ll be paying for core licenses that you aren’t using.

Here’s a rundown:

  • Standard Edition: $734 per server plus $207 per CAL, or $6,874 per core
  • Business Intelligence Edition: $7,026 per server plus $207 per CAL
  • Enterprise Edition: $6,874 per core

The pricing per core in SQL Server 2012 is one-quarter the per-processor pricing in SQL Server 2008 R2. That means the cost of running SQL Server could go up if you’re running multi-core chips.

For example, let’s say you have an x86 server with two eight-core Intel Xeon processors. Previously, you would pay for two processor licenses at $27,495 per processor. Final cost: $54,990. But if you upgrade to SQL Server 2012, you’ll be paying for 16 processor cores at $6,874 per core. Final cost: $109,984, or about twice as much.

So as chipmakers continue to increase the number of cores in their processors, the cost of doing business on SQL Server 2012 will also rise if you have per-core licensing.

SQL Server 2012 pricing with virtualization
To license a virtual machine (VM) with core-based licenses, you can just pay for the virtual cores within the VM. But there is a minimum of four core licenses per VM. Each licensed VM covered under Microsoft’s Software Assurance program can be moved around on your physical server or to a private or public cloud.

If you have SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition with Software Assurance, you can deploy an unlimited amount of VMs on each server without having to pay more.

Take a look:

Migrating SQL Server 2012 licenses
If you’re running SQL Server 2008 R2 with Software Assurance, you can migrate your licenses to SQL Server 2012, as long as you do it by the end of June. Here’s a look at how licenses convert depending on your edition of SQL Server 2008 R2:

Next Steps

Read more about SQL Server's first container management software

Dig Deeper on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2