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I have few questions regarding the licensing of SQL Server when it comes to Always On:

Under which scenario / settings we can say that secondary replica is truly passive and will not be considered for licensing:

  1. "Readable Secondary" AG setting for all the replicas associated to Always On(including current Primary replica) should have setting either as “NO” or “Read-Intent Only” or it should be "NO" only?
  2. There should not be any Standalone Database? (not even any third party backup tool database such as "LiteSpeedLocal").
  3. Also the backup should not be configured to run on Secondary replica. Otherwise, the Secondary replica will not be truly passive. Is it true?

Any other things which we need to consider / look for in order to be 100% sure that the secondary replica will not require license?

closed as off-topic by Shanky, Dan Guzman, George.Palacios, Philᵀᴹ, John Eisbrener Oct 15 at 12:16

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this involves Microsoft Licensing. – Shanky Oct 15 at 11:42
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  1. "Readable Secondary" AG setting for all the replicas associated to Always On(including current Primary replica) should have setting either as “NO” or “Read-Intent Only” or it should be "NO" only?
  2. There should not be any Standalone Database? (not even any third party backup tool database such as "LiteSpeedLocal").
  3. Also the backup should not be configured to run on Secondary replica. Otherwise, the Secondary replica will not be truly passive. Is it true?
  1. Must be set to "No" so that it is not readable. From the licensing data sheet:

The secondary replica used for failover support does not need to be separately licensed for SQL Server as long as it is set to ‘not readable’. If it is readable or serving data, such as reports to clients running active SQL Server workloads, or performing any “work” such as additional backups from secondary servers, then it must be separately licensed for SQL Server.

  1. A standalone database doesn't violate the passive license unless it is used for something, anything. No backups, no queries, no integrity checks, index or statistics maintenance. All of it would constitute production use and violate the terms. Easier to not have any standalone databases.

  2. If you run backups against the secondary it will violate the passive licence terms and require a paid licence.

Further information can be found in the licensing guide and licensing data sheet. Note that this information is for SQL Server 2017. It hasn't varied too much since 2012, but best to validate with your specific version and run any concerns past your licensing reseller for official confirmation.

  • what about CheckDB, Index Maintenance of DBs which are part of AG? Can we run them on Secondary? – sachin-SQLServernewbiee Oct 17 at 8:26
  • Index maintenance can only be run on the primary replica. CheckDB is considered production workload and would require an additional licence. I've been told in the past that server maintenance (cycling error logs, cleaning up MSDB history etc) is not considered production workload and doesn't violate the licence terms, but you need to confirm that with your licensing reseller to get official confirmation. – HandyD Oct 17 at 22:40
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I believe, the license terms are off-topic on SE. However, to clarify (as it stats in license guide) truly passive mens:

A passive SQL Server instance is one that is not serving SQL Server data to clients or running active SQL Server workloads

To compliance that, Availability group's Secondary replica must be set ALLOW_CONNECTIONS = NO which means the database synchronized on replica is just warm standby copy, and no connections can be made to the database, they neither available for following actions:

  1. Standby read operation
  2. Backup activity

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