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Here's some of the common questions we get around the licensing of SQL Server. If you can't find your answer here, our Microsoft SQL Server Version Guide might be useful. For a full guide to our services, please see our Microsoft SQL Server Database Support pages.

How did licensing change with SQL Server 2016?

Instead of being based on cores and servers, SQL Server 2016 is licensed entirely on number of cores. Express Edition has up to 4 cores, Standard up to 24 cores, and Enterprise can have unlimited numbers of cores.

Please see our SQL Server Version Guide for more information.

What are the SQL Server editions?

For SQL Server 2012 and 2014, they're divided in to Standard, Enterprise, and Business Intelligence (BI). Standard has all the features, BI has the business intelligence features (not surprisingly!), and Enterprise provides basic relational, BI, and availability capabilities.

For SQL Server 2016, there are three production versions: Express, Standard and Enterprise. There is also a free Developer version which can only be used for development purposes. You can find a full guide to the 2016 editions here: Microsoft SQL Server Version Guide.

Contact us to find out more.

What are the different versions of SQL Server?

Microsoft SQL Server version 1 was first released in 1989.

After that, they were numbered sequentially until we hit the millenium, when it was decided that it would be named after the year (along with everything else that was released/built/created in that year). Microsoft were radical however: in 2003 they released the 64-bit version of the database, and called it - not SQL Server 2003 - but SQL Server 2000. We think Bill Gates must have really liked the space-age vibe of '2000'.

Later on, the database started being named after the year: 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. There was also a secondary release of SQL Server 2008 (R2), and each version was subject to different service pack updates; find out more in our Microsoft SQL Server Version Guide

I have virtual machines. How does that affect SQL Server licensing?

There are two ways of going about this, which involve either licensing SQL Server at virtual machines level, or at the level of the real - non-virtual - cores in the server. At the level of virtual machines, you can licence them at server level or at the level of cores (which in this sense, cores mean virtual central processing units). If you choose to licence your virtual cores, the 4-core minimum still applies.

The second option - real cores in the server - is best if you're planning to run a lot of virtual machines with SQL Server: you then licence the physical cores with Enterprise Edition, and use Software Assurance, which allows an unlimited number of virtual machines.

For SQL Server 2016, the database is licensed by core, and it makes no difference whether that core is virtual or real. 

I want to move my virtual machine, is this OK, licence-wise?

Yes, but be careful: there are licence limitations. This restricts you to moving your virtual machine once every 90 days. However, if you have Software Assurance, you can move your virtual machines as much as you'd like, so we would recommend it if you need to keep moving your machines. If you're unsure at all, please contact us for some free advice.