Pay for vSphere Enterprise Plus from Microsoft Licenses Saving in a virtualized enviornment

Note: If you have read this article earlier, please read this revised version of it as after getting multiple comments from different readers I have noticed that although the over all statement of the article was correct the calculation example was not fully accurate so I have gone through the Microsoft Licensing and the comments all over again and accommodated for this in my revised version.

In this post, I will show you a secret that you need to know if you are already using VMware vSphere or if you are planning to buy VMware vSphere. One call to Microsoft to recalculate your Windows/SQL licenses can give you a licenses cut on Microsoft licenses that will pay for VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus and still save you tons of money a side. That means you don’t show management that you got vSphere Enterprise Plus for no Extra cost, but as well saved them a huge amount on Microsoft Licenses renewal. I was going to name this post:

How to get VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus for Free!!

Though I was worried of being misunderstood. OK, I have written a post more than a year back: Be Smart & Save huge on Microsoft Licensing with Virtualization. I believe its a must read if you are planning any kind of virtualization and Microsoft is your OS vendor. Below is the Summary of that Article.

* You can run up to Four Windows 2008(Any version including R2) virtual machines using one Windows 2008 Enterprise license as long they run on the same physical host. You can mix the four VMs where some of them run Standard Edition and some other run Enterprise Edition as required.

* You can run unlimited number of Windows 2008 (Any version including R2) virtual machines using one Windows 2008 Datacenter license as long they run on the same physical host. You can mix the four VMs where some of them run Standard Edition, some other run Enterprise Edition, and some  other run Datacenter Edition as required.

Note: Microsoft Article that explain Windows Licensing in a Virtual Environment can be found at:

* You can run four instances of MS SQL virtual machines for a single SQL Enterprise License as long they run on the same physical host. You can mix and match your VMs to run MS SQL Standard or Enterprise as required.

* You can run unlimited number of MS SQL virtual machines for a single SQL Datacenter license as long they run on the same Physical host. You can mix and match your VMs to run MS SQL Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter as required.

Note: Microsoft Article that Explain SQL Licensing in a Virtual Environment can be downloaded at:  SQL Server 2008 R2 Licensing Quick Reference Guide

The above saving licensing schema work for any Hypervisor and not just Hyper-V.

These license saving schema definitely apply when running on VMware vSphere . Please check the article link I have pointed to above as that include link directly to Microsoft website providing the same message I am delivering here. Unfortunately Microsoft Team at least locally have been unfair at many customers and only told them this message if they run on Hyper-V and try to implicitly imply that it does not apply to other hypervisors which is totally misleading. Though the true is this licensing schema does apply to you if you are running other Hypervisors in particular VMware vSphere.

Lets take an example calculation for a small customer with 80 windows VMs (Larger environments will even see higher saving), and assume a 20:1 consolidation ratio which has became quite normal ratio in vSphere environment today. So that will give us a requirement for 4 ESX servers for this customer. Let’s assume 6 of these VMs utilize MS Sql standard & other 6 utilizes MS SQL Enterprise (Remember the more SQL servers that run on the environment and the higher the edition utilized the higher the saving go. Here I am just getting a fairly ratio for a similar type of environment).  Further, lets assume each of these machines are running 2 CPUs and will run the same in a virtual environment.

Windows + Sql Licenses cost before Virtulization:

Windows 2008 R2 Standard ($1,029) * 80 Server  = $82,320

6 SQL Standard Servers (2 CPU each) = 12 CPU of SQL Standard Edition

6 SQL Enterprise Edition (2 CPU each) = 12 CPU of SQL Enterprise Edition

SQL standard  Processor License ($7,171) *  12 CPU +  SQL Enterprise Processor Licnese ($27,495.00) * 12 CPU= $415,992

Total Microsoft Costs for SQL & Windows before Virtualizing: $82,320 + $415,992  =  $498,312

Windows + Sql Licenses after Virtulization (Hopefully with VMware vSphere):

Windows 2008 R2 Datacenter Per Processor License  ($2,999) * 8 CPUs (As DataCenter Edition is licensed per CPU)  = $23,992   <== One Windows 2008 R2 Datacenter per Physical host for unlimited VMs (VMs can run Windows Datacenter/Enterprise/Standard), though its important to note that the minimum number of CPUs you can purchase for Datacenter Edition is 2 CPUs and its licensed per CPU, which was accommodated for in this calculation.

SQL Enterprise Per Processor License ($27,495.00) * 8 CPUs = $219,960   <== This should allow me to run up to 16 SQL VM with a choice of Std/Ent edition as long they run among my four ESX servers, which is two VMs more than I even require. You can keep them as a free spare gift of virtualization to your boss.

Total Microsoft Costs for SQL & Windows licenses after Virtualizing:   = $23,992 +  $219,960 = $243,952

The difference in Windows & SQL licensing before & after virtualization = $498,312 – $243,952 = $254,360

Wow that is $254,360 in Microsoft licensing saving cost just by virtualizing it. If the customer were to buy VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus with vCenter and 1 year support for the above enviornment he could obtain the VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus Acceleration Kit for 8 Processors including 1 year production support list price online is around $35,000 which leave the customer with a saving =  $254,360 – $35,000 = $219,360. This should WoW your decision maker out. You are getting the most expensive version of vSphere and best platform of virtualization out there, but still saving the company over $219K in software licensing. Won’t you be the next Hero for your IT Department!! To be honest I knew you could save on Microsoft Licensing by virtualizing, but I was surprised by how big the numbers are even in a smaller environment.

Below are few important points to note about this calculation:

  • This license saving is valid for any virtualization platform & not just Hyper-V, though the better density per server the higher saving you get which make VMware vSphere the perfect platform for this saving game.
  • In the calculation above I assumed the company is only utilizing Windows standard Edition and  if a higher version were utilized the saving will grow exponentially, but I just wanted to show the worst & the minimum saving you can achieve to ensure you will always get a better result than I have shown not the opposite.
  • I have assumed the company have 6 SQL standard and 6 SQL Enterprise VMs on the setup but if the ratio of the enterprise were higher more saving would have been achieved. Further, I could have used the VMs to Host-Affinity rule, and forced the SQL VMs to only run on 2 ESX servers and would only have to pay the licensing for two hosts. SQL saving and calculation is a bit more tricky the Windows and you will always need to do your numbers and check the best configuration for your environment and to see if SQL DataCenter make a better sense or Enterprise in your environment which you should probably still do for your Windows as well. In this particular environment Enterprise Edition for SQL was a better choice, where DataCenter for Windows yield a better saving. Here I just meant to teach you the tricks and how it calculated in this example and will leave your innovation help you on the saving.
  • This saving mechanism is applicable to you if you have already virtualized your environment or going to do it. So if you are already having your environment running on VMware vSphere and have not done that call to Microsoft to recalculate their licenses renewal based on your new virtualized environment then its the time to raise that phone and make this call!!.

VMware vSphere Customers What are you waiting for? Catch the phone & call Microsoft now & ask them to recalculate your volume licensing according to the virtualized schema and save tons of money.

As normal if you require any help or more info on this just drop me a comment below or drop me an e-mail. Happy Saving!!

* Pricing for both SQL & Windows was obtained from Microsoft Online Price list found at:


  1. Josh Chandra says:

    Are you sure about the comment about using SQL Server Standard in a VI enviornment? I was told that at a minimum, At a minimum, SQL Server Enteprise needs to be used in a VI enviornment and even then a VM can only be moved every 2 months. This means that I cannot bring up the VM on a different ESX hosts if the ESX host crashed. If that is the case, one does not need Enterprise Plus, they just need Standard version of vSphere.

    Just like Windows Data Center, there is a SQL Server Data Center edition that provides the ability to move VMs between multiple hosts as long as the processors in that host are licensed for SQL Server Data Center Edition.

  2. I think you are wrong about SQL server Standard licensing:

    “Standard and Workgroup Editions
    Each Server License for SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard or Workgroup permits you to run the software in one (1) OSE
    (physical or virtual). Additional OSEs require one (1) Server License each.”

    Extract from:

  3. Avram Woroch says:

    A couple of questions:

    This is only with renewals? Or will MS recalculate what you’ve bought via Open/Volume licence and basically do a trade in for Standard to Data Center of some sort?

    You indicate one Data Center licence per host, for unlimited VM’s. Everything I have seen suggests one DC licence per socket/processor. Thus, a Dell R710 with 2 sockets would require 2 DC licences, no? Granted, this still works out to be a good deal as long as you have 8 Windows VM’s per host. If you’re right only one licence per host, not per socket, then the break even is 4 VM’s, which is amazing.

    I was of the impression that you needed to buy SQL Enterprise, per socket/CPU for the host to have unlimited virtualization rights.

    If you are in fact right though, I have a lot of recalcuations to do! 🙂

  4. Avram Woroch says:

    Statement: * You can run unlimited number of MS SQL virtual machines for a single SQL license as long they run on the same Physical host. This even include SQL standard edition.

    MS Web Site:
    SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard and Workgroup (Server/CAL)
    Running Instances of the Server Software. For each server license you assign, you may run any number of instances of the server software in one physical or virtual OSE on the licensed server at a time.

    If I’m reading this right, it states clearly “any number of instances” in “one physical OR virtual OSE”. It does NOT indciate “one physical OR unlimited virtual OSE”, on the licenced server.

    This would seem to mean that you could have multiple instances in one Windows OS, but not on multiple Windows OS virtualized.

    I desperately want your example to be right, we’d save a fortune. But it does not appear to be how it reads.

  5. Avram Woroch says:

    * You can run unlimited number of Windows 2008 (Any version including R2) virtual machines using one Windows 2008 Datacenter license as long they run on the same physical host..
    License License models Running instances in POSEs and VOSEs
    Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Processor + CAL 1 + unlimited

    So you can run unlimited Windows VM’s on a host using One Data Center licence – *IF* the host is single processor. So on a dual processor system, you need 2 Data Center licences. Granted this is still about an 8:1 ratio, and anything above that you start to realize savings. So in a 5 host cluster, each with dual processors, if you wanted unlimited virtualziation of Windows Server, you would need 10 $3000 Data Center licences for $30,000. At $1000/Standard licence, you break even as long as you are running 30 VM’s on those 5 hosts. If you designate one host as failover only and reserve it for that, you might be able to get away without licencing it, if it is only for failover, and you DRS/DPM between the other 4 only during normal operation unless there is a failure of one of the 4 operating hosts.

  6. Hi there,

    I’m afraid this is simply incorrect.

    Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition isn’t licensed per host, it’s licensed per physical CPU, which means instead of having 4 licenses (1 per ESX host as you’ve specified), you’re more than likely going to need 8 licenses (assuming 2 CPUs per Host), or 16 licenses (assuming 4 CPUs per Host).

    As for SQL, this is also incorrect. When it comes to SQL, you can either license this in per CPU, or Server/CAL. If you choose the Server/CAL model, the SQL Server bits are cheaper, however you have to buy a CAL for every user/device/OS that will be accessing that SQL Server. Per CPU licensing on the other hand, avoids the need for CALs, but the price of the SQL license is more expensive.

    So, if we go with Per CPU, which is the price you’ve chosen, one thing to be aware of, is that SQL Standard Edition doesn’t give the unlimited instances in VMs that you speak of. If you look at the SQL Quick Reference Guide, linked from the page you linked to above ( what you’ll find is, when you license all the CPUs in a particular host with SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard, SQL Server 2008 R2 Workgroup, and SQL Server 2008 R2 Web, if you license all of the physical processors you may run the software in the physical OSE only. In order to run the software in virtual OSEs, you will need to license each virtual processor individually.

    If you chose to license all the CPUs on a particular host for Enterprise Edition ($27,495 per CPU), you’d be able to run SQL Enterprise inside 4 Guest OS’s at once, on that host. If you chose to license all CPUs on a host with SQL Datacenter Edition ($54,990 per CPU), you’d be able to run SQL in an unlimited number of VMs on that particular host.

    This changes your calculations significantly.

    So, to give an example. 4 hosts, each with 2 CPUs (6 Cores):

    8 x Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition = $23,992

    Now when it comes to SQL, This is where it gets tricky, and let me reiterate, simply buying one SQL Standard CPU for each host is definately not going to be compliant as it does not give you the virtualization rights you speak of.

    Lets assume these SQL VMs each have 2 vCPUs. If that’s the case, and you have 10 of these VMs, you could choose to license each of the vCPUs with SQL Standard, at a total cost of 20 * $7,171 = $143,420.

    I suggest you read the guide here: in more detail, as the information listed above could lead customers down the wrong path.


  7. Isn’t the licensing for Data Center per CPU? So if you have 4 single proc servers you only need 4 licenses, but if you have 4 dual proc servers you need 8 licenses. If you have 4 quad proc servers you need 16 licenses. That is the way that I understand it. I would assume it is the same for SQL as well.

  8. WS2008R2 DC licenses must be purchased and assigned to servers with a minimum socket count of 2.
    Therefore in your example you will need 8 of them.

  9. Great article, thanks

  10. Hi Shawn,

    You are right, & I have just fixed the article accordingly. Please check it out when you have time and let me know if you have any further thought.


  11. Hi Eric,

    You are exactly correct, & I am using a dual CPUs machine in my article. I have revised the article and it accommodate for this now.


  12. Hi Matt,

    I really want to thank your for taking the time and further explain what I have missed in the comments. I have updated the article accordingly which should be accurate now. Sorry it took me a while, but as most of us I have been leaving across the road and airports lately which take me a bit longer to update things on my blog than I would like to.

    Please check it out when you have time and let me know if you have any further things I have missed on the licensing part.


  13. Hi Avram,

    I have revised the article now & you should be able to see how my calculation gave a saving in this small environment. Remember this is a small fictional environment. In reality I don’t see many customers running as much as 80 VMs where all of them run standard edition. Normally about 10-20 of these run Enterprise Edition, which even make the saving much higher than in my calculation. Further the more VMs you can fit per host the better cost saving you get when using the Windows DataCenter Edition, and I have seen many customers lately achieving with easy 20-40 VMs per server on a 2 CPU server by loading it with RAM and Extra NIC cards which put the saving hit the roof :). It will all end up to how your environment is designed and how good you can do the calculation to make your saving go into the right direction.


  14. Hi Avram,

    I am sorry, I have missed on this one on SQL but hey that does not mean you still can not save money on SQL. Though I have just revised the article & fixed all the small glitches here in there that existed earlier. Please re-read the article and you will find out how you can still save money on SQL. Further, you might want to make two hosts dedicated for SQL in an SQL cluster and only license this one or utilize VMs to Host Affinity rules introduced in vSphere 4.1 to keep the SQL VMs on two hosts and only have to license these two hosts. You will always have to figure out which versions you will be utilizing and figure out how you can achieve best saving of it. The version of SQL you will need to buy will always depend on your setup and my article was just to give you guidance and the tools to carry out the calculation.


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