Giving Away Free SQL Server Licenses… Wait What?

Shawn Meyers (@1dizzygoose), Principal Architect 

On March 10, 2016 Microsoft held a #DataDriven event touting all the really cool and neat features of SQL Server 2016. One of the topics covered was that Microsoft is going to be giving away free SQL Server licenses to Oracle customers to motivate them to switch to a SQL Server platform. This set Twitter ablaze within the SQL Server community and the #DataDriven steam. Everyone wants to know what is the catch?

I requested more information, as House of Brick has multiple customers who are annoyed by the licensing shenanigans of Oracle and want to change platforms. Here is what I found.

What you need to buy to get something for free

First and foremost, the offer requires you to purchase Software Assurance (SA) for your licenses, which isn’t cheap, and you must sign a three-year SA agreement. SA, for those who are not aware, tends to run between 25% and 30% of the cost of the software. However this is still a deal, since you didn’t have to pay for the original outlay and you most likely would have purchased SA with your SQL Server license.

There is a footnote that states you must be signed up for a Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE), which is part of your Enterprise Agreement (EA) with Microsoft. There are many facets of SCE, but at a minimum this would require that every SQL Server you have would need to have SA. There are also some nice tie-ins to the Azure cloud, making it even more cost efficient to look at Azure for some of your workloads. There is a 50-core minimum for SCE, so you will be making a significant purchase, but since most shops already have some SQL Server, you may be closer to this number than you think.

If your company is ready to act fast, Microsoft is offering some technical assistance and help with your migration project, plus training for your Oracle DBAs. However, you must sign up by June 30, 2016 to qualify.

Still can’t decide?

Now for those of you who need time to examine this offer and can’t make commitments by June 30, 2016, the current understanding is the free licenses will continue, it’s just the free training and migration assistance that will no longer be available.

During the #DataDriven event, Microsoft did showcase some great studies on how SQL Server can be much cheaper than Oracle. With SQL Server Enterprise Edition, everything is included: multitenant, multiple compression and encryption tools, data warehouse tooling, Business Intelligence suite of tools, hot DR server, and much, much more. With Oracle, each of these products is an additional cost. Even basic things SQL Server DBAs take for granted are an extra cost, such as multitenant, which allows you to have more than one database, but with Oracle it is an extra fee. Microsoft showed one scenario where the yearly cost with SQL Server is nearly 12x less expensive than Oracle. However, this example was a stacked scenario using every feature SQL Server has, and every extra fee Oracle charges. But at the end of the day, SQL Server (in nearly all cases) will be less if not much, much less than Oracle on a day in, day out basis. The 12x costs may be on the high side, but 4x to 6x can be very typical if you use anything beyond the basic database engine. Even without free licensing, the yearly cost savings are compelling enough to run the numbers to validate if a switch makes sense for you.

Microsoft will be releasing a new version of the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA), which is a tool to help evaluate and migrate your Oracle, MySQL, DB2, and Access databases to SQL Server. This is a fairly robust suite of tools that can offer much help during the migration process and can streamline your planning and actual conversion. There is a release candidate out for this new version of the tool, which you can read about here. Many new items were added to the conversion process, and more of the complex Oracle designs can still be converted automatically.

What more should I know?

There are still some open questions, so I am signing up for this program to learn more. The current questions I have in mind are:

How do I prove I own Oracle?
Most of the Oracle contract paperwork is covered under NDA with Oracle and I can’t share that with Microsoft without causing issues. Granted a check I sent to Oracle wouldn’t be covered, but what is Microsoft looking for? We will post more details about this when we know more.

How long do I have to convert?
If I have a large application critical to my business, the conversion project could take a year. Between testing, recoding some items, cross training, getting business buy in, and all the other steps a project like this has, this timferame isn’t unrealistic. My guess is Microsoft wants you to convert at your own pace, and if you signed up for the three-year contract and didn’t actually convert, you still paid Microsoft money (and of course are still paying Oracle). Meaning that your desire to get off Oracle and save money is the key driver and Microsoft will embrace you as a customer.

Now for the shameless plug

SQL Server passed Oracle in the Gartner Group magic quadrant for DBMS with SQL Server 2014, and with the multitude of great enhancements in SQL Server 2016, it is hard to imagine Oracle catching up. I wrote a blog post about which is the largest relational database management system and I asserted SQL server leads in some categories and is making significant inroads in others. With the release of SQL Server 2016, Microsoft is very committed to making SQL Server the best in all categories.

If you have been swayed, and decide you want to talk further about getting off of Oracle and onto a SQL Server platform, the House of Brick team offers decades of expertise with our staff of trained Oracle and SQL Server professionals. We have experience in migration and re-platforming all types of databases and can assist you with your migration. It is easy to request a call with our experienced sales staff, and best of all, the consultation is at no cost to you.


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