This article has been published recently in German but seems to be very interesting for a broader audience, why I decided to re-post it in English. Licensing is often a very important (and confusing) topic, especially when you’re designing a new infrastructure or service. With the growing adoption of virtualization in the datacenter, Microsoft has simplified their licensing model. Using the Datacenter Edition of Windows Server and System Center allowed the deployment of unlimited guests (virtual machines) on the licensed hosts.
However, with the release of Windows Azure Pack the question again came up, what licenses are required for this product? This requires to have a quick look on the architecture of the Microsoft Cloud Platform (a.k.a. CloudOS), which looks like the following:
Windows Azure Pack (WAP) is an independent product and available as a free and public download. To run the Portal or use the Management API’s, System Center is not necessarily required. But as soon as you configure WAP to offer “Infrastructure-as-a-Service” (IaaS), or you’re using workflows in SMA, System Center (primarily SCVMM and SMA) becomes mandatory. Also WAP has a dependency on SQL Server as the entire configuration, plans and consumption data are store in a database. Different to System Center, where SQL Server is part of the license (see System_Center_2012_R2_Licensing_Datasheet.pdf), there is no SQL Server license attached to WAP. This means, you will need to license SQL Server for WAP separately. Now as always, the devil is in the details! According to the Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) is it compliant to use a SQL Server (Standard Edition) for your WAP deployment if has been already licensed by the System Center license (see SPLA Partner FAQ Cloud Platform Suite Guest.pdf):
SQL Server 2012 Standard
This component is used only to support System Center 2012 R2 and/or Microsoft Azure Pack.
Depending on the scenario, with or without System Center, the licensing situation looks like the following:
|WAP without System Center||Windows Azure Pack||Free|
|WAP with System Center (IaaS)||Windows Azure Pack||Free|
|WAP with System Center (DBaaS)||Windows Azure Pack||Free|
|SQL Server (Tenant)||Required|
To conclude, if you are using WAP without System Center you would have to license SQL Server separately. Of course it would also be possible to use SQL Server Express Edition, but this isn’t recommended for a productive environment. Very important, the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server, which is very popular because of the Always On Availability Group support, has to be licensed with or without System Center as this isn’t covered.