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Tag Archives: CALs

From July 1st, on-premise User CAL pricing will increase 15% across all Microsoft volume licensing programs. On-premise Device CAL pricing will not change.

Microsoft CAL (client access license) licenses are available both on a per user and per device basis and were priced the same up until December 2012. The on-premise User CAL increase is another sign that Microsoft’s Mobile First, Cloud First strategy continues to steer the direction of the company. It is also a move that encourages customers to adopt Microsoft Office365 cloud solutions as the per user CAL increase only impacts on-premise deployments and not cloud based ones.

Notes and comments:

  • On-premise Device CAL pricing will not change.
  • Customers that have purchased user CALs on a fixed price annuity agreement (Enterprise Agreement, ESA, SCE, OVS, OVP) won’t be affectedduring the term of their current agreement.
  • Now is the time to consider a cloud based agreement such as Office 365 Enterprise, Enterprise Mobility Suite and Enterprise Cloud Suite (dependent on the size of your organization).
  • Forestall the July price increase by purchasing on-premise User CALs in June.

If you have any questions or queries call our Microsoft Licensing Team on 021 4515590 or email

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So your new server is up and running and you have of course correctly licensed it with Windows Server 2012. Now you want to get on with the real task, installing SQL Server 2012. But what about the pesky licensing for SQL itself, well the licensing surrounding SQL Server can seem complicated initially but the basics are relatively easy to get a handle on.

First of all you’ll need to purchase the server license itself. You can choose between three options here*, depending on what you need to get done.

Starting at the top end, SQL Server 2012 Enterprise is what would be required for Mission Critical and Tier 1 applications, high availability and Data Warehousing. Click here for more information.
The ‘middle ground’ offering is new with the 2012 release – SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence (BI). BI edition offers the full suite of powerful BI capabilities in SQL Server 2012, including PowerPivot and Crescent. One major focus of this edition is empowering end users with BI functionality. This will be ideal for projects that need advanced BI capabilities but don’t require the full OLTP performance and scalability of Enterprise Edition. It allows for ‘Managed self-service BI’ and scalable analytics. Click here for more information.

SQL Server 2012 Standard is the entry level SQL license for small to medium network scenarios. Standard edition is designed for departmental databases that require only basic database functionality and basic BI functionality. Click here for more information.

Standard suits most SMB scenarios – that said, the linked resources above should have all the information you need to decide which is right for your set-up.

CALs and Cores

As with the Windows Server licensing you will also need to license each user or device connecting to the server in question. Devices and Users are licensed by purchasing Client Access Licenses, or CALs. The type of CAL needed is usually decided by which is more cost effective, i.e. do you have more users or devices? There is however another option which allows unlimited users/devices – this is known as the ‘per core’ option.

Decisions, decisions…

As outlined above there are two distinct ways to license the CAL side of things. You can license the server and then each device or user connecting to it OR purchase a ‘per core’ SQL license. The ‘per core’ option licenses the server and allows an unlimited amount of devices or users to connect to it. If you go for the ‘per core’ model, you will need to license a minimum of 4 Cores per processor. The good news is that each license includes 2 cores, so your minimum purchase here will be 2 licenses. There is a ‘Core Factor’ that needs to be considered but in general it is simply 1:1. Learn more about the ‘Core Factor’ (PDF).

The decision (between CAL and Core model) may be influenced by the size of your network or by the role assigned to the SQL Server – for example, a web facing server with a limitless or unknown amount of devices and users connecting. If all this wasn’t complicated enough – Microsoft have restricted the CAL/Core option to certain SQL 2012 editions. So once you have an idea which model fits best you now have to weigh the answer against the available editions. To this end, SQL Standard 2012 can be licensed by one or other of these methods. SQL BI 2012 can only be licensed Server and CAL, while SQL Enterprise 2012 can only be licensed ‘per core’. So as you can see, your choice of SQL 2012 edition may be affected by both functionality and ‘target group size’. Here’s a handy chart that breaks down the edition functionality and the licensing options available for each:

SQL 2012 Editions Comparision

SQL 2012 Editions

Virtualisation Considerations
A common consideration when licensing SQL is the virtual environment you might be planning. In short you will need to license each individual VM or license all physical servers for Enterprise edition. Adding Software Assurance in both cases here will enable License Mobility. License Mobility is necessary if you need to re-assign the license within a 90 day timeframe, e.g. in a server farm.

This blog entry is meant as a beginners’ guide to licensing SQL as you can see, there are many nuances that can surface depending on the licensing scenario. Feel free to contact me if you have any queries or suggestions. Micromail is a Microsoft Gold Partner for Volume Licensing and provide licensing consultancy for SQL Server.

Sean Deasy.

*Excluding SQL Express, a product free-to-download – aimed at very small user scenario.

ImageSo you’re buying a server? You’ve decided on the hardware and need to address the licensing. Where to begin?!  First you’ll need to license the Server OS of course but which one and how many do you need? Below I will outline the basics of getting up and running with the licensing surrounding Windows Server OS.

At its heart, this process isn’t too complicated. You’ll simply need to license the server and then each device or user connecting to that server. You can choose which Server license suits best, depending on some factors I’ll discuss shortly. Devices and Users are licensed by purchasing Client Access Licenses, or CALs. The type of CAL needed is usually decided by which is more cost effective, again more on this later.

It is worth pointing out initially that with Microsoft licensing, you must purchase the most recent version of the license. However you can choose to deploy a previous version if you please. This ‘downgrade right’ may come into play if your hardware necessitates a previous version for example. The great thing about this licensing right is that you can always deploy the newer version at a later date if you manage to persuade your finance guys to upgrade your system!

With this in mind, new version releases can see new licensing rules come into play. While you might be planning to deploy the version‘n-1’ of the software in question, your purchase will be governed by the version and licensing rules. In my outline below I will only be discussing Windows Server 2012, as this is the current version.

So, let’s get started – you’ll need to decide what edition of Windows Server you’d like to run. The good news is that with the 2012 release things became a lot simpler – there are now 4 editions of Windows Server – Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacentre. I’ll be dealing with Standard and Datacentre below*

Windows Server Standard 2012 will suit standalone servers or servers with low to medium virtualization requirements, allowing two virtual instances of the Server OS to be run on up to two processors for every license purchased. The number of licenses you need per server is determined by the number of processors on that server and the number of virtual machines you plan to run. Note – each license will cover up to 2 processors on any one server. You have a server with 4 processors? You will need to purchase 2 licenses. Want to virtualise? Go for it – up to a limit of 4 Virtual Operating Systems Environments (VOSE) of course (in this case)! You can add as many licenses as you like per server but at a certain point (10 or more) it becomes more cost effective to go with the Datacentre edition, which offers unlimited VOSE.

I’ll pause a moment here to note that the product stack/features of Standard and Datacentre are identical. The difference between the editions is essentially the allowed virtual instances. Why virtual instances? Well to cut down on hardware outlay in short. As long as you can manage and maintain a correctly licensed (!) virtual load, the virtual license rights of these new editions can seriously work to your advantage, more anon…

Windows Server Datacentre 2012 is the top of the line offering – as many users as you’d like to license, unlimited virtual instances and the full stack. Remember the feature stack is the same as Standard – this is where your virtual load plans will come into play. If you’re looking at running 10 or more virtual instances, the Datacentre becomes better value. Again you’re licensing per physical processor here. If you have a server with two processors a single Datacentre license will allow you to run unlimited VOSE (remember each allows for up to two processors per server)! If you have a four processor server, you’ll need to purchase 2 licenses.

Those of you familiar with Server licensing may be confused by the ‘per processor’ terminology used here. In the past ‘per processor’ was used strictly to denote specific server licenses that did not need corresponding CALs. With the 2012 release there was a change in terminology and this is no longer the case…more on this in a later post about SQL Server – feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this. In short per processer now simply means counting the processors per server in order to purchase the correct amount of licenses.

Okay, given the brief outline above you’ve come to a decision on which edition of Server 2012 suits your needs. You will now need to consider licensing those devices and users connecting to the server…

CALs are strictly a licensing requirement. You get nothing ‘in your hand’ as such. You should receive a license confirmation and/or receipt of purchase from your reseller of course but as regard deployment – there is no work to do here. So how do you choose which you need? Again this is relatively simple…Buy Device CALs if you have more users than devices; User CALs if you have more devices than users!

The standard Microsoft scenario for Device CALs is the ‘shift worker’ scenario. A fixed desktop has three distinct users over a 24 hour period – three workers, each working 8 hour shifts. You can purchase a User CAL for each of these workers if you please, or simply 1 x Device CAL – as you can see, it is best to purchase 1 x Device CAL. Likewise there are many examples of when purchasing a User CAL is more cost effective than covering each device an employee may use throughout the day. This scenario is true for the Standard and Datacentre editions outlined above.  See here for more details.

This guide to Windows Server licensing is meant as a beginner’s guide. There are plenty of nuances to Microsoft licensing and server licensing in particular but the above info should be enough to point you in the right direction.

* These are essentially the Volume License options, there are also two options which may suit smaller set-ups:

Windows Server Foundation 2012

Windows Server Essentials 2012 

You can contact Sean:, if you have any queries, or if you are looking for a quote. Our product pages are here (Datacenter) and here (Standard)