Microsoft SQL Server with your business software, be aware of the pitfalls

Software Vendors like SAP, Sage, Ivanti and many others use databases for storing the data used by their applications. Microsoft SQL Server is one of the database solutions used by these so called ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors). These vendors buy the SQL Licenses through the Microsoft ISV Royalty program with a discounted price. With a lower prices comes restricted terms of use. The software vendor has to sublicense the use of SQL Server, with their software license terms, to you as the customer of the final product. So far the introduction, here is the tricky part: the Microsoft license terms for these Runtime SQL Servers has some restrictions which are not commonly known.

Restricted use
The SQL Server which came with the software from your software vendor may only be used for storing data for or through the software application. Example: you are using SAP as your ERP and SQL Server is the database solution. You are only allowed to store the data from SAP in the SQL Server. When you also want to store data from your security solution, Citrix user data or any other data, this is not allowed under the ISV Royalty program and with that an infringement of Microsoft copyright.
When you want to use the SQL Server for multiple solutions, you will have to buy a separate SQL Server License through a regular (volume license) program.

License Mobility
Regular SQL Server Licenses can – mostly – be covered by Software Assurance. This is some ‘assurance policy’ for your software licenses and gives you additional rights. One of those rights is License Mobility, which waives the regular restriction that you can reassign a software license only each 90 days to another device (and with that, use the software on another device). License Mobility comes in very handy for virtualized server environments with high-availability options. When a hardware server fails, has an usage overload or must go down for maintenance, the virtual server is moved to another host.
ISV SQL Licenses do not have any Software Assurance option. With that, they do not have any License Mobility rights. This means that the license can only be reassigned to another piece of hardware after 90 days of original assignment or reassignment.
Here is the risk, most organizations have the ‘Live Migration’ or ‘Vmotion’ option for high availability ‘on’ for the entire environment. When you are using a SQL Server (license) which came with the software, this is not a good thing.
The solution is twofold. Either pin the virtual machine to just óne host and do not move that virtual machine more often than each 90 days. This is allowed, but most of the time not a desired solution. The other option is buying a ‘regular’ SQL Server license with active Software Assurance for your solution.

SQL Server licensing can be complex and one only needs one tiny mistake to end up with a huge legal fine. Consulting a SQL Server Licensing Expert to avoid any pitfalls and get a good nights sleep is highly recommended. We would be glad to help you. Contact us and tell us your SQL story.

Do you want to read the SQL Server Runtime License Terms? Here is one – as an example – from software vendor Sage.

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