Licensing How To: SQL 2014 Licensing Changes

Licensing How To: SQL 2014 Licensing Changes

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Summary:  Microsoft SQL Server 2014 delivers mission-critical performance and introduces new in-memory capabilities built-in to the core database for OLTP and Data Warehousing, which complements the existing in-memory capabilities for the most comprehensive in-memory database solution in market.  SQL Server 2014 also comes with a few licensing related updates and in this Licensing How To post, we cover the two key licensing changes for SQL Server 2014.

The Licensing How To series posts are provided by our Customer Service Presales and Licensing team members.  These scenario based licensing topics are written on trending topics and issues based on their interactions with customers, Partners and field sellers.  For more posts from the Licensing How To series, search the “Licensing How To” tag on this blog.

The primary edition offerings for SQL Server 2014 are the same as SQL Server 2012.

With the introduction of SQL Server 2014, there are two updates to licensing.  First, passive fail-over rights are now a benefit of Software Assurance (SA), rather than a feature of the underlying license. Second, SQL Server Business Intelligence (BI) Edition sees a relaxed multiplexing policy where users/devices that access the SQL BI server via “batch process” do not require Client Access Licenses (CAL).  These two changes are explained in more detail below, and codified in the Product Use Rights and Product List.  All other licensing remains the same as SQL Server 2012.

Passive fail-over rights are now a Software Assurance Benefit

Passive fail-over rights permit a customer to run passive instances of SQL Server in a separate operating system environment (OSE) without requiring the passive server to be licensed for SQL Server.  A passive SQL Server instance is one that is not serving SQL Server data to clients or running active SQL Server workloads.  This passive fail-over instance can run on a server other than the licensed server, but cannot have higher license requirements than the active (e.g. if licensed per core, the passive server cannot have more cores/threads than the active). 

With SQL Server 2012, the rights to run a passive server was included with the SQL Server license.  For practical purposes however, active SA coverage was required to fully leverage passive failover rights.  When a failure occurs and the passive server becomes active, it becomes the primary server and must be licensed.  This can be accomplished by reassigning the license from the failed primary server.  Without SA coverage, license reassignment cannot take place more frequently than 90 days, meaning the original primary server cannot resume the active workload(s) for 90 days.  With active SA coverage, SQL licenses can be reassigned as often as needed within the server farm*, a benefit called License Mobility within Server Farms.  

In SQL Server 2014, passive fail-over rights are an SA benefit.  This means that active SA is now required to install your passive instance(s).  Combined with the License Mobility within server farm SA benefit, you now have full flexibility to manage your high availability environment for both planned and unplanned downtime.

* Server Farm means a single data center or two data centers each physically located:

    • in a time zone that is within four hours of the local time zone of the other (Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and not DST), and/or

    • within the European Union (EU) and/or European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Figure 1 – Comparison between 2012 and 2014: rights to run a passive server are now a Software Assurance benefit.

Multiplexing Rules Relaxed for Business Intelligence Edition

Multiplexing is when customers use hardware or software to pool connections, reroute information, or reduce the number of devices or users that directly access or use a product.  Multiplexing does not reduce the number of Microsoft licenses required.  Any user or device endpoint that accesses the server, files, data or content provided by the server that is made available through an automated process requires a client access license or CAL.  For more information on Multiplexing, see the Multiplexing Brief.

With SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence (BI) Edition, the multiplexing policy has been relaxed. SQL Server BI Edition (available only under the Server/CAL license model) may be used in scenarios where multiple data sources feed data into the server.  As a consequence under multiplexing, the end users/devices associated with those data sources would require CALs.  Under the relaxed multiplexing policy for SQL BI, CALs are not required for users or devices that access SQL Server BI Edition solely through a batching process.  “Batching” is defined as an activity that allows a group of tasks occurring at different times to be processed all at the same time.  Please note, that non-batch access requires CALs, this relaxed multiplexing policy applies only to the SQL BI Edition, and is applied retroactively to SQL BI 2012.


Figure 2 – Comparison between 2012 and 2014: relaxed multiplexing rules for BI server “batch” access.


Additional FAQ

Q:  If I license SQL 2014 and downgrade to an earlier version – do I still need active SA to use failover rights?

A:  Yes.  Customers who downgrade to an earlier version of a product are bound to the license terms for the version licensed not the version deployed.  In this case, you’ve license SQL 2014 and as a result, active SA coverage is required to use passive failover rights.

Q:  If I am using passive failover rights – and my SA coverage lapses (and I do not renew), can I continue to use my failover servers?

A: Active SA coverage is required to continue using the passive failover use rights.  If you do not renew SA, you must uninstall your passive failover instance(s), or buy additional licenses to cover the passive server(s). 

Q:  If I use the server/CAL model, do I need SA coverage on my SQL CALs to use passive fail over rights?

A:  Yes.  Active SA coverage on all of your SQL 2014 licenses is required to use passive failover rights.  If using the server/CAL model, active SA is required for server licenses assigned to your primary server(s), and CALs used to access them.

As covered above, there are two licensing changes introduced with SQL Server 2014.  For general information on SQL Server 2014 licensing consult the
Product Use Rights and Product List, visit the SQL Server 2014 website, download the Licensing Datasheet, and contact your Reseller, Microsoft Partner, or Account Team. 

This is one scenario and licensing situation. Each customer scenario can vary by deployment, usage, product version, and product use rights.  Always check your contract, and the current Products Use Rights document to confirm how your environment should be fully licensed.  The blogging team does not warrant that this scenario will be the right licensing solution for other similar cases.



  • If a customer purchased 2012 core licenses with SA, and their agreement (and their SA for SQL) ends today, do they retain failover rights without the need for SA?

  • Yes you retain the rights associated with 2012 Fail over rights. Only if you upgrade to or purchase 2014 licenses and downgrade to 2012 will you be required to include SA on those licenses for fail over. It makes it impossible to manage an environment with existing 2012 installs plus 2014 odwngrades.... how do you effectively determine which is which w/o adding another level of unnecessary management solely to enrich Microsoft

  • Remember that SA automatically migrates the license to the latest version. So in the above example even though the customer bought SQL 2012 and is using that version, having SA at the time of release of SQL 2014 turns that license into this latter version and thus the terms and conditions of 2014 apply

  • If SQL 2014 is installed on a VM using Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster Manager, is that considered as needing Passive Failover rights?

  • Correct, the SA effectively hoses you over in regards to SQL licensing. We found this out the hard way. Microsoft is NOT your friend.

  • My MS distributor says that external connector licences are not available for SQL Server 2014. Can you confirm that this is true? It seems strange and the above post doesn't mention it. (Note: I just asked the same question at, but it seems more appropriate here, sorry.)

  • Fletch,

    Correct. There is no external connector license. You will need to estimate your usage and overbuy now. We'll be tracking you and we'll nail you to the wall if you go over even ONE license. DO NOT test us on this matter. Perhaps you should just buy 3x as many licenses as you need just in case. That's what we are now recommending. Again, if you go over by even one license, you're going down.

    Thanks for choosing Microsoft. Have a great day.

  • Hi,
    1. Do we need SA in order to exercise Downgrade rights from SQL 2014 to SQL 2005/2008/2012?
    2. Does the Downgrade Right allow downgrade from SQL 2014 enterprise to SQL 2008 standard?
    3. Do we need active SA to run SQL2014 in a Vmware HA environment with multiple hosts.
    This means failover on vmware host level NOT on SQL and OS level.

  • Hi,
    1. Do we need SA in order to exercise Downgrade rights from SQL 2014 to SQL 2005/2008/2012?
    2. Does the Downgrade Right allow downgrade from SQL 2014 enterprise to SQL 2008 standard?
    3. Do we need active SA to run SQL2014 in a Vmware HA environment with multiple hosts.
    This means failover on vmware host level NOT on SQL and OS level.

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