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Baffled by which SQL edition/licenses to buy?

Our business has a single live server running SQL that powers three database-driven web sites (1 x 200mb mdb file, plus 2 x 15mb mdb files).  These currently run SQL2005 Workgroup, and we have SQL 2008 Developer Edition on a single development machine which is provided via the Microsoft Partner agreement.

We need a new server, so as part of this process we will upgrade SQL to either 2008 or 2012.  I'm guessing it makes more sense to jump to 2012 to prolong how soon we need to upgrade next time...?

First off, am I right in thinking that I only need Standard Edition if we don't do any BI work? We just access SQL using SSMS and use T-SQL/SP's to perform CRUD work/backups.  The MS site says Standard is for non-critical databases.  For me it is critical(!) but I assume it means when no failover clustering is being used, which we currently don't do?

So if Standard is the right edition, do I need 1 x Server license + 1 x CAL (for the developer to log in via SSMS), or does our Developer Edition negate the need for the CAL?

Next up, how the heck do I actually buy it?  I've asked three so-called software resellers (found on MS PinPoint) to clarify the above and haven't even had a reply...!  

I used Microsoft License Advisor with these options:
MLAThe resulting price comes to £757.97 ($1,199.10 USD) assuming I don't need Software Assurance and haven't specified a pricing band (whatever they are...).  

Is anyone aware of a UK-based reseller who can provide SQL at anywhere near this price (if the price is indeed correct for my needs?).  If this price to purchase SQL is correct, how come UK hosting companies like Rackspace and Memset charge £195 per month for a SQL standard license?
5 Solutions
Steve BinkCommented:

As you said, unless you need some of the serious redundancy firepower, the Standard edition will do just fine for you.  Depending on how lightweight your application is, you may even be able to get away with Express.

The price you quoted sounds a little low to me, but I'm not very experienced with MS licensing.  If that is what their tool recommended, then it will probably (at least) work.  Make sure you have provided for enough CALs to cover any traffic from your web server.  Each connection from your application will use a device CAL, plus the user CAL for your developer.  

The Developer edition of SQL Server is an edition meant for development environments only, and not meant for production.  IIRC, it has additional limitations.  I do not think there is a Developer 2012 edition.

Hosts charge those prices because they can.  The agreement with MS is basically them paying an arm and a leg, while retaining the right to charge as many fingers as desired.  You will absolutely save money in the long run by purchasing your own license rather than "renting" one from the host.

Of course, if you wanted to save even more money, you could migrate your app to use MySQL instead.  It's free, and generally comparable in performance and feature set.  If you're just using basic functionality, migration should be fairly painless.
Rich WeisslerProfessional Troublemaker^h^h^h^h^hshooterCommented:
> Each connection from your application will use a device CAL

No, actually, it's each potential users of your web application would use a CAL.  That's why normally (always) if you are looking at connecting a website to the server, you would not use Server + CALs, but use Core licenses.  The number of Core licenses you would need would depend on the type of processors.  There is a licensing guide available on the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 licensing page.

The prices for SQL licenses run "The costs for Standard edition licensing are $1,793 per core, or $898 per server plus $209 CALs per each user or device."  (But again, one core license applies to more than a single processor core... depending on the hardware configuration.  See the pdf linked in the previous paragraph.)

For the tiny database size, if you don't need the SQL Agent or other features included in the full version, you do also have the option of running MS SQL Express, at no cost.

I apologize though, I can't find a 'good' reseller in the UK.  I've been focused on US providers for too long I suppose.  You can get into some of the volume license agreements through a good reseller, who can bundle some number of server products, and/or desktop products to get you the best deal.

As you consider which version of SQL to upgrade to, keep in mind that SQL 2008 R2 goes end of life in 2019, and SQL 2012 is planned EOL in 2022.
RouchieAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your replies.  My biggest question is the whole CAL/Core thing.

If my app is web facing, then only ASP.NET is interacting with it, and that could be one person every hour, or 200 people.  I've no way of knowing, and have 9000 users in my web application.  Nobody except the developer will ever access SQL from the back-end, so I assume we need a core/processor licence.  The only pricing examples in the MS docs assume you are a team of developers working on a central server.  There is no mention of web-facing database apps anywhere.

There is a developer edition of 2012, I got it from MS a while back.  The hard bit for me is that our old server that's being replaced is a dual-core unit, and the new one is likely to be quad-core.  So I think according to the license docs I need 8 core licenses for that.... It's so confusing!

I've still not had any reply from any UK reseller!  You would think there is no global recession...!
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Rich WeisslerProfessional Troublemaker^h^h^h^h^hshooterCommented:
Look at page 16-17 of the licensing guide, where it talks about using SQL through an application.  That is the reason web-facing database apps are essentially always required to use core licenses.

If you have a server, with the standard edition of SQL, with two, quad core processors... you have eight cores.  The core licenses are sold in packs of two, so yes, you'd need to purchase four packs of two-cores licenses.

The Developer Edition is separate.  You have a license for that server, and it's per user... and it has to be 'non-production use.'  The edition of SQL unlocked by the Developer license is functionally equivalent to SQL Enterprise Edition... but it's not for production.  You don't need core licenses for developer.
Ryan McCauleyData and Analytics ManagerCommented:
I don't think it's been mentioned, but the standard edition of SQL Server supports two-node clusters, so you get basic HA options with Standard. You've needed Enterprise in the past to get clustering, but that's not the case any longer.

However, public-facing websites do require core licensing, not server and CAL. However, your internal developer doesn't need a CAL when the server is licensed by core, so you're saving a few hundred there.
Mark WillsTopic AdvisorCommented:
Developer License is supposed to be purely development purposes only and not for production. So, forget that for anything other than pure development (and probably on a dev server / dev workstation somewhere else).

Given your real need of a data store for your web, you do have a couple of choices.

1) SQL Express 2008 R2 / 2012
Depends a little on how many concurrent people - certainly from the databases you mention it will work, but there is a small potential problem with 1gb memory and runs using single processor support only (you can have multi-processor machine, sql just wont use it all - lesser of 1 socket or 4 cores). License is non-issue - just register and it is free

2) Web Edition
Slight improvement over Express with additional tools like database mail and sql server agent. Database, memory, processor is same as standard . Licensed is quite different in so much as you pay for what you use (month to month) under Microsoft's Service Provider License Agreement. Means you dont have to buy licenses up front.

3) Standard Edition
Licensed model, and dont worry too much about that "critical" comment, it doesnt have all the High Availability tools, but you can still manage with a bit of code and backups and hardware redundancies and some methods associated with HA.

4) Enterprise
Not sure if this really suits your needs - it is about 4 times the unit price of standard (for core licenses) but does have all that High Availability stuff (along with BI and datawarehousing etc).

For the licensed models, you will most likely want "core" because it is not restricted to any numbers of single users. You do have to multiply your "cores" out by a core factor table ( download http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=229882 ) to get the correct number (note that a quad core cpu = 4 core license and theat means 2x "2-pack" sku = 7NQ-00214 for standard or about $10k USD )

If you license for SQL2012 then you can run a lesser versions (e.g. license for 2012 standard, can run 2008 standard assuming you have the install media), so always license for the most recent version.

With 9000 users you should not even consider the choice of going cals - it will be much more cost beneficial going with core. fullstop.

See what is included in each edition : http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645993(v=SQL.110).aspx#Mgmt_tools  also note on the left hand side, the maximum capacities...

If you havent played with it yet, go through the guided wizard : http://mla.microsoft.com/trainer.aspx

hope that helps. And of course, what you will need to do is find a reseller and if having trouble, talk to Microsoft directly.
RouchieAuthor Commented:
Fantastic answers above - that's really cleared up the confusion.  Microsoft should just replace their licensing details and just link to this page instead...!

Thanks very much,
RouchieAuthor Commented:
Fantastic clarity - thanks very much.  I've learned more from you guys than from all of the Microsoft 'guides' put together... :-)
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