SQL 2014 Licensing Update

The objective of this article is to review the publicly available documentation available on SQL Server.

  • This will look at the publicly available information upon general availability for SQL 2014 on April 1st 2014
  • This article is not intended to replace the Product Use Rights or Product List or other binding contractual documents
  • The Use Rights or Terms of Service for each Product or Version are available within the Product Use Rights
  • Further product-specific conditions or limitations on use of products are in the Product List
  • Please be aware that any licensing information could be subject to change. This document confers no rights and is provided for information purposes only.
  • Please be aware, my own emphasis may have been added to quotations and extracts from 3rd party sources.
  • As always, If you would like to book a consultation, available under NDA , please drop me a note via email


The Challenge

The objective of this article is to review the publicly available documentation  on SQL Server to support clients whom continue to deploy  prior release(s) of SQL but want to understand the implications of the release of SQL 2014. This will look at a high conceptual level at the impact to disaster recovery and deployment of SQL instances on Virtual Machines (VMs) to establish the key recommendations to implement in your organisation.


Key Findings

Understanding Which Software Use Terms Apply

It is recommended that an organisation should be aware of when a particular Product Specific License Terms should be applicable. This can be incredibly useful in understand whether current deployment footprint falls within the SQL 2008 R2, 2012 or 2014 licensing schema.

  • Product Use Rights for the originally licensed version and edition apply even when adopting downgrade or cross-edition deployment rights.
  • Upon upgrade from a prior version, the Product Use Rights for the version running apply, subject to exception from the Product List.
  • The Product Use Rights in effect on the effective date of an Enterprise Enrollment will apply to the use of the then-current versions until upgrade to a new version.
  • Upon upgrade, the Product Use Rights in effect upon General Availability (GA) will apply.
  • In both cases, If Microsoft elect to update a subsequent release of the Product Use Rights, the software use terms will not apply unless they are elected to by the customer.
  • For customers that elect to leverage downgrade rights, the Product Use Rights for the version licensed, not the version running will apply.
  • Microsoft do caveat that should a legacy product have components not are not part of the version licensed, any Product Use Rights specific to those components will apply.


A Question of Support

Standard Edition technical specifications continue to improve with the release of SQL 2014, raising the physical memory maximum of 128 GB, representing double the previous maximum utilisation (see table below for a full comparison)The increased memory capacity, combined with a public mainstream support roadmap for SQL 2014 until July 9th 2019, and an estimated release cycle of 2 years would support confidence in continued investment in the edition and Software Assurance (SA). Customers that continue to run legacy versions 2008 R2 and 2008, should be aware of the termination of mainstream support on July 9th 2014 and termination of extended support on July 9th 2019.


The Critical Value of SA

Microsoft continue to drive the business case for Software Assurance (SA) through the incremental evolution in the licensing schema for virtualization rights.

  • The principal business driver for Software Assurance (SA) is not ‘New Version Rights’ but enablement of dynamic reassignment of licenses within a datacentre, to the Azure platform or an approved hosting partner.
  • The SQL ‘Failover Rule’ is now included within Software Assurance (SA);
    • Under prior precedent, a primary licensed server would include an extended use right to run a secondary passive SQL instance in a separate OSE, and also provide temporary support during a failover event (commonly interpreted as 30 days) in a secondary unlicensed server.
    • Upon release of SQL 2014, the extended use right to operate a passive instance was incorporated into Software Assurance (SA) and Microsoft confirmed a requirement for license reassignment at point of failover.
    • Upon expiration of Software Assurance (SA), the passive instances would become licensable.
    • The requirement for Software Assurance (SA) extends to all SQL CALs when adopting a Server/CAL license model



A Limitation on Multiplexing

Multiplexing is defined as a Universal License Term and will apply to all products licensed through Volume Licensing . Under the hierarchy of the Product Use Rights, a Universal License Term will apply unless explicitly retracted or amended under General License Terms and Product Specific License Terms within the document.

  • For  SQL 2012 Business Intelligence Edition, as licensed under  the Server+CAL licensing model, users and devices that indirectly access SQL Server data through another application or hardware device required CALs, and exposed some customers to a large or unknown number of external users
  • Microsoft reigned in the multiplexing rule for SQL 2014  BI Edition to exclude users or devices that access SQL solely through batching process.



Disaster Recovery – Check the Fine Print

Many organisations elect to leverage the extended use right of ‘Disaster Recovery Rights’ within Software Assurance (SA) but don’t critically evaluate the technical reality of the DR solution as compared to binding terms of the Product Use Rights 

Under the April 2014 Product Use Rights, the OSE on the disaster recovery server can run only during the following exception periods:

  • For brief periods of disaster recovery testing within one week every 90 days
  • During a disaster, while the production server being recovered is down
  • Around the time of a disaster, for a brief period, to assist in the transfer between the primary production server and the disaster recovery server

A notable exception within the April 2014 Product Use Rights – this excludes patch management.


Final Thoughts

Business Intelligence Edition 

The ‘Multiplexing Rule’ should reasonably protect and maintain a proportional and scalable commercial licensing model to ensure financial protection for Microsoft, and the Universal License Terms ensures this isn’t limited by hardware or software that pool connections, reroute information, or reduce the number of devices or users that directly access, or use a server product. Accordingly, interpretation and application of this rule for external users as well as internal users should be independently and respectively assessed based on the technical reality of the server infrastructure and processes; the update in policy to access solely via batch processes like ETL for Business Intelligence (BI) Edition is a welcomed revision.


Software Assurance

On April 1st 2012 upon General Availability (GA) of SQL 2012, Microsoft removed support for license mobility in the SQL Enterprise 2012 Edition ‘license’ and incorporated this extended use right within Software Assurance (SA). The prior omission of ‘license mobility within server farms’ was amended by inclusion of this within Software Assurance (SA) across all 2012 Editions. This incremental reassignment of business critical extended use rights from a perpetual license to within a maintenance model was continued under SQL 2014 with the curtailing of the ‘Failover Rule’. As most organisations have database sprawl across physical and high availability virtual server environments, the onus on optimum and correct assignment of license and maintenance assets is critical to support cost avoidance and limit commercial risk.




  • Organisations should review the effective date of all enrollments, and review all binding documentation to critically evaluate the software use terms to apply.
  • License mobility is a strong driver for Software Assurance if your organisation intends to deploy SQL in a virtual environment.
  • Software Assurance enables asset mobility to authorised 3rd party server environments, and supports cost avoidance of failover and disaster recovery solutions.
  • Stakeholders should critically evaluate the technical reality of server infrastructure to ensure conformity with software use restrictions of extended use rights i.e. passive failover instances and disaster recovery.
  • Optimum and valid assignment of legacy assets can support ongoing cost avoidance (with strict controls and policies to support ongoing compliance).
  • Organisations should consider upgrade from SQL Business Intelligence 2012 to 2014 to limit exposure to the ‘Multiplexing Rule’ Edit: The June Product List 2014 states (Page 26) the “CAL waiver for Batch Jobs described in the April 2014 PUR also applies to the 2012 version of that Product”. 
  • Implement a hardware and software discovery workstream to evaluate the technical reality of current (and planned) server infrastructure for SQL Server to ensure compliance and cost avoidance through optimum assignment of license and maintenance assets.
  • Evaluate deployed software products exiting mainstream and extended support – a comprehensive products exiting mainstream and extended support on July 9th 2014 are available here



This website is a way to give back to the licensing community and as an information resource for all customers that work with Microsoft software and licensing. I hope you find it of value.

Tony Mackelworth is Head of Microsoft Advisory Services at SoftwareONE

If you would like to book an in-depth Licensing Workshop or Microsoft Strategy Workshop please drop me an email and connect with me on Twitter

Tony lives with his wife in Oxford, England.



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