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SQL Server 2014 Licensing Fine Print Shockers

Posted by Rob Risetto on November 29, 2015

The fine print related to SQL Server 2014 in the April 2014 edition of the Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Product User Rights (Doc link) has some significant ramifications for punters who want to deploy their dev/test SQL Server environments to the cloud or want to have a passive SQL Server running in the Cloud.

For the first point of interest, to move dev/test SQL Servers to AWS or any other cloud provider except for Azure, the servers have to be licensed as if they were production. This is based on the clause on page 51

 Running the Software on Third Party Shared Servers

1.    The Licensed User may run the software on third party shared servers with Qualified MSDN Cloud Partners.  A list of Qualified  MSDN Cloud Partners is available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=294716

Note: The only Qualified MSDN Cloud Partner listed on the link http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=294716  is of course Azure. This provides a significant advantage for the Microsoft’s Cloud IaaS offering compared to the other Cloud providers like AWS, since only Azure allows you to run your MSDN or SQL Developer licenses in the Cloud.

The second point of interest and probably just as significant if not more, with respects to a disaster recovery failover partner server you lose your failover rights if the failover server exists in AWS or another cloud provider according to clause on page 72 (n.b. page number may vary due to subsequent updates to the PUR)

SQL Server – Fail-over Servers

 ·     Fail-over server rights do not apply in the case of software moved to shared third party servers under License Mobility through Software Assurance.

“Shared third party servers” is not defined, but will mean anything other than in-house or Azure, a  colleague of mine has verified this with Microsoft.

Basically you have to fully license your failover SQL Server 2014 if you want to run it in AWS or any other Cloud provider except for Azure (see update below). Imagine if you are running Enterprise Edition, you have just doubled your cost in licensing. Again this provides a significant advantage for the Microsoft’s Cloud IaaS offering.

Another gem, in the same section, no software assurance, then you have to pay for the SQL Server 2014 license on your failover server.

In order to utilize this benefit, you must comply with the following terms:

  • Maintain Software Assurance coverage on the server licenses and core licenses under which you run your licensed software and for all CALs under which you access your licensed software.
  • Your right to run the passive fail-over instances ends when your Software Assurance coverage ends.

Of course any goes when it comes to Enterprise Agreements, so I suspect there will be some wiggle room for these type of agreements.

Thanks to David Tan for highlighting some of the fine print related to SQL Server 2014 in the April 2014 edition of the Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Product User Rights.

Update 12/02/2015

Further clarification was sought from Microsoft and License advisors on whether Azure was indeed considered a shared third party server provider and the consistent answer from 3 sources including Microsoft is YES, Azure is considered a shared third party server provider. The ramifications are that Fail-over server rights don’t apply in Azure IaaS active/passive SQL Server configurations, therefore you have to license the Active and Passive servers in an Availability Group configuration. This marries with the Azure FAQ (see below)  http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/licensing-faq/

How do I license SQL Server within Azure Virtual Machines deployed in an active-passive configuration?

Each of the Azure Virtual Machines deployed requires licensing for SQL Server. To accomplish this, you can do the following for each virtual machine:
Obtain a SQL image from the Azure VM marketplace and pay the per-minute rate of SQL Server, or
Install or upload your own SQL Server image using the license mobility benefits under Software Assurance

On AWS you can avoid the shared third party server gotcha by deploying EC2 instances using Dedicated Tenancy and therefore the Fail-over server rights can apply and you only have to license SQL Server on the active server. The downside of Dedicated Tenancy is the $2 per hour per region cost, roughly $1440 per month plus the higher hourly rate per EC2 instance deployed.

In either case licensing SQL Server active/passive configurations on the Cloud does come at extra costs, unless you can negotiate discounts via an Enterprise Agreement or SCE agreement.

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