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How to License Your SQL Server Software for Less

How to License Your SQL Server Software for Less

As the manager of a company’s mission-critical data, it’s your job to build and maintain enterprise data in a way that is secure, easy to manage and beneficial to the overall business. At the same time, IT budgets continue to shrink, and you are constantly asked to do more with less.

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 offers a comprehensive database management and analytics platform for your mission-critical applications, but the software can be expensive. Making sure the cost of licensing doesn’t exceed your hardware costs — while at the same time ensuring you are always in compliance with the proper licensing — is a careful and complex balancing act.

With most companies using six to eight core processors with their servers, licensing fees can quickly add up. How can you license SQL Server software to get what you need for the right price?

Microsoft SQL Server 2016
Businesses all over the world rely on Microsoft SQL Server to manage their databases because of its industry-leading performance, advanced security to protect data, powerful mobile reporting capabilities and scalability to meet the growing needs of any business.

Data and insights can be accessed from any device or location, and advanced analytics enable you to analyze data and predict sales and customer behavior. The platform can also be deployed on premise, in the cloud or both with a flexible hybrid solution.

Licensing, however, can get complicated.

“SQL Server licensing can be complex — especially since the change-up over the years from user or socket-based in 2008 to Core/CAL-based, which started in 2012,” says Riley Bloomer, a national account manager with Aventis Systems. “Microsoft also has minimums you must abide by when purchasing, and most companies are just now moving away from 2008 as its extended support end date is coming soon.”

The two most common Microsoft SQL Server editions are Enterprise and Standard.

Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise provides the highest service performance levels for Tier-1 workloads. It includes high-level features such as operating system max memory and cores, advanced encryption, real-time analytics that run in a database or stand alone, online indexing, fast recovery, mirrored backups and online page and file restore.

Microsoft SQL Server Standard provides core data management business intelligence capabilities for non-critical workloads with minimal IT resources including 24 cores max and 128 GB max memory, dynamic data masking and in-database advanced analytics.

“Some of the main differences between the two editions are core counts and memory. The Standard edition is limited to 24 cores and 128 GB of memory,” says Bloomer. “With Enterprise, both of these pieces run at the operating system max. There are also backend tools for replication and backups that get very complex, as well as in-depth analytical tools.”

SQL Server 2016 Licensing
Microsoft SQL Server 2016 licensing is available by host server and by core.

Licensing per Core (Computing Power)
With core licensing, you can have a more accurate measure of computing power and can more consistently measure your licensing needs. Per-core licensing is ideal for customers who have more than 30 users or those who cannot accurately count users or devices. This type of licensing works for physical, on-premise servers, as well as with virtual servers and in the cloud, and it is best fit for systems that integrate with web-facing databases. All Microsoft SQL Server 2016 core licenses require a minimum of four cores for new SQL 2016 customers.

Licensing by Host Server (Users or Devices)
With host licensing, businesses have the option to license users and/or devices. User Client Access Licenses (CALs) are also available to meet Microsoft’s licensing terms but must be for the same version or newer. Each server running SQL Server software must have a server license, and each user or device accessing a SQL Server must have an SQL Server CAL. With both the Standard and Enterprise editions, each SQL Server CAL can access multiple licensed SQL Servers.

If you go with the Server + CAL model, each server will need a server license as well as a CAL to access the SQL Server or any of its components.

With the Standard Edition, licenses are available per host server and per core. With this licensing level, users have access to basic database, reporting and analytics capabilities with a maximum compute capacity scale limit for a single instance of four sockets or 16 cores. The Enterprise Edition offers all the features of SQL Server 2016 (Advanced and Basic) in a per-core licensing model only..

Saving Money with Core vs. CAL
Both the core and CAL licensing models have advantages and disadvantages.

With the server + CAL model, you can utilize full computing power inside a server as long as users are licensed properly. This is ideal for small to mid-sized businesses with fewer than 100 users that heavily use an SQL database, Bloomer says.

The core model can be beneficial if you have a larger number of users — around 120 or so — and a small database that is not heavily utilized. In this case, you could get away with virtualizing the instance at a lower cost.

“An ideal scenario for the core model would be a company with 125–150 users hitting the box directly,” says Bloomer. “At this point, you are breaking even with core licensing with no restrictions to user amounts.”

As for the CAL model, the biggest benefit is utilization of all computing power in the box at a lower cost. This is a particularly big benefit if you have an application or web browser device or server facing the SQL server.

“In this case, the app or browser facing the server is considered one user. Even though you may have one million people hitting that site or application, they are not directly hitting the box,” says Bloomer. “This scenario happens somewhat often and end users are confused, as they consider the 800-pound gorilla on the box and tend to automatically go towards core licensing.”

Another benefit and an effective way to save on licensing is that small businesses are not getting stuck with core licensing at huge costs. Instead, they can have five users for around $2,000 as opposed to the minimum $7,000 investment for four cores.

Aventis Systems’ Operating and Application Services make it easy to move to a new operating system or application version. Our engineers are on hand to design and implement a complete migration plan, whether you are upgrading your operating system, changing cloud-based application providers or just simply need an operating system or application installed.

To learn more about Microsoft SQL Server 2016 licensing, contact us today at 1-855-AVENTIS.