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We have a SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition (30 cores) production database. We're using Always ON to provision a read only replica. Does the read replica instance also need to be Enterprise Edition with support for 30 cores?

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Enterprise Edition is required on the readable replica, but it doesn't have to have the same hardware. You could go with a server with less cores and thus need less licenses.

  • If it is less cores - when the secondary becomes new primary due to failover, it should also handle the workload that the old primary used to. I would recommend all the nodes of AG match in-terms of hardware - disk, cpu and memory and all sql server configuration. – Kin Shah Mar 14 '18 at 18:49
  • @Kin I agree, but that wasn't the question. My readable secondaries have always been identical hardware as the primary. But Randy didn't ask that. – Tara Kizer Mar 14 '18 at 19:01
  • :-) .. I still think its better to highlight since most people dont realize until they failover to a less spec'ed server and run into unexpected issues. – Kin Shah Mar 14 '18 at 19:05
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From the licensing Link (PDF)

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 SA. If it is serving data, such as reports to clients running active SQL Server workloads, or performing any “work”, such as additional backups being made from secondary servers, then it must be licensed for SQL Server.

Make sure you do a 1-1 matching between Primary and Secondary replicas since in the event of failover, your secondary (now primary) should be able to handle the same workload as the old primary.

Note: Since you have 30 cores, make sure that you are utilizing your resources and not having your cores run idle .. time to do some consolidation if possible.

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To the OP - no, it does not. It looks like the AG is being used for read scaling only. The AG does not have to be configured for automatic failover. In that case, a server with fewer resources would be acceptable.

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