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SQLBI - Marco Russo

SQLBI is a blog dedicated to building Business Intelligence solutions with SQL Server.
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New licensing for SQL Server 2012 and #BISM #Tabular usage

Last week Microsoft announced a new licensing schema for SQL Server 2012. If you are interested in an extensive discussion of the new licensing scheme, Denny Cherry wrote a great blog post about that.

I’d like to comment about the new BI Edition license. Teo Lachev already commented about the numbers and I agree with him.

I generally like the new licensing mode of SQL 2012. It maintains a very low-entry barrier for SSRS/SSAS/SSIS (Standard Edition). It has a reasonable licensing schema for 20-50 clients. I’ve read on Twitter that Donald Farmer is happy, too: probably QlikView feels that Microsoft is not too much aggressive for them, because BISM Tabular model is not available in Standard edition. However, there is already a free to use product, which is named PowerPivot for Excel.

Probably everyone was expecting an introduction of BISM Tabular in the Standard Edition, maybe with some limitations (like no partitions, for example). This will be not the case. I’m not sure this is a bad news, having BISM Multidimensional with a lower entry price than BISM Tabular could be better, at the end. We will see the customer reaction in a few months.

In reality, what Microsoft really changed is that the Server+CAL licensing of Enterprise Edition is no longer available and it is now called Business Intelligence. Because more advanced SQL Server features will be available only in Enterprise Edition (core-based license only), we will finally see the real numbers of Business Intelligence back-end sold by Microsoft. Until today, in fact, the numbers were always hard to get (also for Microsoft, I think): it wasn’t easy to understand the real adoption and usage of single features. With SQL Server 2012 Microsoft will have clear numbers about what is the real money generated by its Business Intelligence stack.

I think that even if it could appear just a name change, it could be more than that. Having a Business Intelligence license might improve the perception of something that is more valuable and not just a “free add-in to the SQL engine”. Only time will tell!

Published Sunday, November 06, 2011 11:11 AM by Marco Russo (SQLBI)

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Javier Guillen said:

I found it a bit strange that BISM Tabular won't be part of the Standard Edition in any way, where as BISM Multidimensional will;  Based on the road map entry from the SSAS team about a year ago, BISM Tabular was supposed to be like C# where as Multidimensional mode was supposed to be like C++...   As such, Multidimensional targets more complex environments that require more "mature" functionality.  Following this logic, you would think BISM Tabular would be part of Standard Edition as smaller environments could benefit from faster time of development...  (as in the C#/C++ analogy)

November 6, 2011 10:53 PM
 

Colin Banfield said:

"I generally like the new licensing mode of SQL 2012. It maintains a very low-entry barrier for SSRS/SSAS/SSIS (Standard Edition)"

I am of the opposite opinion. The lack of the simplier Tabular model in Standard edition is criminal, although the status quo serves to maintain a comfort zone for BI Pros. The lack of column-store indexes/compression in the BI Edition is also mind-boggling.

"However, there is already a free to use product, which is named PowerPivot for Excel."

Please. The add-in is free (assuming that you plan to use the additional apps in Office Pro in the first place), but solutions that use PowerPoint aren't. SharePoint Enterprise and/or BI edition are high entry points for any small business. The issue is obviously is inconsequential for anyone who doesn't work with, or care about small enterprises.

November 8, 2011 4:26 PM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

@Javier - good point, the C++/C# analogy is in trouble now.

@Colin: This is controversial, I know. I am attracted from two opposite forces. From one side, the lack of BISM Tabular in Standard implies a lower adoption of this new engine. Bad point. On the other side, many questions like "should I use Multidimensional or Tabular?" will be avoided in this way, because the choice will be to use Multidimensional.

I think that 80% of scenario can be covered by both technologies and BISM Tabular, in this first release, lack of many features that are important in Corporate BI scenario.

I personally would prefer BISM Tabular to be available in the Standard Edition. This would help my job as consultant and author, too. But I see the good point of having a separate edition of SQL Server just for BI, in terms of market's perception.

That said, I think that everyone (me included) would have expected BISM Tabular to be included in standard edition, without partitioning and maybe with some other limitation.

Finally, I agree with you that SharePoint is not a good value proposition for small enterprises. The new licensing mode don't change so much for these companies. There are other products on the market (also based on SSAS as an engine and Excel as a designer). That said, I know companies that prefer to use just Excel and nothing else, because they don't want to relies neither on SharePoint nor on another third-party tool. For these companies, already using Office, PowerPivot is for free.

But there are other options out there, just not 100% Microsoft. If only MS didn't killed ProClarity, the MS BI ecosystem today would be much better.

November 9, 2011 3:28 AM
 

Colin Banfield said:

Marco,

First of all I'd like to apologize for the tone of my previous response. It was written while I was still very steamed over the licensing. I'm sure that I would have exercised better decorum had I allowed for a cooling off period :)

Anyway, thanks for the response, and for better outlining your position.

"From one side, the lack of BISM Tabular in Standard implies a lower adoption of this new engine. Bad point. "

This is a key point. Given that AS-MD is the only common denominator across all platforms, what's the incentive for seasoned pros to adopt Tabular? Microsoft hinted many times that pros must jump on the Tabular bandwagon, but its lack of universality makes me wonder why.

"On the other side, many questions like "should I use Multidimensional or Tabular?" will be avoided in this way, because the choice will be to use Multidimensional."

This statement just adds to argument against adopting Tabular. Perhaps there should be a low cost Tabular only version (with RS & IS), but that might also cause confusion.

"But I see the good point of having a separate edition of SQL Server just for BI, in terms of market's perception."

In theory I agree, but the licensing fees for the BI edition gives me pause.

"That said, I think that everyone (me included) would have expected BISM Tabular to be included in standard edition, without partitioning and maybe with some other limitation."

The most obvious reasons it should be in Standard are: 1)Much less sophisticated and easier to use than MD, 2)It lacks functionality that's present in MD and other more mature competitive products, and thus doesn't deserve a premium position in the product line, 3)It would be a perfect entry-level server solution, with models developed either directly in BIDS, or imported in BIDS from PowerPivot.

"I know companies that prefer to use just Excel and nothing else, because they don't want to relies neither on SharePoint nor on another third-party tool."

This isn't a great solution, but I've done a lot of reporting work like this in the past using Excel/SQL queries/VBA.

"For these companies, already using Office, PowerPivot is for free."

I was under the mistaken impression that Office Pro was required. I guess that you only need Pro if you're publishing to SharePoint.

"But there are other options out there, just not 100% Microsoft. If only MS didn't killed ProClarity, the MS BI ecosystem today would be much better."

Very true. Another option for smaller businesses that want to stick with Microsoft would be a cloud-based solution.

By the way, love your MDX to DAX post. It was also very timely. I hope that you plan to follow up with "Next Steps." Given that DAX isn't an option for SQL Server Standard, after prototyping some models in PowerPivot, I'll need to convert from DAX to MDX!

November 9, 2011 12:11 PM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Colin,

don't mind, I like passionate discussion!

I agree on your point and it will be very hard to explain to a customer why Tabular has less features than Multidimensional and, despite this, it costs more.

The cloud-based solution could be a good idea, but we have to wait and see what will be offer, and its cost.

I can confirm that PowerPivot only requires an Excel license. The only exception is "Office Starter", which is preinstalled in some PC.

More info here: http://powerpivot-info.com/forum/4-powerpivot-and-dax-forum/78-how-much-powerpivot-for-excel-and-sharepoint-cost

Finally, another big issue is the lack of SQL partitioning in Business Intelligence License and the migration path from 2008R2 Enterprise Server to 2012 Enterprise by Core. It seems that MS left a door for companies that want to save 70% of an Enterprise core license. I want to investigate more on that and I will blog my conclusions very soon.

November 9, 2011 4:56 PM
 

Wiseman82 said:

I think the core based licensing is a bit crazy, although I can see how it might simplify things from a VM perspective.

Enterprise licensing could get a lot more expensive with core based licenses.  Our production system is a 32 core, 4 processor server.  There is a statement about a 20 core per server maximum.  Does that mean we would only need 20 core licenses, not 32?  If this is the case it will make the license changes a bit more palatable.

November 10, 2011 5:32 PM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

I understand that the 20-core limit is just realated to the upgrade of an Enterprise Server license to 2012. In case you have up to 20 core, you get an Enterprise Core license (within the Software Assurance terms), but over this limit you have to contact a Microsoft Account in order to discuss it.

November 11, 2011 4:19 AM
 

Wiseman82 said:

Marco,

You might be right, but this statement suggests to me that it also applies to new purchases of SQL 2012:

"*SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition server licenses - whether newly purchased or upgraded with Software Assurance - will be subject to a 20 core per server license maximum."

If this is correct it will make the core based licensing easier for us to live with.  If it's not correct, our license fee for our 4 CPU, 8 core server has just doubled!  

It's actually a lot worse than that though.  In 1-2 years time, it's likely we would upgrade our database servers.  I'd probably be expecting to go from 8 core CPUs to 16 core CPUs - our license fee would double again if we did.  With the trend for CPUs to get more cores instead of faster clock speeds, core based licensing is going to cost people a lot more money.  Either that or it will keep people on SQL 2005/2008 for a lot longer...

November 11, 2011 8:09 AM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Good point, but Microsoft people I talked with clarified me that the 20-core limit is just for switching from Server+CAL licensing to "core" licensing. I agree that the information available is not clear in this regard. I suggest you to contact Microsoft Account in order to understand what the option are. I also know that raising up the number of cores, the prices should be lowered, too...

November 11, 2011 9:04 AM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

Another clarification: the "newly purchased" refers to the following case.

(excerpt from MS licensing page)

New server licenses for EE will only be available for purchase through 6/30/2012. Additional EE server licenses in the Server and CAL license model will not be sold thereafter. EA/EAP customers will have until their next EA/EAP renewal after 6/30/2012 to

purchase additional server licenses for EE to complete currently planned projects. After that, all new EE licenses must be purchased per core.

November 11, 2011 9:15 AM
 

Wiseman82 said:

Hi Marco,

Thanks for clearing that up.  

Licensing is going to get a lot more expensive with the new core based licensing system.  I can only hope there are going to be substantial discounts when buying a larger number of cores.

The core licenses are 1/4 of the cost of the old processor license.  This is about right if you are looking at a desktop PC - 4 cores is about the average for desktops.  For servers, 8core+ is readily available on entry level systems.  Maybe they should be charging 1/8 or 1/10 the price of a processor license instead.

November 11, 2011 12:53 PM
 

Marco Russo (SQLBI) said:

December 5, 2011 12:34 PM

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About Marco Russo (SQLBI)

Marco Russo is a consultant, writer and trainer specialized in Business Intelligence with Microsoft technologies. He runs the SQLBI.COM website, which is dedicated to distribute resources useful for BI developers, like Integration Services components, Analysis Services models, tools, technical information and so on. Marco is certified as MCT, MCDBA, MCSD.NET, MCSA, MCSE+I.

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