Please, Please Stop Complaining about SQL Server Licensing Costs and Complexity

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Recently, I’ve seen a number of folks on twitter and in the blogosphere complaining about the complexity of SQL Server licensing. While it is a slightly complicated topic and nowhere near as simple as Azure SQL Database (need more perf? Spend more $€£), there are other products in our space like Oracle and SAP that make licensing SQL Server look like a piece of brioche.




And while talking about vendors who spend your hard earned licensing dollars on racing sailboats and MIG fighter planes, through a recent project, I’ve had the opportunity to make a direct comparison between the licensing cost for SQL Server and Oracle. These numbers are not from quotes (list price), however this is a real customer of mine, and the features they use. This customer was an early adopter of SQL Server 2016, and uses MANY of the features in the product. Most of which are cost options in Oracle.


SQL Server Oracle
Core Engine (16 cores)  $109,980.00 Database Engine  $380,000.00
Compression Advanced Compression  $92,000.00
Columnstore Database In-Memory  $184,000.00
Analysis Tabular OLAP  $184,000.00
R Services Advanced Analytics  $184,000.00
Partitioning Partitioning  $92,000.00
Query Store Tuning Pack  $40,000.00
Spatial Spatial  $140,000.00
Availability Groups Active Data Guard  $92,000.00
Total  $109,980.00  $1,388,000.00


When I see those numbers in Microsoft marketing slides, I sometimes wonder if they can be real, but then I put these numbers together myself. Granted you would get some discounts, but the fact that all of these features are built into SQL Server, should convince you of the value SQL Server offers. Pricing discounts are generally similar between vendors, so that is not really a point of argument. If you are doing a really big Oracle deal you may see a larger upfront discount, but you will still be paying your 23% support fees on that very large list price. (Software Assurance from Microsoft will be around 20%, but from a much lower base) Additionally, several of these features ae available in SQL Server Standard Edition. None of these features are in Oracle’s Standard Edition.

7 thoughts on “Please, Please Stop Complaining about SQL Server Licensing Costs and Complexity

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  4. Nick Martino

    I’ve got a customer who is strapped for cash but insists they need Oracle over SQL. They’re even willing to cut the IT PM from the project but leave Oracle as a requirement EVEN THOUGH the software vendor insists the software will run just was well on SQL.

  5. Tony

    I know this is an old post, but I just had to say: your perspective on this sounds a lot like “Quick complaining that your Toyota costs too much, have you seen the price of a Lamborghini?” There’s no logic to the argument. Sure, Oracle costs more, and certain applications require it. That doesn’t change that to run a SQL server for a small business to run a single application results in ridiculous pricing.

  6. jdanton1 Post author

    Software is expensive. Good enterprise class software is really expensive. (Toyota’s are themselves expensive, though I can license SQL Server Enterprise for four cores for less than the cost of a kitted out Camry). If I were advising a small business who had pricing issues with SQL Server, I would recommended trying to find another vendor in the space who had a SaaS offering, or pushing the ISV to support the most more cost friendly option of Azure SQL Database.

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