Changing the license type of a SQL Server virtual machine

If you provision an all-inclusive SQL Server virtual machine from the Azure Marketplace then you’ll be charged a single fee which includes the cost of SQL Server. If you want to bring your own SQL Server licences to that virtual machine via the Azure Hybrid Benefit, then you need to change the licence type of the virtual machine. You do this in the Azure Management Portal and simply change the licence type from Pay As You Go to the Azure Hybrid Benefit in the Configure settings of the VM. You can find instructions for that here: http://bit.ly/2Pd6miy.

If you’ve self-installed SQL Server on an Azure virtual machine, then again, you’re probably intending to bring your own licences. The Product Terms states that you need to indicate when you’re using the Azure Hybrid Benefit – which is what happened above – but this time you need to first register the SQL Server VM with the Resource Provider, and then activate the Azure Hybrid Benefit as before. You’ll find instructions for the process of registering a SQL Sever VM in Azure with the SQL Server VM Resource Provider here: http://bit.ly/324kGLx.

Pricing guidance for SQL Server VMs in Azure

There’s an excellent article from Microsoft that gives some great advice on saving money when running SQL Server VMs in Azure. Tips include:

  • using a free edition of SQL Server (Developer or Express) where possible
  • choosing the SQL meter for temporary or periodic workloads, and bringing your own licence via the Azure Hybrid Benefit for workloads with a known lifetime and scale
  • correctly sizing the VM – perhaps choosing one of the special VMs that are optimised for certain types of SQL Server workloads which have a high level of resources but a lower virtualised core count
  • shutting down VMs where possible, perhaps using an automatic shutdown facility

Find the article here: http://bit.ly/2Ndp7jd.

Changes to the Azure Hybrid Benefit

The August 2019 Product Terms details some changes to the Azure Hybrid Benefit to include licensing options for the recently announced Azure Dedicated Host, so here’s a summary of the rules for both Windows Server and SQL Server.

Windows Server

  • Standard licences may now be used on-premises OR for virtual machines running in Azure OR for virtual machines running in an Azure Dedicated Host. The licensing for both Azure and Azure Dedicated Host follow the “groups of 8” rules. Licenses may now be assigned to both on-premises servers and Azure for a period of 180 days for migration purposes – this is an increase from the previous 31-day allowance
  • Datacenter licences may now be used on-premises AND for virtual machines running in Azure (no change) OR for virtual machines running in an Azure Dedicated Host. Customers can choose to license individual virtual machines running in Azure Dedicated Host following the “groups of 8” rules, or can license all the physical cores of the Azure Dedicated Host and run an unlimited number of virtual machines. Customers moving from on-premises to Azure Dedicated Host have the same 180-day migration window as Standard licences

SQL Server

  • Standard licences may now be used on-premises OR for virtual machines running in Azure OR for Azure SQL Database Services OR for virtual machines running in an Azure Dedicated Host. The licensing rules for Azure Dedicated Host are the same as for virtual machines running in Azure. There is no change to the 180-day migration period allowed when moving from an on-premises to an Azure infrastructure
  • Enterprise licences may be used in the same scenarios as the Standard licences above. However, there is an additional licensing option for Azure Dedicated Host which allows customers to license all the physical cores of the Azure Dedicated Host to run SQL Server in an unlimited number of virtual machines

You can find the August 2019 Product Terms here: http://bit.ly/MSproductterms and there’s an Azure Hybrid Benefit FAQ here: http://bit.ly/2g1HEwS.

SQL Server in Azure: IaaS or PaaS?

The Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server allows you to choose where you use a SQL Server licence: either on-premises or in Azure. Not only that, you’re allowed to choose between an Azure virtual machine (IaaS) or the Azure SQL Database service (PaaS). This article is useful if you’re interested in an overview of the business motivations for choosing one Azure option over another: http://bit.ly/SQLOptions. Customers are eligible for the Azure Hybrid Benefit by having active Software Assurance on their licences or buying a Server Subscription.

The Ultimate Guide to Windows Server on Azure

This not-too-long guide from Microsoft might be useful if you’re starting to think about taking Windows Server workloads to Azure. It outlines possible benefits, how to decide whether to migrate or extend a server farm, and of course the cost savings associated with the Azure Hybrid Benefit. Find it here: http://bit.ly/2KZtwCp.

Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server

Microsoft announce the preview of Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, a new deployment option in SQL Database that streamlines the migration of SQL Server workloads to a fully managed database service in Azure. Interesting from a licensing perspective is that you can use your SQL Server licences with SA to pay a reduced rate on a Managed Instance via the new Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server.

Managed Instances are available in 8, 16, or 24 core flavours and existing on-premises Core licenses with SA can be allocated to these instances to pay the aforementioned reduced rate. SQL Server Standard Core licences cover one virtual core, and SQL Server Enterprise Core licences cover four virtual cores.

So, let’s take a look at The Papaya Hire Company’s existing SQL Server licences to see what SQL Database Managed Instances they could license. They have 16 Standard licences and 8 Enterprise licences – all with SA of course. If we work out the number of virtual cores these licences will cover we get (16 x 1) + (8 x 4) = 48 virtual cores. This means they could choose 6 x 8-core instances, or 3 x 16-core instances, or 2 x 24-core instances, or any combination of those.

If you don’t fancy doing the calculations yourself then you can use the Azure Hybrid Benefit Savings Calculator to do the mathematical heavy lifting. Find that calculator here: http://bit.ly/2pB61XH and don’t forget the usual Azure Pricing Calculator which will allow you to compare pricing for Azure SQL Database Manged Instances with and without applying the Azure Hybrid Benefit: http://bit.ly/AzurePricingCalculator. The Microsoft announcement is also useful for an overview of the features and the licensing and you can find that here: http://bit.ly/2u9SQ4D. If you’re interested in the documentation around the Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server then refer to page 51 of the March 2018 Product Terms document.

Azure Hybrid Benefit Savings Calculator

The Azure Hybrid Benefit allows customers with Windows Server licences with SA to use those licences in Azure to license a base virtual machine for Windows Server. If you’re interested in knowing the potential savings this benefit can offer, then there’s an Azure Hybrid Benefit Savings Calculator here: http://bit.ly/2CJWpOf.

Note that it still works on Processor-based licences so if you’ve got Core licences then divide the number of licences by 16 when you input the number of existing licences with SA.