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SQL 2012: What is the difference between AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances and AlwaysOn Availability Groups

According to this page, SQL 2012 Standard Edition supports "AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances", but not "AlwaysOn Availability Groups". What is the difference?
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R. Toby Richards
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R. Toby Richards
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Aneesh RetnakaranDatabase AdministratorCommented:
Failover Cluster is a technique for High Availability.Most common FC scenario can have multiple servers acting as cluster nodes. those nodes are connected to shared drivers (i.e SAN) so One node owns all the services (The active node) and the others are on hold in case the have to quickly become active. This ensures protection on protection on the server/instance level
AlwaysOn is a SQL solution for Disaster Recovery which requires the Windows Cluster layer installed on every node, so this ensures protection at database level
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R. Toby RichardsNetwork AdministratorAuthor Commented:
I know what an HA cluster is. I know what AlwaysOn is. There seem to be two different AlwaysOn types: "AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances" and "AlwaysOn Availability Groups". You need SQL Enterprise edition for the latter. What is the difference? I have only Standard edition. What is the difference between the AlwaysOn that I can do with that edition only, and what I could do if I had Enterprise edition?
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Vitor MontalvãoMSSQL Senior EngineerCommented:
I think they only changed the name. "AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances" is the typical Failover Cluster solution for SQL Server instances. Marketing, I may say.
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R. Toby RichardsNetwork AdministratorAuthor Commented:
How sure are you? It looks to me like maybe the active instance needs to be Enterprise edition, and the failover instances can be Standard edition.
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Vitor MontalvãoMSSQL Senior EngineerCommented:
I'm pretty sure it's only a name change so now HA has AlwaysOn on it. You can check the features for HA for each SQL Server version and you'll see by changing the version on the top of this page in earlier versions exists FCI and on 2012 & 2014 exists AlwaysOn FCI.
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R. Toby RichardsNetwork AdministratorAuthor Commented:
Then why does it show EE supporting both technologies, but SE only one of them?
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Aneesh RetnakaranDatabase AdministratorCommented:
Which windows edition you are using ? is it EE ?
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Vitor MontalvãoMSSQL Senior EngineerCommented:
Because Standard Edition always support FCI since SQL Server 2005. The only limitation is the 2 nodes. For Enterprise Edition there's no nodes limitation.

The real AlwaysOn solution (Availability Groups) that is available since SQL Server 2012 it's an Enterprise Edition feature.
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