SQL Licensing, Simply Explained for Physical and Virtual Server

If you are using Microsoft Operating systems or Microsoft applications in a virtual environment, you need to know precisely how Microsoft Licensing models work with different virtualization technologies like Hyper-V, VMware or Parallel. In this article, we would like to let you understand how the Microsoft SQL Server Licensing model works in physical and Virtual Environments.

We have earlier mentioned few troubleshooting tips about Exchange 2013 mail receiving issue and slow network inside virtual machines in Hyper-V 2012 R2. If you are a system administrator who manages Exchange and Hyper-V virtualization setup, it is worth to have look at them.

SQL Licensing Simplified

Per Core Licensing

With the launch of Microsoft SQL Server 2012, a new Licensing concept was introduced. This new licensing model is based on computing power. Instead of physical processor-based licensing, it was decided that core-based is licensing is more reliable and versatile metric to calculate the computing power irrespective of the fact that whether the application is installed on physical premises or in virtual IT environment or in a cloud.

With new per core Licensing methodology, the number of licenses required will depend on whether you want to License a physical server or/and virtual operating system instances. In this new Licensing model, any number of users or devices can connect to Licensed server/Virtual OSE, unlike the traditional Server/ CAL Licensing model.

sql licensing model

According to Per Core Licensing model, there are two ways to do licensing in a virtual environment.

Virtual cores on Virtual OSE

For any virtual OSE using server software, there is a minimum need of four licenses. If the virtual cores are more than four, then the licensing is calculated according to the number of cores used in virtual OSE. Apart from this condition if the virtual OSE is mapped to any number of hardware threads, you will need an additional license accordingly. This virtual scenario in the following table will give you a clearer picture.

SQL edition No. of Virtual Cores Required no. of Licenses
VM1 SQL Server 2012 standard 2 4
VM2 SQL Server 2012 standard 4 4
VM3 SQL Server 2012 standard 8 8

Physical Cores per server

This Licensing model is based on the number of physical cores present on a server. This number is then multiplied by an SQL-core factor to calculate the number of licenses required.

SQL Core Factor Table

Processor Type Core Factor
AMD above 6 cores with series 31**,32**, 33**,41**,42**, 43**, 61**,62**, 63** 0.75
Single Core 4
Dual Core 2
Any other processor, not mentioned in the table 1

Licensing SQL 2014 Server Products

As compared to its predecessor, SQL Server 2014, offers more options and virtualization rights. With SQL server 2014 server standard edition, the only option of licensing available is licensing individual virtual OSEs according to the number of virtual cores.

SQL Server 2014 standard edition and Business edition can be licensed using the Server plus Cal model. In this model, you have to purchase only a single License for VM irrespective of the number of Virtual cores present in VM. The same is depicted in the following table

SQL edition No. of Virtual Cores Required no. of Licenses
VM1 SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence 2 1
VM2 SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence 4 1

With SQL Server 2014 enterprise edition, maximum virtualization can be achieved by Licensing all the available physical cores of a server. By doing so, you can run the same number of software instances as the number of physical cores present in Server.

The rights to use can be further expanded if there is coverage of Software Assurance of enterprise edition core licenses. This way you can use an unlimited number of software instances in any number of physical or virtual OSEs. Maximum virtualization licensing is suitable for private clouds where VMs are quite large in number and there is frequent provisioning or de-provisioning of VMs.


Microsoft Volume Licensing Guide file

Latest SQL 2016 Licensing Model Guide

Dinesh is the founder of Sysprobs and written more than 400 articles. Enthusiast in Microsoft and cloud technologies with more than 15 years of IT experience.

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