October 2011 - Posts

Updated 29th may 2012 for sql server 2012 (below)

Microsoft have changed the licence model for multiple passive machines, you can now only have one secondary passive failover per primary - see http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/3/C/73CAD4E0-D0B5-4BE5-AB49-D5B886A5AE00/SQL_Server_2012_Licensing_Guide_Apr2012.pdf 

Personally I don't agree with this move, like previous editions you should be able to have multiple passive failovers.


If you were in any doubt at all that you need to license Standby / Passive Failover servers then the White Paper “Do Not Pay Too Much for Your Database Licensing” will settle those doubts.

I’ve had debate before people thinking you can only have a single instance as a standby machine, that’s just wrong; it would mean you could have a scenario where you had a 2 node active/passive cluster with database mirroring and log shipping (a total of 4 SQL Server instances) – in that set up you only need to buy one physical license so long as the standby nodes have the same or less physical processors (cores are irrelevant).

So next time your supplier suggests you need a license for your standby box tell them you don’t and educate them by pointing them to the white paper.

For clarity I’ve copied the extract below from the White Paper.

Extract from “Do Not Pay Too Much for Your Database Licensing

Standby Server

Customers often implement standby server to make sure the application continues to function in case primary server fails. Standby server continuously receives updates from the primary server and will take over the role of primary server in case of failure in the primary server.

Following are comparisons of how each vendor supports standby server licensing.

SQL Server
Customers does not need to license standby (or passive) server provided that the number of processors in the standby server is equal or less than those in the active server.

Oracle DB
Oracle requires customer to fully license both active and standby servers even though the standby server is essentially idle most of the time.

IBM licensing on standby server is quite complicated and is different for every editions of DB2. For Enterprise Edition, a minimum of 100 PVUs or 25 Authorized User is needed to license standby server.


The following graph compares prices based on a database application with two processors (dual-core) and 25 users with one standby server.

[chart snipped] 

Note   All prices are based on newest Intel Xeon Nehalem processor database pricing for purchases within the United States and are in United States dollars. Pricing is based on information available on vendor Web sites for Enterprise Edition.

Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition
25 users (CALs) x $164 / CAL + $8,592 / Server = $12,692 (no need to license standby server)

Oracle Enterprise Edition (base license without options)
Named User Plus minimum (25 Named Users Plus per Core) = 25 x 2 = 50 Named Users Plus x $950 / Named Users Plus x 2 servers = $95,000

IBM DB2 Enterprise Edition (base license without feature pack)
Need to purchase 125 Authorized User (400 PVUs/100 PVUs = 4 X 25 = 100 Authorized User + 25 Authorized Users for standby server) = 125 Authorized Users x $1,040 / Authorized Users = $130,000


When considering buying a laptop that’s going to cost me around £5,000 I really need to justify the purchase from a business perspective; my Lenovo W700 has served me very well for the last 2 years, it’s an extremely good machine and as solid as a rock (and as heavy), alas though it is limited to the 8GB.

As SQL Server 2012 approaches and with my interest in working in the Business Intelligence space over the next year or two it is clear I need a powerful machine that I can run a full infrastructure though virtualised.

My requirements

For High Availability / Disaster Recovery research and demonstration

Machine for a domain controller
Four machines in a shared disk cluster (SQL Server Clustering active – active etc.)
Five  machines in a file share cluster (SQL Server Availability Groups)

For Business Intelligence research and demonstration

Not entirely sure how many machine I want to run here, but it would be to cover the entire BI stack in an enterprise setting, sharepoint, sql server etc.

For Big Data Research

I have a fondness for the NoSQL approach to scalability and dealing with large volumes so I need a number of machines to research VoltDB, Hadoop etc.

As you can see the requirements for a SQL Server consultant to service their clients well is considerable; will 8GB suffice, alas no, it will no longer do. I’m a very strong believer that in order to do your job well you must expense it, short cuts only cost you time, waiting 5 minutes instead of an hour for something to run not only saves me time but my clients time, I can do things quicker and more importantly I can demonstrate concepts.

My W700 with the 8GB of RAM and SSD’s cost me around £3.5K two years ago, to be honest I’ve not got the full use I wanted out of it but the machine has had the power when I’ve needed it, it’s served me and my clients well.

Alienware now do a model (the M18x) with 32GB of RAM; yes 32GB in a laptop! Dual drives so I can whack a couple of really good SSD’s in there, a quad core with hyper threading i7 and a decent speed.

I can reduce the cost of the memory by getting it from Crucial, so instead of £1.5K for 32GB it will be around £900, I can also cost save on the SSD as well. The beauty about the M18x is that it is USB3.0, SATA 3 and also really importantly has eSATA, running VM’s will never be easier, I can have a removeable SSD with my VM’s on it and can plug it into my home machine or laptop – an ideal world!

The initial outlay of £5K is peanuts compared to the benefits I’ll give my clients, I will be able to present real enterprise concepts, I’ll also be able to give training on those real enterprise concepts and with real, albeit virtualised machines.