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Microsoft Revamps SQL Server Licensing

Memory of recent VMware pricing flap may be fresh in Microsoft exec's minds.

VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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The public--or at least the blogosphere--seem to have generally accepted changes to the licensing model for Microsoft's SQL Server 2012, a marked contrast to the uproar over changes to VMware's vSphere 5.0 in July, where complaints forced VMware to modify its pricing.

Microsoft rolled out SQL Server 2012 earlier this month as the relational database management system upgrade from SQL 2008.

It's still going to take some effort by customers to figure out what the changes mean for them and their IT budgets, but Microsoft is attempting to make it as simple as possible with a SQL Server 2012 Licensing Datasheet. In a six-page PDF, Microsoft explains the licensing options, differences among the different editions, and how to transition from SQL 2008 licenses to 2012 licenses. Still, it is recommended that users consult with the Microsoft sales representative most familiar with their account.

[SQL Server 2012 will include big data processing capabilities based on Apache Hadoop. Learn about IT's Next Hot Job: Hadoop Guru.]

In October, Microsoft and HP jointly announced the development of an HP appliance that can run SQL 2012. VWware got into trouble with some of its customers when it introduced a new licensing policy with vSphere 5.0. Specifically, it switched from a hardware-based licensing model, per physical server, to what it called the vRAM metric, in which it billed by the amount of virtual random access memory per physical server.

Various reports and blogs cited complaints about the limitation on the number of vRAMs per license and, after three weeks of pushback from customers, VMware relented and increased the vRAM limits per license.

The memory of that flap is no doubt on the minds of Microsoft folks rolling out SQL 2012. Among the highlights in the new SQL release is a new license category called Business Intelligence (BI) Edition that sits between the existing Standard Edition (SE) and the Enterprise Edition (EE).

The BI Edition is tuned to manage databases tied to a business intelligence application, a growing category of IT for companies that want to crunch petabytes of data in order to gain insight into how to run their business.

Each edition of SQL 2012 will offer two broad options: pricing based on computing power and pricing based on the number of end users, called the client access license (CAL). However, in the Enterprise Edition computing power will be based on the number of sockets in a server, rather than the number of processors.

Microsoft shares pricing information on its datasheet, noting that in EE, for mission-critical apps a license is $6,874 per core. The BI edition is $3,952 per server plus $209 per CAL. The SE version, for more basic database, reporting, and analytics workloads, is sold on a per-server ($898) or per-core ($1,793) basis, plus the same $209 per CAL license. Here's where a customer will need to get out a calculator to figure out whether per-server or per-core is the better value, based how many cores their server farm has.

To be sure, each customer will have to calculate what the price hit will be for the upgrade; the true impact of the changes will be clearer once that happens.

SQL Server 2012 will be available sometime in the first quarter of next year.

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