SQL 2012 Licensing – Which Model Is Right for You?

There are two ways of licensing SQL 2012 for Standard editions – the traditional Server/CAL model as well as the per-core model. The per-core model replaces the per-processor model from previous versions.

NOTE: SQL must be installed into a licensed Operating System, such as Windows Server. For a complete list of supported Operating Systems, go to http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms143506.aspx.

Server/CAL model:

  • Only available for environments where the number of clients accessing the database is easily accounted for (internal use, not for public web-facing applications).
  • Each server instance/virtual machine requires a purchase of a Server License.
  • Every network user/device must have an appropriate CAL (Client Access License) if they access the database. Even if a client is accessing multiple SQL 2012 servers, they will never need more than 1 license.
  • To access a licensed SQL server, each user must have a SQL Server CAL that is the same version or newer.
  • If all database queries are funneled through an application server, like CRM or ERP, you still must license all the users who initiate those queries. To put it simply, there is no way around paying for the licenses – if a scenario is questionable, always err on the side of caution.

NOTE: A SQL Server CAL can work with both Standard and Business Intelligence editions.

Per-core Licensing Model:

  • PHYSICAL deployments – All physical cores on the physical server must be licensed.
  • VIRTUAL deployments – Each (SQL) VM must be licensed with a minimum of 4-cores (even if it has fewer Virtual cores allocated), and each Virtual Core must be licensed in pairs of 2. A server with 5 Virtual cores therefore requires 6 core-licenses.
  • A minimum of 4-cores must be purchased per processor (even if it is only a dual-core processor) so this works best with quad-core and above.
  • Core licenses come in packs of 2.
  • CALs are not required with this licensing model – an unlimited number of users can access the DB.


SQL 2012 Enterprise Edition is only available through the Per-core Licensing Model. Sold in pairs of cores, minimum 4 cores per processor.

SQL 2012 Business Intelligence is only available for licensing under the Server/CAL model.

It is important to get with a certified Microsoft Licensing Expert, such as Trusted Network Solutions, in order to analyze your options and choose the most cost-efficient and scalable edition and licensing model.

About Trusted Network Solutions:

TNS is a leading Value Added Reseller providing secure network systems and solutions to the SMB and enterprise markets. TNS offers best-of-breed technical solutions acquired, installed, secured, and maintained using the most cost effective methods available. www.trustednetworksolutions.com



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