Guide to Microsoft SQL Server Licensing in Container Deployments

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SQL Server licensing guide

Microsoft SQL Server is a widely known relational database management system by Microsoft. As a database server, it is a software product with the primary role of storing and recovering data as requested by different software applications—which may run on the same computer or another computer across a network. Microsoft offers almost a dozen further editions of Microsoft SQL Server, aspired at diverse audiences and workloads varying from small single-machine applications to large Internet-facing applications with many concurrent users.

In this blog, we’ll dig deeper into Microsoft SQL Server licensing in Container Deployments.

Deploying Microsoft SQL Server Licensing in Container

If you have Software Assurance or the licenses are subscription licenses, then containers deployed inside the physical operating system are treated as virtual machines. When you count SQL license, treat each such container as a virtual machine regardless of if it is "Hyper-V isolated" or not.

The Software Asset Management application works with the ServiceNow® Discovery application to identify the information below in both on-premise and cloud environments:

  • The Docker containers via which your Microsoft SQL Server products are deployed.
  • The OS of the primary physical server the container runs on.
  • The connected Kubernetes clusters enable each container to run.
  • The number of virtual processor cores that are allocated to each container.
  • The Microsoft SQL Server version and edition are deployed through each container.

The Software Asset Management application uses the resulting data to create corresponding software installation records for your discovered containers. You can then reconcile these container-based software installations to track and optimize the license compliance of the Microsoft SQL Server products deployed through each container.

Please Note: You can utilize the Licensable Software Products Deployed on Containers report to acquire visibility into the software products deployed across both on-premise and cloud environments using Docker containers.

Kindly refer to the guide to learn the details about the SQL Server 2019 license.

What is Container?

Containers are executable software packages containing all the dependencies and code necessary to set up and run a program. Without changing the program's configuration, you may deploy and operate the same application consistently across any computing environment, such as a desktop computer or the cloud, with the help of a container. Each container's operating system (OS) is also virtualized, enabling the swift and simple deployment of considerable isolated applications within the same computing environment.

Supported Microsoft SQL Server licensing models in container deployments

  • You need to license each container as a standalone device. Licensing is based on the number of virtual CPUs (vCPUs) found on each container, with a minimum of four per core licenses per container.
  • You must license each container using a server (per instance or server) license. You must also license each user or device accessing the primary physical server running these containers using a user or device CAL license.

Server licenses enable you to license container-based software installations on your physical servers. To license only a specific number of installations on a physical server, use a server (per instance) license or a server (per server) license for all installations on a physical server.

CAL licenses are client access licenses that offer a set number of users or devices access to the primary physical server on which your containers are running. To grant a set number of users access to a physical server, regardless of how many devices those users access the server through, use a user CAL license.

To grant a set number of devices access to a physical server; however, how many users are accessing the server via those devices, use a device CAL license.

How to License SQL Server 2022 in containers?

SQL Server is compatible with Linux and Docker; therefore, you can use Docker to run it in containers. Several discrete apps can be run simultaneously on a single system using containers. Compared to virtual machines, which offer greater isolation and use more resources, they are typically lighter and quicker to start and stop. An operating system environment (OSE), defined as all or a portion of an operating system instance or a virtual operating system instance with a separate machine identity, is a container or virtual machine for licensing purposes.

For each virtual core (v-core) or virtual processor/CPU/thread supporting the container, you must purchase a core license if you want to run SQL Server in containers and use the Per Core licensing model. Each container has a minimum of four licenses, and each v-core corresponds to a hardware thread. Microsoft offers the Flexible Virtualization Benefit, which includes flexible reassignment criteria if you have a lot of containers and need to move them around to reallocate resources.

But, regardless of the number of virtual processors, you must purchase one server license for each container running SQL Server if you're utilizing the Server+CAL model. So, if you wish to run Standard Edition on six containers, you will need six server licenses. Please note that a CAL will be required for each person or device accessing SQL Server on the container.

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