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Basically, I want to take this discussion -- What are Objective Business Reasons to Prefer SQL Server 2012 over 2008 R2? -- and turn it on its head.

We are a small business, and we are struggling with the pricing-structure change in SQL Server 2012. We are essentially running a development server as our production/live server; in other words, they're the same box. Thus we could (until we got legal advice that said otherwise) get away with using a dev. license for it. But our server is pretty high-end, so the per-core license fees would add up to something outrageous. Thus, we're considering moving the server back to 2008-R2. (Or worse, to MySQL or something completely different! if we can't get the pricing problem resolved.)

Our queries and software do not specifically take advantage of any new-in-2012 features that I'm aware of. But of course the backward migration would be quite a large undertaking.

So what do the pros think? Is this a recipe for disaster, or are we not totally insane for wanting to do this? I've listed 2 reasons so far (pricing and non-use-of-features), but I'd like to hear more, on either side of the fence. Thank you.

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    Shawn raises good points. The way Microsoft licensing works, this won't save you anything, because they won't sell you licenses under the old model. If your code isn't too tightly coupled to MSSQL specifics, I'd seriously consider migrating to another database as an option. It's worth pricing out - you might find that MySQL or Postgres would be cheaper, or you might find that after taking into account migration costs, the new licensing isn't a problem after all. – Thaeli Oct 17 '13 at 6:03
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    Can your production data fit into the free Sql Server Express edition? – vonPryz Oct 17 '13 at 7:25
  • Additionally, Microsoft does not allow a Developer Edition instance to be used for production, same hardware or not. – Twinkles Oct 17 '13 at 11:13
  • -vonPryz Wow, yeah definitely not. -Twinkles Yes, I'm aware. -Ian & Shawn: Thanks. I'm not the money-holder so I'm just asking on behalf of the boss. We already have sufficient 2008 licenses, we wouldn't be buying more. We'd be uninstalling 2008 from a few older boxes and installing it on the newest ones. I don't know what Software Assurance is and I'm quite certain we won't care about 2014 until 2016.. It's just the way things work here. – NateJ Oct 18 '13 at 18:06
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I don't know that you can really be objective about choosing a lesser version over a current version. It is more or less forced eventually. Hardware goes out of date and purchasing any new hardware may require using a more current version of Windows Operating System; which that in turn requires you to upgrade SQL Server. I actually had conference call over a client that is in this very boat now.

As well your hand can be forced by Microsoft's release plan. Once a major version is released you will reach a point that you can no longer purchase the older version. Which is the case now with SQL Server 2012, you can't purchase a SQL Server 2008 R2 license. You may use that version but you will have to purchase under the SQL Server 2012 licensing model. SQL Server 2014 CTP2 was just released the other day so after a certain number of days/months after the RTM release you will not be able to purchase SQL Server 2012.

The overall decision has to come from the business' money holders. Business meetings I have taken part in the one thing that is always considered when building a new system out for an application is licensing considerations (support maintenance annual cost, licensing upgrades, etc.). The pros and cons of licensing what version/edition should always be considered up front. I have been in environments where the business was feed the wrong information on what quantity/type of license to purchase, then when they were audited because of industry standards they got bitten pretty hard from it (or the scape goat got fired). It was ultimately their responsibility.

The best thing I would suggest is looking at Software Assurance. Especially since in the two years covered SQL Server 2014 should be released. You may pay a good bit more now, but with the discount pricing you will save a considerable amount of money when you go ahead and purchase SQL Server 2014 licenses. Especially if Microsoft decides to change their licensing model again, although I have heard nothing that indicates they are going to.

  • I agree with your 3rd paragraph the most. The problem is, we don't have a person who can play that role. It's like we need a SQL licensing consultant.. not a straight up salesman, who's trying to push the latest/greatest all the time, but a truly impartial party who knows the ins-and-outs of the MS licensing scheme and the technical differences between the two server editions (2008R2 vs 2012), and can offer objective advice and no-nonsense pricing information to help us make the decision. I don't know if such a person/party even exists... – NateJ Oct 18 '13 at 18:19
  • You reference "editions (2008R2 vs 2012)", that is different versions not editions. Within each version there are separate features that are available within a particular edition (Enterprise vs Standard vs Business Intelligence). With each version Microsoft tends to change up the Edition types, such as 2012 dropped some editions from 2008 R2 and added the BI edition. – Shawn Melton Oct 18 '13 at 21:08
  • With licensing you might try going through this free course, it might shed a bit more light: microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/… – Shawn Melton Oct 18 '13 at 21:12

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