Many of us have probably seen the new SQL Server 2012 per
core licensing, with Enterprise Edition at $6,874 per core super ceding the $27,495
per socket of SQL Server 2008 R2 (discounted to $19,188 for 4-way and $23,370
for 2-way in TPC benchmark reports) with Software Assurance at $6,874 per
processor? Datacenter was $57,498 per processor, so the new per-core licensing
puts 2012 EE on par with 2008R2 DC, at 8-cores per socket.
This is a significant increase for EE licensing on Intel Xeon 5600 6-core systems
(6x$6,874 = $41,244 per socket) and a huge increase for Xeon E7 10-cores systems, now $68,740 per socket.
I do not intend to discuss justification of the new model. I will say that SQL
Server licensing had gotten out of balance with the growing performance capability
of server systems over time. So perhaps the more correct perspective is that
SQL Server had become underpriced in recent years.
(Consider that there was a 30%+ increase in the hardware cost structure in the transition
from Core 2 architectures systems to Nehalem systems for both 2-way and 4-way to accommodate the vastly increased memory and IO channels.)
Previously, I had discussed that the default choice for SQL Server used to be a 4-way system.
In the really old days, server sizing and capacity planning was an important job category.
From 1995/6 on, the better strategy for most people was to buy the 4-way Intel standard
high-volume platform rather than risk the temperamental
nature of big-iron NUMA systems (and even worse, the consultant to get SQL Server to run correctly by steering the execution plan around operations that were broken on NUMA). With the compute, memory and IO capabilities of Intel Xeon 5500 (Nehalem-EP),
the 2-way became the better default system choice from mid-2009 on.
By “default choice”,
I mean in the absence of detailed technical sizing analysis.
I am not suggesting that ignorance is good policy (in addition to bliss),
but rather the cost of knowledge was typically more than the value of said knowledge.
Recall that in the past, there were companies that made load testing tools. I think they are mostly gone now. An unrestricted license for the load test product might be $100K. The effort to build scripts might equal or exceed that. All to find out whether a $25K or $50K server is the correct choice?
So now there will also be a huge incentive on software licensing to step down from a 4-way 10-core system with 40 cores total to a 2-way system with perhaps 8-12 cores total
(going forward, this cost structure essentially kills the new AMD Bulldozer 16-core processor, which had just recently achieved price performance competitiveness with the Intel 6-core Westmere-EP in 2-way systems).
In the world of database performance consulting, for several
years I had been advocating a careful balance between performance tuning effort
(billed at consultant rates) with hardware. The price difference between a
fully configured 2-way and 4-way system might be $25,000. For a two-node
cluster, this is $50K difference in hardware, with perhaps another $50K in SQL
Server licensing cost, with consideration that blindly stepping up to bigger
hardware does not necessarily improve the critical aspect of performance
proportionately, sometimes not at all, and may even have negative impact.
With performance tuning, it is frequently possible to
achieve significant performance gains in the first few weeks. But after that,
additional gains become either progressively smaller, limited in scope, or involve major
re-architecture. In the long ago past, when hardware was so very expensive, not
mention the hard upper limits on performance, it was not uncommon for a consultant to get a
long term contract to do performance work exclusively.
More recently, performance consulting work tended to be shorter-term.
Just clean up the long hanging fruit, and crush moderate
inefficiencies with cheap powerful hardware. While this is perfectly viable
work, it also precludes the justification for the deep skills necessary to resolve complex
problems, which also calls into question the need to endure an intolerably arrogant, exorbitantly
It had gotten to the point that I had given thought to retiring,
and go fishing in some remote corner of the world.
But now with the new SQL Server per core licensing,
Microsoft has restored the indispensable (though still intolerable) status to arrogant, exorbitantly expensive, performance consultant.
So, thank you Microsoft.
Edit 16 Dec 2011
VR-Zone mentions a Windows 7/Server 2008 R2
that treats the 8-core AMD Bulldozer die as 4 cores with HT, as opposed to AMD's positioning as 8-cores. AMD should hope that this is Microsoft's position for SQL Server 2012 or no one should consider the AMD in light of the per core licensing, given that Intel physical cores are much more powerful than the Bulldozer "core"
Edit 20 Feb 2012
I might add that the new per core licensing would be well worth the extra money if SQL Server would give us:
1) Parallel Execution plans for Insert, Update and Delete
2) Improve Loop Join parallel scaling - I believe today there is content between thread in latching the inner source index root
3) Fix parallel merge join - If the parallel merge join code is broken, why can we not use the parallel hash join code with the existing index?
The basis for this if we going to pay the cores, then SQL Server should not let the core sit idle in time consuming operations.