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Guide to SQL Server Editions and Licensing


SQL Server is relational database server software offering tools for data storage, management, analysis, and reporting. It can be used as a back-end database server for internal applications or for powering a dynamic website.

You can use this guide to help you find the SQL Server edition and licenses appropriate for your organization's needs.




Microsoft offers SQL Server through TechSoup Asia in the Standard, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise editions. The Standard and Business Intelligence editions are most suitable for medium-size charities and organizations. Enterprise Edition is most suitable for large organizations.

  • Standard Edition offers basic database, reporting, and analytics capabilities. Microsoft offers this edition under the server/CAL and core-based licensing models.
  • Business Intelligence Edition contains all of the basic features of Standard Edition plus tools for analyzing business and financial data. Microsoft offers this edition only under the server/CAL licensing model.
  • Enterprise Edition contains all of the basic features of Business Intelligence Edition plus mission-critical applications and data warehousing features. Microsoft offers this edition only under the core-based licensing model.

For more information on SQL Server editions, see the basic summary and full comparison of the features offered.



Below are some of the major licensing requirements for SQL Server. You can find detailed licensing information in documents on the Microsoft Product Use Rights page.

  • The core-based licensing products offered by TechSoup Asia provide licenses for two cores. SQL Server with core-based licensing requires a minimum of four core licenses to function. In order to use these products, you will need to obtain enough copies to cover the cores in the processors you plan to use with SQL Server.
  • The server/CAL licensing products offered by TechSoup Asia provide a single server license for a physical, virtual, or cloud-based server. SQL Server with server/CAL licensing requires each user or device that accesses the licensed server to have a client access license (CAL). It is most appropriate for administrators who know the exact number of users and devices that will connect to the server.

For more information on licensing, including details on licensing virtual machines, see the SQL Server 2014 Licensing Datasheet.



If you are upgrading from SQL Server 2008 using Software Assurance (SA), your edition and license model may change. In 2012, Microsoft discontinued its Datacenter, Workgroup, and Small Business Server editions.Microsoft has also retired its per-processor licensing model in favor of core-based and server/CAL models.

This means that when upgrading from 2008 under Software Assurance, you will receive a set number of core licenses for each processor license you have. See the table below.

SQL Server 2008License Under SA

Eligible to Renew Into Minimum Number of Cores

1 Datacenter Edition processor license

8 Enterprise Edition core licenses

1 Enterprise Edition processor license

4 Enterprise Edition core licenses

1 Workgroup Edition processor license

4 Standard Edition core licenses

1 Standard Edition processor license

4 Standard Edition core licenses

You can use Software Assurance to upgrade the SQL Server operating system and associated licenses for two years after you obtained the products in the left column.

You don't need to request the new version of SQL Server through TechSoup Asia if you use Software Assurance through Microsoft to upgrade, and it won't count as an additional title toward your two-year title limit.

CALs work for the version equal to or earlier than their server software. They must be upgraded only for use with newer server software. When you upgrade to the next version of SQL Server, you will also need to use Software Assurance to upgrade the CALs. CALs offered through TechSoup Asia are always for the currently offered version.

For more information, see Volume Licensing Service Center – Software Assurance Benefits.


SQL Server Products Available Through TechSoup Asia

See the SQL Server products available through TechSoup Asia.