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SQL Server: FREE licenses for Failover

You probably have Microsoft SQL Server instances in standby, failover, and disaster recovery modes. Do you know that licenses for the "passive" instances are free of charge under certain conditions?

It's an excellent example of how knowledge of Microsoft Licensing can positively affect your overall IT costs.

You can have up to two free instances of Microsoft SQL Server with active Software Assurance for each licensed instance.

They must be truly passive. And the second instance may only be used, simplified, for cold standby.

Customers whom we helped optimise Microsoft SQL Server licenses save up to 25% of their SQL Server costs by utilising this, sometimes forgotten and overlooked, condition.

Enterprise Agreement Renewal Effect

There's a reason why we say you must start an Enterprise Agreement true-up or renewal early, a year before the deadline. When you've done a true-up, start the next one immediately. 

When it's rushed—one or two months before the next renewal or true-up—the server data is often not thoroughly analysed, and you may easily miss out on such discounts. Don't forget to discount passive SQL Server instances.

What are passive SQL Server instances?

Passive SQL Server instances do not serve data or perform other functions except receiving backup data from the active (production) database.

Let me try to explain it to those of you who aren't technical.

You can have so-called "clustered" configurations of SQL Server in your organisation. They are set up to protect your data and applications from disasters like data loss or hardware loss. 

In a simple configuration, there are two servers, also called "instances" or "nodes". The "production" instance with which your users work actively – saving and reading data – is called "an active instance". The other, "passive", instance receives data updates from the active instance but does not serve users. 

If your active node breaks, the passive instance picks up the workload. If configured correctly, your users will continue working with the data as if nothing happened.

Such configuration is called "SQL Failover". 

SQL Failover licenses may be free of charge

Microsoft lets you run the passive node free of charge if the licenses assigned to the active node are of one of the following types:

When using SQL Server per core licenses, the servers (instances, nodes) must match. They must have the same number of cores. 

You may already be eligible for free-of-charge SQL Server instances.

If you have an Enterprise Agreement, you already have SQL Server licenses with Software Assurance. Do this:

  1. Ask your Database Administrators (DBAs) if you have active/passive SQL Server clusters.

  2. Create a spreadsheet or flag them in your management tools.

  3. Ensure the number of cores is the same in both nodes.

  4. Discount the licences for each passive node.

Free-of-charge Azure instances of SQL Server.

Since SQL server 2019, there's also a possibility to deploy another instance in Azure. It must only support disaster recovery. High availability instances in Azure require licences.

Still in doubt? Talk to a Microsoft licensing expert.

We are an independent consulting business that sells no licenses or Cloud services. That is on purpose, so our advice is unbiased.

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