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The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

Licensing in a Virtual World

Even if you work for Microsoft licensing can be complicated. I am pretty confident on what’s what with SQL Server, but I was in TV land yesterday at a large broadcaster, and they are looking to adopt Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 as a standard for all of their projects.  We spent an hour discussing the bits of SQL Server 2008 that would be of value to them and the issues they will have in upgrading and consolidating their current estate.  This then led onto virtualization and how Microsoft stuff is licensed in virtual machines.

The first important thing to note is that Microsoft doesn’t care what the virtualization technology is as far as licensing is concerned.  Obviously Microsoft would be happier if you used Hyper-V but if you put SQL Server on whatever ware virtualization or Hyper-V the same licensing rules apply. 

For enterprise businesses like a TV company you should be using enterprise edition on your servers for a whole range of reasons, but one of the key licensing benefits is that if you license the physical machine per CPU you aren’t constrained as to how many virtual SQL Server machines you can have on that box.  This frees you from pricing constraints when considering how to consolidate your servers. For example you could: 

  1. Stuff all of your databases into one instance, and use tools like resource governor to manage who wins when the server is under pressure.
  2. Create instances and assign memory and CPU to them so you have fixed resources available for each of them.
  3. Create as many SQL Server virtual machines as you can cram onto the physical machine.  Note you will have to license the operating system for each of these virtual machines as well as SQL Server.  In the same way that SQL Server enterprise edition doesn’t ‘care’ how many virtual machines there are Windows Server DataCenter edition doesn’t either. 

If you want to know more about licensing and virtualization then you could do worse than watch this:

and check out Emma Healey’s licensing blog for virtualization articles.