Key Considerations Designed to Optimise SQL Server Expenditure and Mitigate License Compliance Risk.

In this blog, Principal License Consultant, Karl O’Doherty, discusses tactics and key considerations designed to optimise SQL Server expenditure and mitigate license compliance risk.

Organisations acknowledge that continual growth in data can result in pressure to add power or resolve issues quickly which, more often than not, causes SQL Server creep. As one of the costliest Microsoft products, SQL Server can impact IT budgets where there are unforeseen or unnecessary costs attributed to licensing, hardware and support. To add to this complexity, since the release of SQL Server 2008 there has been continual licensing term updates that are often misunderstood leading to license compliance risk or poorly executed licensing policies that create waste.

Taking time to analyse your SQL Server estate from a technical and licensing perspective can yield significant cost savings and performance improvements. Below are five key considerations that will enable your organisation to reduce SQL Server cost and manage risk.

Capacity and Utilisation Forensic Analysis

Do you have an accurate understanding of your SQL capacity and the potential for under-utilisation or over-utilisation? By analysing the behaviour of your SQL estate, you will better understand how to realise optimal capacity and performance. This level of insight will enable both current state and future state strategic planning that can deliver cost savings and streamline operations. For example, compressing unnecessary CPU cycles will enable you to get the most computing capacity for your investment in SQL Server. Therefore, it is essential that organisations invest in capabilities that allow them to extract data-driven insights that enable the mapping of new or optimised architecture with a high degree of accuracy. This approach will allow you to make fact-based decisions that can have a positive impact on costs and performance.

SQL Server Edition Control

On average SQL Server Enterprise costs an additional 73% in licensing fees when compared against SQL Server Standard Edition. It is important that organisations examine their estate to understand where there is scope for the use of reduced feature editions of SQL Server. Using this approach can mitigate significant financial waste created by deploying the incorrect editions of SQL Server. For example, are there opportunities to downgrade from SQL Enterprise to SQL Standard or go deeper by using freeware instances of SQL Express for small server applications. SQL Edition creep can take place simply by installing the incorrect media or from a lack of pre-deployment planning. Whatever the logic, by accurately assessing their position organisations can attain significant cost savings by rationalising SQL Server Editions where there is a functionality mismatch.

Non-Production Licensing

Have you considered the merits of non-production licensing versus assigning full licenses to servers used for design, test, development and demonstration purposes? Recommended for hobbyists and students, SQL Server Developer Edition available as a free download includes Standard and Enterprise features. Alternatively, Visual Studio with MSDN provides non-production rights for SQL Server Standard and Enterprise. Non-production use rights can create confusion therefore it is important organisations understand the risks and benefits of available options. Using non-production licensing models can significantly reduce cost but failure to understand licensing limitations and technical constraints should be closely evaluated to protect against financial and operational risk.

Leveraging Optimal License Metrics

SQL Architecture analysis from a licensing perspective enables organisations to align their SQL Server install base to the most effective licensing metrics. Failure to do so can result in a breach of licensing or poorly optimised SQL Server license terms. SQL Server has flexible product use rights that organisations can use to their advantage by reducing the actual number of licenses required. Also, the availability of multiple licensing metrics for standalone physical servers and virtualised environments can enable further license optimisation opportunities. Therefore, organisations need to evaluate their current position and the licensing implications of any future state position to ensure that they attain the most advantageous licensing models relative to their needs.

Implementing Public Cloud Cost Control

Migrating SQL Server to Public Cloud can present organisations with an array of cost management opportunities through a combination of automation and license optimisation techniques. Having existing SQL Server hybrid benefits or ‘bring your own’ license rights can reduce consumption costs by leveraging existing on-premise license investments. Alternatively using license included options coupled with reserved capacity can provide cost savings where there is no Cloud pathway for existing on-premise SQL Server licenses. Automation can take multiple forms such as simply powering down machines out of hours or using technical enhancements to reduce core/CPU requirements. Before migrating SQL server to Public Cloud, organisations should consider the use of a Cloud Economics assessment including comparative monetary analysis between existing on-premise workloads and Public Cloud alternatives.

Understanding the art of the possible early is essential where organisations are looking to accurately validate right-sizing opportunities within their SQL estate. We recommend that you start this process or engage with external support to complete this evaluation 6 to 12 months before Microsoft Agreement Renewal. Having timely insights lays the foundation for effective retirement, consolidation, right-sizing, and license optimisation within your SQL estate. This can lead to the delivery of significant cost savings through the implementation of new licensing models, removal of software and hardware, and reduction in Software Assurance fees.


Version 1 is experienced in helping organisations right-size, modernise and manage SQL Server environments from a technical and a licensing perspective. Learn more about how our SQL Assist Service can help your organisation take control of SQL Server costs.