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Joe Chang

Server Systems for SQL Server 2012 per core licensing

Until recently, the SQL Server Enterprise Edition per processor (socket) licensing model resulted in only 2 or 3 server system configurations being the preferred choice. Determine the number of sockets: 2, 4 or 8. Then select the processor with the most compute capability at that socket count level. Finally, fill the DIMM sockets with the largest capacity ECC memory module at reasonable cost per GB. Currently this is the 16GB DIMM with a price of $365 on the Dell website, and $240 from Crucial. The 32GB from Dell is currently (2012-Oct) at $1399 each, down significantly from $2499 in early 2012? Perhaps next year the 32GB DIMM might be under $800?

SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition options

Now with SQL Server 2012 per core licensing, there are a broader range of possibilities based on the number of cores. The table below shows Dell PowerEdge system examples for the Intel Xeon E5 processors from 8 to 32 cores. I would cite HP ProLiant configurations as well, but their website has become so painful to use that I have given up.

SQL 2012
T620 2 E5-2643 3.3GHz 4 8 24 $10K $48K
T620 2 E5-2667 2.9GHz 6 12 24 $12K $72K
T620 2 E5-2690 2.9GHz 8 16 24 $13K $96K
R820 4 E5-4603 2.0GHz 4 16 48 $14K $96K
R820 4 E5-4617 2.9GHz 6 24 48 $20K $144K
R820 4 E5-4650 2.7GHz 8 32 48 $29K $192K

Pricing for the Dell PowerEdge T620 system above with 16x16GB memory and 1 boot drive. The prices for the Dell PowerEdge R820 are also with 16x16GB memory. Each additional 16x16GB DIMMs cost $5840.

The SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing shown above is based on a discounted price of $6K per core. The list price is $6,736 per core. The Fujitsu RX300 S7 TPC-E full disclosure report of 2012 Jul 5 shows a full environment: system + storage + software discount of 20%. If evenly applied, this would mean SQL Server license at $5,400 per core. I would like hear what discounts people are getting with respect to volume. My understanding prior to 2012 was that the Microsoft sales rep does not love you unless you buy 16 EE processor licenses, which would translate to 32 core licenses in 2012. Is this still the threshold?

It is unfortunate that Intel does not offer a high frequency 4-core in the E5-4600 line as they do in the E5-2600 series. I am of the opinion that a 4-way system with Xeon E5 3GHz+ quad-core processor and 48 DIMM sockets would be a very interesting platform. The Intel list price for the E5-4650 8-core is $3616, the 4617 6-core for $1611, and the 4603 4-core at $551.

Considering that the SQL Server Enterprise Edition licensing component dwarfs the system and processor costs, it would be a good idea for Intel to offer an all-purpose E5-4600 at the high-end that can configured to 4, 6 or 8 cores in the microcode. It would be simpler for large organizations to purchase 4-way systems with the all-purpose processor as a standard configuration. Then each individual system could have the number cores dialed down to the desired level.

The 4-way E5-4603 2.0GHz is probably not as useful compared to the 2-way E5-2690 2.9GHz, both at 16-cores total. The 4-way has twice the memory bandwidth and capacity but probably also much more than necessary to support the 16 x 2GHz cores. The 2-way has nearly 50% more compute capability with balanced memory bandwidth because the complete processor was designed to be in balance for the high-end configuration. There are only a small number of situations that would favor the larger memory capacity of the 4-way E5-4600.

The recent generation Intel processor cores are so powerful that 4 or 6 cores is probably good enough for most medium size businesses. I would prefer a 2-socket system for the extra memory bandwidth and capacity, but the minimum SQL Server 2012 license is for 4-cores per socket, negating the feasibility of a 2-way dual-core system.

Standard Edition

The limit for SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition is the lessor of 16-cores or 4 sockets and 64GB memory. In addition, many important features are not available like compression, partitioning, and advanced security. I recall that there was a limit to parallel query execution, and that it was less than 16? Standard Edition does not have parallel index operations - i.e., index creation? Perhaps all this means that 16-core is far more than can be used in a Standard Edition environment. The 64GB memory also provides guidance on when to use standard edition.

Personally, I do not have much side-by-side comparisons of Standard versus Enterprise edition. I would like to hear from people what are the key technical considerations in determining when SE is suitable.

It would seem that a single socket system with 4-6 cores and 64GB+ memory is most suitable for Standard Edition. The 64GB memory limit applies to SQL Server, it might be a good idea to configure the server with more than 64GB, perhaps as much as 96GB, so as to leave more than sufficient memory for the operating system and other processes.

Below are some Dell system examples that might be suitable for SQL Server Standard Edition. It appears that Dell is discontinuing the T320 and T420, in favor of the Rx20 systems. While the R-modes are great from higher density environments as web servers, the T-models are best for small business database servers.

SystemProcessorFrequencyCoresMemoryPCI-ESystem Price
T110 1 E3-1270v2 3.5GHz 4 4x8GB 1x16, 1x8, 1x4 $2,080
T320* 1 E5-1410 2.8GHz 4 6x8GB 1x16, 2x4g3, 1x4g2 $1,944
T320* 1 E5-2407 2.2GHz 4 6x8GB 1x16, 2x4g3, 1x4g2 $2,019
T320 1 E5-2440 2.4GHz 6 6x8GB 1x16, 2x4g3, 1x4g2 $2,799
R320 1 E5-2470 2.3GHz 8 6x8GB 1x16, 1x4g2 $3,529
R520 2 E5-2407 2.2GHz 2x4 12x8GB 1x16, 3x8 $3,503
T620 2 E5-2643 3.3GHz 2x4 8x8GB 4x16, 2x8, 1x4 $4,292

* The T320 and T420 are no longer available? Only the R320 and R420?
The T110 II with 4x8GB added $1,251 from Dell, price from Crucial is $440.
The T320 memory price from Dell is $160 for 8GB, and $365 for 16GB. Crucial is $85 for 8GB and $240 for 16GB.

Technically, the systems for the E5 processors are better than the E3, with more memory bandwidth (3 channels versus 2) and larger memory capacity. On the downside is a large drop in processor frequency. The 2-socket quad-core is probably a better option than the single socket 8-core processors.

The SQL Server 2012 per core licensing may be a shock over 2008 R2 licensing at the 8-core per socket level, effectively doubling SQL Server licensing costs. However, based on direct observations of many environments, I am of the opinion that most businesses would have more than adequate performance with a properly tuned 2-way quad-core system with 8 cores total. This system has more than 4X the compute capability of 4-way systems from the period before multi-core processors. So in fact, SQL Server licensing costs have gone down, we just need to be judicious in the choice of configuration.

Published Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:40 PM by jchang

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GlennAlanBerry said:

Hey Joe,

Nice to see you posting again. Are you going to be at PASS this year?

The E3-12xx v2 processor for single-socket servers is going to give you much better single-threaded performance than an E5-2400 series processor if you can live with the 32GB RAM limit. It also might make sense to get a two socket server with only one E5-2643 processor instead of using any model with the E5-2400 series Sandy Bridge-EN processors.

October 29, 2012 4:20 PM

jchang said:

I think 32GB is just fine for 4 cores. I recall when the practical system memory config increased from 8-16GB to 32-64GB that many IO problems went away. But this also coincided with the 32/64-bit transition.

So I am inclined the think the E5-2600 is better matched for 2-socket.

In looking at the Intel E5-2400 SKUs, they all suck.

The E5-1600 SKUs, 4-core 3.6GHz, and 6-core, 3.2GHz looks really good. I just do not recall Dell offering the E5-1600.

See you at PASS - assuming IAD is operational

October 29, 2012 4:55 PM

pwehland said:

Check your contracts with Microsoft before you buy.  We just saved our customer €604,000 by upgrading to SQL 2012 because we could use the old Socket licensing with SQL Server 2012 through Dec-2013.

October 30, 2012 5:12 AM

Randall said:

In the first table, these two entries have different prices for the same hardware:

R820 4 E5-4617 2.9GHz 6 24 48 $20K $144K

R820 4 E5-4617 2.9GHz 6 24 48 $29K $192K

I seems that something should be different...

October 30, 2012 8:27 AM

jchang said:

Good catch Randall, the last item was supposed to be the E5-4650, 8 cores. pwehlandl: I think the max that can be transferred over from 2K8 is 20 cores.

October 30, 2012 10:25 AM

sql_noob said:

we bought some 6 core CPU servers last year and after the SQL 2012 pricing came out we were shocked. we're looking at upgrading but will probably go to 4 core CPU's.

its cheaper to buy new servers with less cores

November 6, 2012 3:28 PM

sam said:

hi.i have 2 cpu with 16 core.I use SQL 2012 with 8 core licenses.I want migrate to 12 core does it???

July 3, 2013 1:10 AM

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About jchang

Reverse engineering the SQL Server Cost Based Optimizer (Query Optimizer), NUMA System Architecture, performance tools developer - SQL ExecStats, mucking with the data distribution statistics histogram - decoding STATS_STREAM, Parallel Execution plans, microprocessors, SSD, HDD, SAN, storage performance, performance modeling and prediction, database architecture, SQL Server engine

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