SQL Server 2016 SP1 – A significant change to licencing

Myself of all people am probably least likely to get excited by licencing changes in a product, but with the SP1 release of SQL Server 2016 there are some significant changes to benefit ISVs. I had to look up that acronym and apparently it’s Independent Software Vendors – which is the type of organisation I work for.

The change has brought many features that previously were only available in Enterprise Edition into the Standard version of the product – and something that has been mentioned less – even into the Express version in most cases.

This is fantastic where we are delivering software to clients, some of whom who may wish to use Enterprise, some Standard (or even Express). We no longer have to keep usage of these features out of our core product, which means we are able to maintain a single codebase. I can think immediately of Table Partitioning, Database Snapshots and Data Compression as things we might like to be able to use as standard in our products – but which were previously only available in Enterprise Edition (or Expensive Edition as it’s otherwise known).

On top of those, the new security features in SQL 2016, including AlwaysEncrypted (more on that in a later post) are now available in all the versions. These features are likely to become critical to us as the GDPR comes into effect (the European General Data Protection Guidelines) and we need to start making sure the Personal Identifiable Information in our products is protected to the highest levels. Having these features available in standard edition is going to make our lives one hell of a lot easier.

Here’s the breakdown of features available in the different versions of SQL 2016, contrasting what was available in the RTM version to what is now available in SP1 (picture taken from MSDN):


There are still a bunch of Enterprise features not included in that list, but as a generalisation, most things that are configured at the level of database code (rather than server level and HADR) are included. The change is being sold as primary targeted at software organisations like ourselves and giving us the ability to have consistent database code for all our deployments.

On top of that, in Standard edition you can now have up to 24 processor cores and 128GB of memory (plus a bit more if you use memory optimised tables or columnstore indexes). That makes it fairly viable for even enterprise level workloads.

All in all, this change is great news for us software vendors in terms of what we can offer to our clients, and another good reason to upgrade to 2016.

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