How much does Microsoft SQL Server cost?

Short Answer

List price for Microsoft SQL Server ranges from $230 for a single user to $15,123 for a 2-core Enterprise Edition license.

In-Depth Answer

List pricing for editions of SQL Server that require production licensing for commercial use is:

  • $15,123 for a 2-core Enterprise Edition license
  • $3,945 for a 2-core Standard Edition license
  • $989 for a single Standard Edition Server license (combine with CALs)
  • $230 for a single user- or device-based Client Access License (CAL) (combine with Server)

Price discounts are available for enterprise companies and adding Software Assurance (SA) incurs an annual fee of 25% of the license cost, calculated differently per contract type. Deeper discounts are given for larger organizations and SA fees can vary based on timing.

For enterprises, while getting reseller pricing is the most accurate, you can estimate price discounts for volume licensing starting with a 27% discount to list pricing. From there, Microsoft considers various thresholds – generally level A to D (lowest to highest volume) – for companies to secure an additional ~6.5% discount per level. For example, using list price for a SQL Server Enterprise 2-core license, estimated “Level A” volume pricing would be $11,040 using the 27% discount. A customer with Level C pricing would receive an additional ~13% discount, reducing the license price to $9,604.

When you buy licenses with SA, you can pay for the license up front or over the contract duration. If you select to pay for the license up front, you also pay for SA up front. But if you pay for the license over time or if you buy in the middle of the contract term, what you spend on SA varies by program. The Microsoft Product & Services Agreement (MPSA) supports buying three years of SA with every purchase, just like starting a new contract, or having the first year of SA prorated based on a common anniversary date.

When you start an Enterprise Agreement (EA), you pay equal annual amounts for SA. But licenses acquired mid-contract via true-up – an up-front purchase for new deployments deferred until the next contract anniversary date – include SA where the first year is prorated at 6 months (50%) but the remaining years are the annual price. This means that a deployment made soon after the contract anniversary will get more “value” from the SA proration compared to a deployment made with only a month remaining until anniversary. Knowing when to buy and how to pull deployments forward, or push them out, can enable cost savings or negotiation leverage.

The last programmatic discount available is through an EA called the Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE). New licenses are discounted by 15%, and SA renewals are discounted 5%. The potential gotcha with this agreement requires all SQL Server deployments to be licensed under the SCE, and some customers could be surprised with a significant true-up if non-SCE licenses were used for deployments without agreement from Microsoft to do so.

No-cost editions include Developer, used for non-production, and Express, typically for smaller scale deployments. Hosting companies have an additional option with the Web edition, though pricing isn’t published.

For non-production use, companies typically buy user-based Visual Studio subscriptions , which grant on-premises rights for commercial editions, to avoid commercial licensing costs. Unfortunately, Visual Studio subscriptions can vary significantly in cost and on-premises software use rights vary based on the purchasing vehicle and the subscription edition.

In summary, SQL Server licensing is complex. Remend can answer the following questions:

  • Should we license by attributes of the server, VM, host, users, or… something else?
  • Is the server categorized as production, non-production (dev, test, staging…)?
  • Are we using automated or manual failover for DR?
  • Are we using the server to perform transactions with our customers, or our own SaaS offering that we sell to customers?
  • Do we need Software Assurance (SA)? Should we buy volume licenses to use in the cloud?
  • Do we commit to an organization-wide agreement to get more discounts or buy SQL Server ad-hoc?
  • Building the right procurement framework will help translate the requirements into a licensing plan.

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