Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence

2 November 2009

SQL Server Editions

Just a short post today about SQL Server editions. A quick reminder for all of us about the editions of SQL Server to use for our development and test servers. Many DW & BI developers don’t get involved in licensing, but even though it is not our decision at least we can point it out to the appropriate people. My point is: if we use Enterprise edition for Production, we need to use Developer edition for our Dev/UAT server, not Standard or Enterprise edition. This is because:

  1. Developer edition is 100% the same as Enterprise. Standard edition isn’t. There are many features that Standard edition doesn’t have. See list below. If we use Enterprise in Production and Standard edition for our Dev/UAT server, we can never be sure that it will work in Prod even though it works in Dev/UAT.
  2. Developer edition is a lot cheaper than Standard. 2008 developer edition retails at £50 in UK, whereas Standard is £4,325 (per processor, ex VAT*). Yes, it’s true that Developer edition is per developer, not per server like Standard and Enterprise, so if we have 10 developers we pay £500, but it’s still cheaper than Standard. A SQL Server with two dual-core processors costs £8,650. Even if we get 30% discount for volume licensing it’s still a lot more than the developer edition. There is a 10 CAL options (CAL=named user*) for £1,825, but BI systems tend to be used widely (hundreds of users) so it will cost more.
  3. The worse scenario is if we use Enterprise edition for Dev/Test server. In the UK, Enterprise retails at £17,285, per processor. A dev server with two dual-core processors will costs double of that, £34,570. Even with 30% discount it’s still a lot more than developer.

Notes: (those marked with *)

  1. All the prices I quoted are excluding VAT (Value Added Tax). This is because generally speaking companies will claim the VAT back. VAT rate is currently 15% but will be back to 17.5% on 1st Jan.
  2. CAL (Client Access Licence) can be a user or a device. The word “user” means a named user, not a concurrent user. The word “device” practically speaking means a PC or a laptop. A mobile phone running Windows is also a device. Practically speaking, some companies use “per device” rather than “per user” because it’s easier to count the number of PCs than the number of users. Note that to use CAL we need to buy the server licence first, see here.
  3. The prices above are from eCostSoftware. Dabs (ex VAT): £18,346 for Enterprise, £4,557 for Standard and £34 for Developer.
  4. The word “per processor” is exactly that: the chip. It’s not “per core”. We don’t count the number of cores or threads. See here and here for Microsoft multi-core policy on SQL Server licensing.
  5. For data warehousing and BI, companies tend to use powerful server. Well, naturally. Not only for the database engine, but also for the ETL server (SSIS) and OLAP server (SSAS). Because of the SQL Server licensing, server with 4 or 6-cores processors tend to be used more than single- or dual-core, for example on HP ProLiant DL580 G5, DELL PowerEdge R900 and Unisys 7400.

A feature comparison between Enterprise and Standard edition is here and here. In Data Warehousing and BI, there are many Enterprise features that we need to use, and they are not available in Standard edition (I’m talking about 2008 here): table and index partitioning, parallel index operations, database snapshots, index views, online operations, resource governor, backup compression, hot-add memory and CPU support, fast recovery, online page and file restore, parallel index operations, updated distribution partitioned views, data encryption, partitioned table parallelism, data compression, star join optimisations, change data capture. Hmmm, it’s probably useful if I write how these Enterprise features (DB engine and SSAS) are used in data warehousing and BI. I mean what they are used for, rather than repeating Books Online explaining what they are. But that’s for another post, not here.

For Analysis Services there are many features that we often take for granted, but they are not available in Standard edition: partitioned cubes, proactive caching, perspective, semi-additive measures, auto parallel processing, account intelligence, writeback, and linked dimensions. For SSIS, features that are not available in Standard are: fuzzy grouping and lookup, term extraction and lookup, dimension & partition processing destination adapters. And finally for SSRS: data-driven report subscriptions, report scale-out deployment, and infinite click-through in ad-hoc reports.

Some people have the impression that Developer edition can only have 5 connections. Perhaps this impression was caused by the restriction in MSDE in SQL Server 2000 where the workloads were throttled to 5 concurrent workloads. In SQL Server 2005 & 2008, the Developer edition has the same feature set as the Enterprise Edition; the only difference is the licensing policies.

Not exactly a short post, is it? 🙂

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