Licensing Q&A: How do you license SQL Server 2022 in containers?

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SQL Server can be used on Linux and Docker platforms, which means you can run it in containers using Docker. Containers are a way to run multiple isolated apps on a single system. They’re generally lighter and faster to start/stop than virtual machines, which provide more isolation and require more resources. For licensing, a container or virtual machine is considered an operating system environment (OSE), defined as all or part of an operating system instance or a virtual operating system instance with a separate machine identity.

If you want to run SQL Server in containers and use the Per Core licensing model, you’ll need to buy a core license for each virtual core (v-core) or virtual processor/CPU/thread supporting the container. There’s a minimum of four licenses per container and a v-core maps to a hardware thread. If you have many containers and want to move them around to reallocate resources, Microsoft has the Flexible Virtualization Benefit, which has flexible reassignment rules.

On the other hand, if you’re using the Server+CAL model, you must buy one server license for each container running SQL Server, regardless of the number of virtual processors. So, you’ll need six server licenses if you want to run Standard Edition on six containers. Remember that each user or device accessing SQL Server on the container will also need a CAL.

Check out this guide for a more comprehensive view of Microsoft SQL Server 2022 licensing.

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