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Help understanding SQL Server 2016 pricing

Last Modified: 2020-03-03
We need to purchase a license for SQL Server 2016 Standard edition to be installed on a new VM running on Vmware 6.5.

The pricing model is a little confusing as it is per core, but will be on a esxi vmware host - but i assume it will be looked at for the number of cores i assign it within vSphere.

Please assist in understanding the true cost (server license or server license plus CAL?) of creating a new VM with that version, one SQL instance with multiple databases.

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You may purchase either the Core licenses for all the cores assigned to the VM or 1 Server license + CALs for all users/devices accessing the server.

This document explains it in more details: https://www.itprotoday.com/business-resources/overview-sql-server-2016-licensing
Scott PletcherSenior DBA
Most Valuable Expert 2018
Distinguished Expert 2019


Talk to a knowledgeable vendor.  SQL Server pricing is too complex now to try to wing it on your own, even with Google's "help".


1. Developer (it matches Enterprise for non-production) or Express editions are free. - No need to buy a license for development or test.
2. Express edition is free for production, but if has limited functionality. It is good to start production use and complete initial load. Later you can upgrade it to Standard.
3. On the moment license real cores or virtual cores is almost the same.
4. Licensing virtual cores is good if you need less cores than your host has.
5. Licensing physical cores allows you to run several VMs on the same host.
6. To be able to move VM to another host you need SA. SA allows you version upgrade as well (like from SQL Server 2012 to SQL Server 2014).

For production it is better "Per core" - unlimited users/devices.
For test/development use (1).
Jody DavisSystems Engineer



1. One vCPU equals one core license. Would make sense to use this with my 2016 SQL Server VMs.

2. From that website - A minimum of four core licenses is required for each physical processor on the server - so even if i only wanna use 2vCPUs for a single 2016 SQL server - does this mean i need to buy four core licenses to cover that single VM as it sits on a physical Esxi host?

3. If, like nearly all enterprise IT depts, i use DRS to loadbalance our VMs in a cluster (which is normal) - would i technically have to license the number of physical Esxi hosts as well - in that VM cluster - as the SQL Server will migrate around as cluster resource usage always changes?

4. Is Software Assurance required in a virtual environment to cover migrating around Esxi hosts in a cluster?

Thanks all !
Jody DavisSystems Engineer


Can i please get an answer to my questions?
Scott PletcherSenior DBA
Most Valuable Expert 2018
Distinguished Expert 2019


Again, talk to a knowledgeable vendor, even MS itself if you need to.  SQL Server pricing is too complex now to try to wing it on your own, even with Google's "help" / EE expertise.

This one is on us!
(Get your first solution completely free - no credit card required)
Jody DavisSystems Engineer


Thanks guys

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