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Sometimes customer is confused about the latest core based license for SQL Server 2014 Enterprise or Standard Version because previously it was Processor based license till SQL Server 2008. Many queries came to me on how to calculate actually sizing for SQL Server licenses. This article will guide you how to calculate licensing before you purchase SQL Server for your Database Server.  

About SQL Server 2014:

SQL Server 2014 delivers mission critical performance across all workloads with in-memory built-in, faster insights from any data with familiar tools, and a platform for hybrid cloud enabling organizations to easily build, deploy, and manage solutions that span on-premises and cloud.

The SQL Server 2014 editions align with how customers are deploying applications and solutions:


There are two main licensing models that apply to SQL Server:

Server + CAL Based Licensing: It provides the option to license users and/or devices, with low cost access to incremental SQL Server deployments. Only SQL Server Standard and Business Intelligence versions are available under this model.

Each server running SQL Server software requires a server license. Each user and/or device accessing a licensed SQL Server requires a SQL Server CAL.


Core-Based Licensing: It gives customers a more precise measure of computing power and a more consistent licensing metric, regardless of whether solutions are deployed on physical servers on-premises, or in virtual or cloud. To license a physical server, customers must license all the cores in the server. Determining the number of licenses needed is done by multiplying the total number of physical cores by the appropriate core factor found in the core factor table. A minimum of 4 core licenses is required for each physical processor on the server.

Both SQL Server Enterprise and Standard versions are available under this model.


How actually SQL Server 2014 Using the Per Core Licensing Model Works?

When running SQL Server in a physical OSE, all physical cores on the server must be licensed. Count the total number of physical cores in the server.


Let say, If you need 2 SQL Server Enterprise Physical Machine and “16 core (8-core processor) Server” each of them, You need 16 SQL Enterprise core license for 32 core (16 core each X 2).

Licensing for High Availability

For each server licensed with SQL Server 2014 and covered by active SA, customers can run up to the same number of passive failover instances in a separate, on-premises OSE to support failover events. A passive SQL Server instance is one that is not serving SQL Server data to clients or running active SQL Server workloads. The passive failover instances can run on a separate server. These may only be used to synchronize with the primary server and otherwise maintain the passive database instance in a warm standby state in order to minimize downtime due to hardware or software failure.

1. The secondary server used for failover support does not need to be separately licensed for SQL Server as long as it is truly passive, and the primary SQL Server is covered with active Software Assurance (SA).


2. But if Passive server hosted in cloud for failover, You need additional Licenses


3. Primary server licenses covered with SA include support for one secondary server only, and any additional secondary servers must be licensed for SQL Server. Note: The rights to run a passive instance of SQL Server for failover support are not transferable to other licensed servers for purposes of providing multiple passive secondary servers to a single primary server.


Reference Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Licensing Guide (Page 14)

Hope this is clear now when you need license for Passive Node.


Frequently Asked Question (FAQ):

1. Question: How SQL Server CAL license works with Multiple SQL Server (Same Version) instance? Does Multiple CALs required for same user to access multiple SQL Server Instances?

Answer: Each SQL Server 2014 CAL provides access to any number of current and/or prior version licensed SQL Server instances in a customer’s organization, regardless of the platform (32-bit, 64-bit or IA64) or product edition, including legacy SQL Server Workgroup and SQL Server for Small Business edition servers.

2. Question: How SQL Server Downgrade Version right works?

Answer: Cross Edition Rights are currently available for certain SQL Server products only and allow customers to deploy an alternate (usually lower) edition in place of the currently licensed edition. SQL Server cross edition rights can be combined with the version downgrade rights (available for all products offered under a Volume Licensing Agreement) that allow customers to deploy prior versions of the software in place of the currently licensed version. In some cases, rights to deploy prior versions of product editions other than the edition currently licensed may also be allowed.


Reference Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Licensing Guide (Page 21) for Downgrade rights.


3. Question: How many minimum license required for core based licensed?

Answer: A minimum of 4 core licenses is required for each physical processor on the server.

For SQL minimum should be 2 Licenses (4 Cores) to be compliant as per SQL Licensing policy, please find the attached file for SQL Server 2014 Licensing Datasheet. Also screen shot:


Thank you for reading this article and give your feedback to improve the article.

MJ Ferdous

Technical Specialist | Microsoft


Posted on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 12:11 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing

# re: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing
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Greetings, thank you for posting this.

Just wanted to confirm for a particular scenario if that's OK?

We are about to receive a server with 2 physical CPUs. We plan to run several Hyper-V VMs on the box. One of the VMs will be an MS SQL 2014 Standard server.

Based on one of the images in your post, it looks like we DON'T need to license 8 cores (2 x 4-cores per physical CPU), but that we can just license 4 cores, because it will be running in a VM. Does that sound about right?

We, of course, will not be giving the VM more than 4 cores to run on. We just want to make sure we have the licensing correct.

Meanwhile, this 'per core' licensing should free us from any further concerns about the number of users or devices accessing our SQL server, correct? We plan to start with ~20 users but we expect to be at ~100 users within 2 years.

Thank you very much for the clarification!


Left by Wright on Jul 23, 2016 3:36 AM

# re: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing
Requesting Gravatar...
Yes. you can just license for 4 cores as per as assign to VM.
Based on your 2nd query, No need worry about no of user for core based License. User can be unlimited.

Hope it is clear now
Left by MJ Ferdous on Jul 29, 2016 10:08 PM

# re: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing
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I have one question regarding licencing SQL 2016.
We use virtual enviorenment. I would like to know if I can licence only one VM with SQL Enterprise 2016 (8 virtual cores on this WM). Is this scenario supported.

Thank you
Left by Damjan on Aug 12, 2016 3:37 PM

# re: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing
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i want make a cluster active - passive with sql server 2014, but, the question is:

Can make this cluster with a standard licence of sql server 2014?

thanks for atvance
Left by Ernesto Solis on Sep 15, 2016 10:08 PM

# re: SQL Server 2014 Standard and Enterprise Licensing
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Hi There , I have installed ssms 2014 recently which was migrated from pervasive. I have 24 devices but when trying to access all 24 at one go they are only allowed to work on 16 devices. Any idea what is preventing this?
Left by raveshan chetty on Nov 28, 2017 1:53 PM

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