3 min

How to license virtual machines?

3 min

Microsoft has come up with new licensing rules. From now on, licensing virtual machines either require a subscription license or a Software Assurance, no matter if it’s the Standard or Enterprise version. So the only way that users won’t have to purchase a subscription is if they implement SQL Standard licensing with CAL(s). However, this license is not the best fit for every organization. In this article you can read about the new licensing rules for the latest SQL Server versions. 

SQL 2022 Standard Per CORE vs CAL Licensing: Differences

Since SQL Server 2022 Standard Edition comes with strong features, it’s a popular choice for organizations. One of the main reasons is that the license is a good fit for organizations with standard database needs. Depending on your company’s needs, SQL Server 2022 Standard can be purchased as a CAL or Per Core licensing model.

SQL Server 2022 Standard’s main features are Online Transaction Processing Support, data warehouse capabilities, and basic analyses. However, in terms of scalability there are some limitations compared to the Enterprise edition. There’s less support for memory capacity, processors and other hardware limitations.  

Microsoft applied new rules to their licensing for SQL Server 2022 compared to previous SQL Server versions. If you want to license your virtual machine with the SQL’s on-premise Core licensing model, first you would need to purchase a subscription or Software Assurance. Below you can read more about SQL Server licensing rules:

Microsoft SQL Server 2022 banner

Licensing VMs with SQL 2022 Standard per CAL

If you license your virtual machines with SQL Server 2022 and choose the Server + CAL licensing model, you’ll have to purchase an SQL Server license for each virtual machine. Additionally, you’d have to buy a compatible CAL access license for each device or user that needs to have access to the server. 

SQL Server 2022 Standard per CAL licensing model distinguishes itself from all other version of SQL because it’s the only model that doesn’t require a subscription or Software Assurance to license virtual machines.

Read more about SQL Server 2022 and its functions.

Licensing VMs with SQL 2022 Standard per Core

For companies that don’t have a clear overview of how many users or devices have access to the server, SQL Server Standard per Core licensing is the best fit. In this model it’s possible to license per user or machine so it’s a suitable license for bigger organizations that are experiencing growth since they don’t know the exact number of Device and/or User CAL’s they need.

When licensing virtual machines with SQL Server 2022 Standard per Core you must purchase a subscription to this edition, or on-premise licenses with Software Assurance.  

Licensing Virtual Machines with SQL Server 2022 Enterprise Edition

SQL Server 2022 Enterprise is the most comprehensive version out of all possible SQL versions. It’s designed for organizations that require performance, scalability, and advanced functionalities. SQL Server 2022 Enterprise includes advanced functionalities such as advanced analytical tools, support for big data, and improved business intelligence capabilities. Moreover, the Enterprise edition supports stronger hardware configurations which leads to greater scalability, memory utilization, processing performance, advanced encryption, and detailed auditing. 

Licensing VMs with SQL Server 2022 Enterprise

When you purchase SQL Server 2022 Enterprise, you can license an unlimited amount of Virtual Machines or containers on the server. Additionally, with SQL Server 2022 you can license Virtual Machines by combining an on-premise license with Software Assurance or by using the subscription of SQL Server 2022 Enterprise. 


The choice between SQL Server 2022 Standard (Cal/Core) and SQL Server 2022 Enterprise depends on the specific needs of your organization. The rule of thumb is that SQL Server 2022 Standard is better suited for small- and medium sized organizations with basic database requirements. SQL Server Standard is also cheaper than the Enterprise edition, which is an important aspect to take into account. If you need to license the data needs of a big(ger) organization that relies primarily on advanced analyses and enhanced security, SQL Server 2022 Enterprise would be the better option.

Apart from the functionalities of the two SQL Server editions, you might also want to take the new SQL Server 2022 licensing rules into account. After choosing your edition, you should further check whether you need to acquire a subscription license or if an on-premise license will still be sufficient.

Not sure which license model to choose? Contact us today and we'll be happy to help you choose the right license for your project. Softtrader has a full range of audit-proof second-hand SQL Server licenses. 

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For more information about which Microsoft software and licenses are best for you, please contact us. We are available from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.