Need to Upgrade from SQL Server 2005? Here’s a Licensing Roadmap

Upgrade from SQL Server 2005

Microsoft has made it crystal clear that “Extended support for SQL Server 2005 ends on April 12, 2016.” What exactly does that mean? No more security updates. No more feature updates. No more nothin’.

Although your license is probably perpetual and legally you can keep using the product forever, you will receive no further help from Microsoft to keep your SQL environment protected and healthy.

So, it’s time to upgrade! What do you need to know? I’ll address the licensing side of things and let one of the Mirazon engineers address the technical issues in a later post.

What Do You Need to Know?

The first thing I should mention is that SQL Server 2016 is right around the corner. The release date has not yet be announced (that I could find) but it is possible that it may be released before the April 12 end of support date for SQL Server 2005. But that will cut things pretty close and planning a successful SQL migration can take months. So let’s forget about SQL 2016 for now and talk about upgrading from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2014.

If you’re still using SQL 2005, then I’m going to take a wild guess that your license is not covered with Software Assurance (SA). In that case, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and purchase some new licenses. Mirazon recommends you purchase them through one of the volume licensing programs. Open License or Open Value are the best routes to go if you are a small or medium business.

But what changes have been made to SQL licensing over the years? What pitfalls do you need to be aware of? If you are jumping from SQL 2005 to SQL 2014, the good news is that there have not been too many changes. SQL is still available in various editions, and you still have two options for licensing it: either with a server license + CALs or a processor license (which requires no CALs). But there are a few things you should know.

Edition Changes

First, let’s talk about editions. Back in SQL 2005, there were four editions: SQL 2005 Express, Workgroup, Standard, & Enterprise

Today, there are six editions: SQL 2014 Express, Web, Developer, Standard, Business Intelligence (BI) & Enterprise

Microsoft provides some basic info on each version here.

SQL 2014 Express is still free. So if that is all you need, you can download the 2014 version here.

SQL 2014 Web is intended to service websites and must be purchased through a hosting partner.

SQL 2015 Developer is for (you guessed it!) developers. It’s dirt cheap, but is restricted to testing and development only. You are forbidden to use it in a production environment. Anyone caught using it improperly will be thrown into a volcano. (Not really, just making sure you’re still awake.)

SQL 2015 Standard, BI, and Enterprise are a more complicated, so the rest of this post will focus on those editions.

Core Licenses

A second change you need to be aware of is that the “processor license” is no longer a processor license. It has been transformed into a “core license.” So instead of counting the processors in your server, you will need to count how many cores are sitting inside those processors. If you have a server with a quad-core processor, then in SQL 2005 you just needed one-processor license. But in SQL 2014, that server will need four core licenses. The good news is that four core licenses cost about the same amount as what one processor license used to cost.

However, Microsoft now requires a four-core minimum purchase per processor, which makes things a little more complicated. So, licensing a dual-core processor will cost you the same amount of money as licensing a quad-core processor. You’ll still need to purchase four core licenses for that dual-core CPU even though it only has two cores. What if you have two processors in your server with two cores each? Can you split the four-core minimum purchase between two processors? Nope. Each processor needs its own set of four licenses, so you’re looking at purchasing eight core licenses to cover those four cores. Welcome to the new normal.

For more information about how core licenses work, see my blog post here. Of course, you could just avoid the whole thing by going the server/CAL route. But when is it more cost effective to go with server/CAL licenses rather than core licenses? I answer that question in my post here.

Virtual Machine Mobility

If you use virtualization, you should be aware of one other change. When SQL Server 2012 was released, Microsoft made vMotion/Live Migration rights an SA benefit. This policy has been carried over into SQL Server 2014 and is not likely to change anytime soon. In other words, if you intend to frequently migrate your virtual instance of SQL from one physical machine to another, then you need to purchase SA. See here for more details.

Active/Passive Clustering

In addition to virtual machine mobility, Software Assurance is also required when you have an active/passive cluster. In this environment, there are two instances of SQL running side by side: one is the active server which is handling all the production work, and the other is a passive server which is keeping up with the changes and standing by to take over if the active server fails.

In SQL 2005, 2008, and 2012, the license for the active server included the right to install SQL on a passive server. There was no extra charge for this feature. But in SQL 2014, that use right is not included with the license, it is now an SA benefit. So you will need to purchase SA with your new licensing if you want to use active/passive clustering.

How Do I Start?

So what is the process for deciding what SQL 2014 solution you should buy when you upgrade from SQL 2005?  This first step is to get familiar with how SQL 2014 is licensed. This post has provided you with an introduction. For more information, I recommend reading these posts:

Next, you will need to think carefully about which edition and licensing option will best meet your needs. You will need to decide two things:

  1. Which features do you need? See here for a comparison list.
  2. Which licensing option is more cost effective for your situation? Again, see my post here.

Lastly, you will need to decide whether or not you need SA and which licensing program to use. A value-added reseller like us can help you through those last steps.

Let me end with a word of encouragement … Although the task of upgrading your SQL 2005 environment to SQL 2014 may seem daunting, you are not alone. Mirazon is here to help. We can walk you through the licensing issues and help you with the technical side of things as well. Just give us a call. Leverage our knowledge and experience to migrate your business to a modern database solution.

If you have questions about Microsoft licensing or your upgrade from SQL Server 2005, send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404.