Everything you should know about SQL Licensing 2016

10 Jun

It’s amazing how confused the hosting community is with SQL.  (Myself included) Core factor; SQL BI (whatever that is); SQL Web – discontinued in VL but available in SPLA? Ugh…Hyper threading licensing; and SQL Enterprise virtualization.  In this article, let’s review these licensing conundrums and finally solve some of the licensing mysteries surrounding them.  There are a lot of good links in this article – check it out if you have time.  There’s also a training on the technical aspects of SQL presented by Microsoft’s Sara Barela.  I interviewed her some time ago when SQL 2014 was released.  Check it out here To register for the webinar see below:

Date and Time: June 16, 2016 at 10:00am PT. For non-registered Cloud Channel Network Members, please register for this live webcast at:

  • REGISTER HERE to attend at and select the SQL Session while signing up. Once you register you will receive reminders, and can also access the add to calendar below.


For registered Cloud Channel Network Members, you will not need to register and can access the event link or add to calendar below:


  • EVENT LINK: LOG IN HERE  to live webcast on Live date and time

SQL Licensing:

Core Factor

For those that were worried about how to calculate cores using the core factor; you can now sleep at night.  Microsoft discontinued this method.  In 2016 use rights, you calculate the number of cores on the physical server or the number of virtual cores on the VM.  You just need to report a minimum of 4 cores per VM/physical core.

SQL Web Only available under SPLA.  It is also only available if you are providing publicly accessible information.  If the data is not publicly accessible, you cannot license SQL Web.  Don’t just licesense SQL Web because it’s less expensive.  It can cost you.


SQL BI is discontinued as well.  For those five service providers that were reporting it this might come as a shock.  The bad news is there is now only (1) product in the SQL family that is licensed by user-SQL Standard.  Why is that bad news?  Keep reading.

SQL Enterprise

Nothing new from a licensing perspective with 2016.  That’s the ok news.  You can still license the physical cores on each host that will allow you to run unlimited virtual machines.  To me, it’s similar to Windows Datacenter but with cores (and yes, Windows 2016 is moving that direction to.  Check out my article here) From a product feature perspective, in my limited technical mind, I highlighted some features from other third-party articles  that I think service providers could benefit (that’s the better news).  Hey, you can leverage another datacenter, I can leverage other blogs right?

  • Always Encrypted: For those that have end customers that are very concerned about security (think law firms/healthcare in particular) This feature ensures your encrypted data remains encrypted even if the server itself is administered by a third-party.   Check out this article by my friend at MSDN to learn more.  I like this feature with license mobility.  With license mobility, the end customer must have software assurance on those licenses they wish to transfer over.  One other feature of software assurance is latest version rights.  In other words, they will have access to SQL 2016 already.   So if your sellers are talking to customers and license mobility comes up – be sure to mention this.
  • Better Performance: I think this goes without saying. I’d be shocked if a new product release didn’t have better performance.  Actually, who remembers Windows XP to Windows Vista?  Ouch.  For all new performance features please check out the data sheet from Microsoft
  • Stretch Database:  Sounds cool.  Check out my buddy at Redmond Mag He can explain this thing better than me.  I will say as a service provider, cost of storing data (purchasing a new SAN, etc) can be expensive, this feature will help eliminate some of those costs especially when leverage a third-party datacenter like Azure.  Check it out.

Hyper Threading Licensing

I think this often gets overlooked until you get audited.  When licensing the physical host only, hyper-threading doesn’t affect licensing.  When you license a VM, things change.  If you have hyper-threading enabled,  a core license is required for each thread supporting a virtual core.

There you have it.  Now let’s review some specific scenarios that have come up recently.

Scenario 1

A company develops an application and would like to leverage Azure to provide the application out as a service.  The application uses SQL Enterprise.  What do they need to do from a licensing perspective?

We all know Azure is  public cloud (code for multiple customer on the same server for licensing purposes).   We also know SQL Enterprise is licensed by core only…right?  C’mon, you just read about it!  When cores/processors are involved AND it’s a public cloud (not dedicated) the hoster (in this case the ISV) has to either purchase SQL from Azure OR use license mobility and leverage self-hosted.  In the latter example, they can use their own licenses because they own the application and SQL is self-hosted eligible.  So the ISV can purchase SQL with SA and transfer that instance over to Azure.  They would still be required to purchase Windows from Azure.

Why cant the ISV use SPLA?  I don’t always agree with this answer but the truth is you can’t.  You cannot license cores/processors via your SPLA and leverage a third-party datacenter public cloud.  You may be asking yourself “Joe’s Hosting does it!”  Well my readers, Joe’s Hosting is out of compliant.

Scenario 2

Exact same example but the 3rd party datacenter is not Azure but some other IaaS.  This IaaS provider offers dedicated hardware and dedicated VM’s.  Could the ISV leverage his own SPLA and license SQL Enterprise?  Yes, he can.  How?  It’s dedicated.  Which means all hardware running a MS OS has to be dedicated.  I don’t care about the SAN or LAN or any other “AN”  All hardware running a MS OS must be dedicated.

Scenario 3

Exact same scenario but ISV requires SQL Standard.  Can the ISV leverage their own SPLA and leverage Azure public cloud?  Yes.  How?  SQL Standard can be licensed by user (SAL).  He would not be able to license SQL Standard core and report it on his SPLA but he can license SAL’s.  Please see the Azure FAQ guide here.  Specifically:

If you are a Service Provider with a signed Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) using SQL Server, you can:

  • Obtain a SQL image from the Azure VM marketplace and pay the per-minute rate of SQL Server, or
  • Install or upload your SQL Server Standard image with Subscriber Access License (SAL) reported via your SPLA.

My tired eyes are starting to fail me.  Let’s review active/passive in another article.  I hope this helps.

Thanks for reading,






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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


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