SQL Server 2005 Editions, Pricing Unveiled

Microsoft will raise prices for SQL Server 2005 compared to SQL Server 2000, but SQL Server will continue to come in a free edition, a new low cost edition is being added and functionality previously reserved for the Enterprise Edition is working its way down to lower cost versions.

SQL Server 2005 is supposed to ship this summer, with a Beta 3 test version coming out by the end of March and another in a series of Community Technical Previews expected in a few weeks. Normally Microsoft holds off on announcing the features and prices for each edition until a product is released to manufacturing. The early disclosure is not surprising given the importance of the release and the fact that Microsoft's initial public plans to ship the database, code-named "Yukon," originally called for a 2002 release.

"We're giving details a little bit early here because we have a lot of customers on Software Assurance, and they're up for renewal," said Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server. He added that Microsoft also wants customers buying new versions of SQL Server 2000 now to understand future version feature sets so they'll be positioned for the right upgrade.

Microsoft announced Thursday that SQL Server 2005 will ship in an Enterprise Edition, a Standard Edition, a new Workgroup Edition and an Express Edition. The Enterprise Edition will cost $25,000 per processor compared to $20,000 per processor in the SQL Server generation. The Standard Edition will cost $6,000 per processor, up from $5,000 per chip. The new Workgroup Edition is also being added immediately to the SQL Server 2000 lineup. Both cost $3,899 per processor.

The per-processor licensing model is the easiest to understand. Licensing the server that way allows unlimited user access. All three editions are also available in two other licensing configurations -- server plus device Client Access Licenses (CAL) or server plus user CALs.

The Express Edition, like the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE), is free.

Pricing comes with two key caveats. As Intel rolls out dual-core processors and shows roadmaps with four-core processors clearly within the lifecycle of SQL Server 2005, Microsoft reaffirmed a commitment to charging per socket. No matter how many cores Intel and AMD put on individual processors, Microsoft currently plans to license its software by the processor, not by the core. The position contrasts with Microsoft's two main database competitors. Oracle and IBM both say they will treat each core like a separate processor when it comes to licensing.

The other pricing caveat comes in high-availability options. In SQL Server 2000, Microsoft didn't charge for a database license on the passive node in a cluster. In SQL Server 2005, Microsoft will expand that policy to include backup servers and hot standby servers, Rizzo said.

The major features flowing down from the Enterprise Edition to cheaper versions are 64-bit support and advanced backup and recovery options. The Standard Edition will support 64-bit computing, both Itanium and x64. The back-up log shipping feature of SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition will migrate all the way down to the Workgroup Edition of SQL Server 2005. The Standard Edition will get a more sophisticated version called database mirroring and the Enterprise Edition will feature an even more sophisticated version of database mirroring.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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