Microsoft's SQL Server 2012: Will it cost you more?

How will Microsoft's new per-core pricing affect the prices that SQL Server 2012 customers may pay? Directions on Microsoft has done the math.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's newest version of its database may cost you more if you deploy it on machines with more than four physical cores in each processor.

That's one of the findings of the independent analysis firm Directions on Microsoft, which is hosting a free telebriefing focusing on SQL Server 2012 licensing on March 22.

Microsoft announced late last year that it would be making some changes to its SKU lineup and pricing when it released SQL Server 2012. Officials said there would be a brand-new Business Intelligence SKU, and that its existing Datacenter, Workgroup and Standard for Small Business SKUs would be replaced by other versions. Microsoft also made pricing and licensing changes with the 2012 release, adding a new core-based licensing option for the SQL Server 2012 Enterprise and Standard products, and dropping the server-CAL license model on Enterprise. The new Business Intelligence SKU, conversely, is server-CAL only, with no per-core licensing option – but has a server license price identical to what the previous version of Enterprise edition cost.

SQL Server 2012 will be generally available on April 1, 2012.

I've heard from some customers attempting to do the math that they thought some users would be paying substantially more to license SQL Server 2012 under the new per-core model.

"I can potentially see this affecting Microsoft's 'important' customers," Andrew Willett, a consultant at Eurodata Systems, said. "People deploying 2x8 or 10 core processors are going to see licensing costs double, and non-virtualized 4X8 or 10 core processors will triple. I'd expect them to make a lot of noise."

SQL Server is a foundational product for many other Microsoft servers, including SharePoint, Lync and many of the Dynamics products, it's important for users to understand the changes, said Directions analyst Wes Miller.

"In a nutshell, if you’ve got more than four physical cores in each processor, you’re going to pay more to deploy 2012 than you would have to deploy SQL Server 2008 R2 on the same system," Miller said. Final figures will vary to some degree, given a user's volume-licensing agreement terms, he added.

On a system with eight or more cores, SQL Server 2012 Enterprise now costs more (by just a few dollars) than the same system running SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter, Miller said. At every point a server running Enterprise edition of 2012 is licensed with 8 cores per processor, it now costs more than Datacenter did in the old per-processor model with 2008 R2. This could be why Microsoft eliminated the Datacenter SKU with the 2012 release, he said, since per-core helps Microsoft adjust the licensing to finally charge for systems with core-dense processors.

"With the change to per-core, Microsoft now has a more granular way to ensure that customers who are using SQL Server on higher-end servers are paying so, accordingly," Miller said. "In the end, for most customers on new high-end hardware without Software Assurance, it will cost more than it used to."

Directions analysts Miller and Rob Horwitz plan to explain the changes in SQL Server 2012 packaging, pricing, and licensing -- as well as how the new features could impact virtualization, server consolidation, and server hardware purchases going forward -- in tomorrow's telebriefing, which starts at 1 pm ET/10 am PT.

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