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SQL Server Enterprise Edition-Core VS Server+CAL – Demo on differences

In this blog, I am NOT going to discuss the SQL Server licensing model. If you are looking for that information, I would strongly suggest you talk to your Microsoft Technical Account Manager (TAM) or follow the SQL Server 2016 licensing Datasheet.

Here, I am going to discuss – Suppose, your company got a big ass server box like 48+ logical cores CPU, and you are not choosing right enterprise licensing model for the SQL Server, how it is going to impact the SQL Server performance.

SQL Server Enterprise Edition: CORE Vs Server+CAL

If you are handling one of the business-critical enterprise SQL Server instances, I am sure you will be using one of the SQL Server enterprise licensing model on your box. Let’s understand the meaning of these two SQL Server licensing models at a quick glance;

  • CORE: where a “core license” is purchased for every single (Physical or logical) CPU core will be used.
  • Server+CAL: where a “Server License” is purchased for the server, and a “CAL” (Client Access License) is purchased for each user who will consume data from the server. In this licensing model, you get access to all of the enterprise product features available in SQL Server, but there’s a hardware limit of 20 CPU cores per instance.

Demonstration:

To demo this, I used the HP server “ProLiant BL460c Gen9”. The box got 2 sockets, 24 physical cores (with hyper-threading 48 logical CPUs) and 1TB RAM.

ProLiant BL460c Gen9

Hammerdb (Transaction Load Type: TPC-C, Table Type: In-memory Table, Concurrent User: 300, Total Transactions per User: 1,000,000) been used to generate a workload on the SQL Server. You can follow the below steps to make sure about the SQL Server licensing model;

CORE Licensing Model

  • Check SQL Server Licensing Model during the installation process.

  • If you have already installed the SQL Server, you can check your SQL Server licensing model details from the Errorlog;
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server Microsoft SQL Server 2016 (RTM) – 13.0.1601.5 (X64) Apr 29 2016 23:23:58 Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation Enterprise Edition: Core-based Licensing (64-bit) on Windows Server 2016 Standard 6.3 <X64> (Build 14393: )
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server UTC adjustment: 8:00
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server (c) Microsoft Corporation.
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server All rights reserved.
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server Server process ID is 14812.
2018-07-25 06:47:14.350 Server System Manufacturer: ‘HP’, System Model: ‘ProLiant BL460c Gen9’.
  • Once workload got ramp-up on the server, SQL Server started using all 48 logical on the server.

Server+CAL Licensing Model:

  • Check SQL Server Licensing Model during the installation process.

  • If you have already installed the SQL Server, you can check your SQL Server licensing model details from the Errorlog;
2018-07-24 14:02:18.140 Server Microsoft SQL Server 2016 (SP1) (KB3182545) – 13.0.4001.0 (X64) Oct 28 2016 18:17:30 Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation Enterprise Edition (64-bit) on Windows Server 2016 Standard 6.3 <X64> (Build 14393: )
2018-07-24 14:02:18.180 Server UTC adjustment: 8:00
2018-07-24 14:02:18.180 Server (c) Microsoft Corporation.
2018-07-24 14:02:18.180 Server All rights reserved.
2018-07-24 14:02:18.180 Server Server process ID is 4936.
2018-07-24 14:02:18.180 Server System Manufacturer: ‘HP’, System Model: ‘ProLiant BL460c Gen9’.
  • Once workload got ramp-up on the server, SQL Server is not using all the cores. It is only using 20 logical CPUs to processes all the incoming requests.

Conclusion: 

It is very clear from the above demonstration that if you are not choosing right SQL Server licensing models, you are going to waste a lot of CPU source of the box.

In case, you want to change SQL Server license or product key. You can follow the post – “How to Change SQL Server License or Product Key?

Happy Learning!

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SQL Geek

Dharmendra is a SQL Server/Microsoft Data Platform professional with over eight years of experience. He enjoys helping others in the SQL Server community and does this by contributing on blogs, speaking at several SQL events. His passion and focus is to explore and share more and more on SQL Server.

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