Microsoft changes SQL Server 2008 R2 virtualization licensing

With new R2 licensing, costs go up and unlimited virtualization rights on SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition go away

In the complex and frustrating world of virtualization licensing, Microsoft has had its ups and downs and caused its fair share of IT aggravation. Licensing Microsoft products in a physical world has often been seen as an overly complicated affair, and virtualization certainly doesn't make that process any easier.

x86 server virtualization has been around now for more than 10 years, and as the various server virtualization technologies continue to mature, more and more organizations are working toward migrating their applications over to a virtual instance. Unfortunately for some, it isn't a lack of technology features or maturity holding them back, it's a case of software licensing confusion -- and that's a shame.

[ Read Microsoft's recommendations for virtualization, servers, storage, and network considerations in the dynamic data center | And keep up with the latest virtualization news with InfoWorld's virtualization newsletter ]

In the last two years, the virtualization industry has finally gotten to the point where organizations are comfortable virtualizing their database servers. Oracle remains a challenge in this regard, but only because of its restrictive virtualization licensing and support practices, but Microsoft seemed to be making strides in this area with Microsoft SQL Server and a number of other Microsoft server applications. In 2008, the company introduced the Server Virtualization Validation Program and changed its stand on licensing issues with migrating virtual machines.

But as often takes place, one step forward is followed by two steps back. Organizations that operate Microsoft SQL Server may have to rethink their database virtualization strategy, thanks to the upcoming release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. The new R2 version adds quite a few new feature enhancements to the product, but it comes at a hefty price.

The new R2 version of SQL Server 2008 follows a similar path as the R2 version of Windows Server 2008. Microsoft is introducing a new Datacenter Edition to the product line to go along with the Standard and Enterprise versions, and here is where we start to see the licensing changes and the problems it may cause an organization take shape if they weren't ready for them.

The Enterprise Edition used to offer unlimited virtualization rights if all of the physical processors in the server were licensed. Now, with the introduction of the Datacenter Edition to the R2 product line, the Enterprise Edition for R2 only supports up to four operating system environments. To keep the unlimited virtualization rights that Enterprise consumers have become accustomed to, consumers will need to purchase the new Datacenter Edition, which costs twice as much as the Enterprise Edition: $54,990 without software assurance as compared to $27,495. Outside of the virtualization restrictions, licensing costs itself have gone up. Compared with previous retail pricing, costs associated with the Enterprise and Standard editions have gone up by almost 10 and 20 percent, respectively.

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