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SQL Server 2014 Goes Live

As expected, on April 1 Microsoft released to "general availability" an updated version of its SQL Server database, SQL Server 2014.

General availability implies that that the product can be purchased and used in a commercial setting. The SQL Server 2014 editions are described at this Microsoft "Buy" page.

Licensing details for SQL Server 2014 can be found in Microsoft's "Licensing Datasheet" publication (PDF), but it's an abbreviated description of the terms. Microsoft's more detailed April "Product Use Rights" document for SQL Server 2014 can be found at this link.

SQL Server 2014 is available for download today as a 180-day free trial version through Microsoft's TechNet Evaluation Center here.

Licensing Changes
The new licensing changes in SQL Server 2014 will affect organizations mostly in terms of their Software Assurance (SA) coverage. Those details are best described so far by Rob Horwitz in "Licensing Changes for SQL Server 2014," a publication that's freely available for an unspecified period of time. Horwitz is cofounder of Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based independent consultancy focused on Microsoft technologies.

SQL Server 2014 has the same editions and pricing as SQL Server 2012, according to Horwitz. He cited a few instances where organizations may face SA costs associated with the new SQL Server 2014 licensing.

For instance, Microsoft once allowed an exemption for instances of SQL Server that were used for passive failovers. Now, a passive failover machine "explicitly requires SA" coverage, according to the Directions on Microsoft publication. Organizations also likely face this circumstance if using older versions of SQL Server.

"However, dropping SA not only precludes the ability to use or claim passive failover rights for deployments of SQL Server 2012 or 2014 but it likely does the same even for deployments of older versions," Horwitz wrote. And that restriction may also pertain to organizations exercising SQL Server downgrade rights, he added.

The one solace in this licensing change is that the AlwaysOn Availability Groups technology used for high availability in SQL Server 2014 doesn't use passive servers, "therefore, the passive failover exemption does not apply," he explained.

Editions of SQL Server 2014
Organizations wanting some of SQL Server 2014's new and improved technologies, such as its in-memory online transaction processing and high availability features, can only get them by buying the SQL Server 2014 Enterprise edition, Horwitz noted. Microsoft also offers a Business Intelligence edition and a Standard edition of SQL Server 2014. The Enterprise edition is licensed by counting cores. The Business Intelligence edition is licensed by Server and Client Access Licenses (CALs). The Standard edition can be either licensed either via Server plus CALs or per core.

The Standard edition of SQL Server 2014 has access to 128 GB of physical memory, which is double what was available under SQL Server 2012 licensing, but its buffer pool is limited to "four times the RAM available to SQL Server," per Horwitz. The Enterprise edition, on the other hand, supports 2 terabytes of RAM or more, and "up to 32 times the RAM managed by SQL Server."

Microsoft is working to appease its customers, somewhat, by expanding the memory support in the Standard edition, according to Horwitz. The previous memory limitation had caused "significant consternation in the SQL Server community," he wrote.

Microsoft added "a waiver for batch jobs" with regard to requiring CALs with the Business Intelligence edition of SQL Server 2014. It corrects a licensing issue where all clients feeding data to the Business Intelligence edition might have required having CALs.

"By correcting a serious deficiency in SQL Server BI edition's original licensing model, the CAL waiver could make BI edition more attractive to customers as a departmental BI solution," Horwitz explained.

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