Move SQL Server licenses without Software Assurance to Azure

Migrating your on-premises infrastructure and architecture to the cloud may seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t have Software Assurance for your on-premises licenses. While this may seem difficult and challenging, there is a pain-free way to bring your existing on-premises licenses to the cloud through Azure Dedicated Host. Not only does Azure Dedicated Host provide you with your own private cloud on Azure, but it also allows you control over host maintenance and lets you continue using your existing licenses, and offers continued support for applications that would not otherwise be supported on other clouds. For example, when you run your Dedicated Host on Azure you can take advantage of free SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2012 Extended Security Updates, only in Azure.

Azure offers unique benefits that no other cloud provider can match including dual-use rights, Azure Hybrid Benefit, and unlimited virtualization, which lets you license the physical cores you have on-prem and those licenses will cover all the vCPUs on the host until the host runs out of resources. All of these benefits help you migrate to the cloud as cost-effectively as possible. We’ll go into more detail about each Azure-only benefit in this blog.

This blog will take you on a deep dive into moving SQL Server licenses to Azure Dedicated Host, its infrastructure benefits, and why it is the easiest way to bring your existing on-prem licenses to the cloud.

What is Azure Dedicated Host?

Azure Dedicated Host is an Azure service that provides you with a physical server, which you can host one or more virtual machines (VMs) on. Through physical, host-level isolation, you are the only tenant on the host; the server is dedicated to your organization and your workloads. With Azure Dedicated Host, you gain direct visibility to and control over all the Azure resources on the host. Essentially, Azure Dedicated Host allows you to create your own private cloud in Azure.

What are the benefits of Azure Dedicated Host?

Infrastructure benefits

With hardware isolation at the physical server level, Azure Dedicated Host provides servers solely for your subscription. You are the only one using the capacity and resources on the host. Physical isolation may be required by your company or industry, or integral to ensuring your workloads are able to perform as quickly as they should.

In addition to the physical isolation of the host and awareness of all Azure resources on the host, Azure Dedicated Host allows you to choose the combination of the number of processors, VM series, VM sizes, and the type of processor you use. Azure has a wide offering of various combinations of processor type and VM series. A full list of the available Dedicated Host SKUs, the combination of a VM series and processor type in a given region can be found on the Dedicated Host pricing page.

Azure Dedicated Host also gives you direct control over the maintenance on the host. Instead of adhering to Azure’s maintenance schedule, Maintenance Control allows you to delay platform updates and apply them during a 35-day window.

Licensing benefits

In addition to the infrastructure benefits, Azure Dedicated Host provides substantial financial benefits for those who already have on-premises SQL Server enterprise edition licenses, whether the license was purchased with or without Software Assurance. Software Assurance allows you to maximize your discounts and can unlock more benefits like Azure Hybrid Benefit, unlimited virtualization, and dual-use rights, which are not available for the license only. Microsoft highly recommends purchasing Software Assurance for your migration to Azure.

Migration (getting to Azure) Azure Hybrid Benefit (only on Azure) * Unlimited virtualization (only on Azure) Dual-use rights (only on Azure)
License-only, purchased pre-Oct. 1, 2019 Recommended: Move to Azure Dedicated Host at no additional license cost. N/A N/A N/A
License-only, purchased on or after Oct. 1, 2019 Move to the cloud by purchasing SQL Server on Azure VM with pay-as-you-go license pricing. N/A N/A N/A
License + Software Assurance, purchased pre-Oct. 1, 2019 Move to Azure Dedicated Host or Azure VMs at no additional license cost using Azure Hybrid Benefit. Included in Software Assurance. License the physical cores and the licenses will cover all the vCPUs on the host until the host runs out of resources. Grace period to use your licenses on-prem and in Azure as you migrate.
License + Software Assurance, purchased on or after Oct. 1, 2019 Recommended: Move to Azure Dedicated Host with Azure Hybrid Benefit and unlimited virtualization. Provides deep discounts while moving your licenses to the cloud. License the physical cores and the licenses will cover all the vCPUs on the host until the host runs out of resources. Grace period to use your licenses on-prem and in Azure as you migrate.

*Azure Hybrid Benefit allows you to bring your on-premises SQL Server licenses with Software Assurance to Azure at no additional cost.

Software application licenses can be applied at one of two places: the host or the VM. By applying the licenses at the host level, rather than the VM level, your license will cover all the physical cores rather than the virtual cores. With more virtual cores than physical cores on a host, this allows you to stretch your existing licenses further. For example, instead of licensing all 80 virtual cores on the Esv4-Type1 Dedicated Host, you can instead save 28 core licenses by licensing the 52 physical cores on the host. In doing so, you can license up to 80 virtual cores on the host while only applying the licenses on 52 virtual cores. This is only available on Azure.

The practice of licensing the physical cores to minimize your overall licensing cost is called unlimited virtualization. With SQL Enterprise Edition, Software Assurance, and unlimited virtualization, customers can apply the license to the physical cores, at the host level, and create as many VMs as the host allows. All VMs created on that host are then covered by unlimited virtualization and are covered by the host-level licenses. Unlimited virtualization is unique to Azure.

How you go about achieving unlimited virtualization depends on the license type. For SQL Server 2008, you can achieve unlimited virtualization at no additional cost by applying the licenses at the host level. For those with SQL Server 2008 R2 and later, by purchasing Software Assurance, you can unlock unlimited virtualization on your Dedicated Host.

Azure allows for dual-use rights while migrating your on-prem workloads to the cloud through Azure Hybrid Benefit. You can migrate to the cloud and simultaneously use your existing on-prem SQL Server licenses in Azure for up to 180 days. This allows you to avoid buying more licenses to cover the migration period and furthers the use of your existing licenses. You must have Software Assurance in order to use dual-use rights while migrating.

To better understand how much you can save through Azure Dedicated Host, Software Assurance, and unlimited virtualization, please check out the Azure pricing calculator.

Extended Security Update benefits

Customers who migrate their SQL Server 2012 licenses to Azure will receive free Extended Security Updates, only in Azure. Extended Security Updates are critical security patches for legacy services that need to be run past the end of support date. After the July 12, 2022 end of SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 Extended Security Updates on-premises, you can migrate to Azure and take advantage of one year of additional SQL Server 2008 extended security updates, only in Azure, for free. Extended security updates for both SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2012 are free only in Azure, making Azure the prime choice for SQL workloads running on either version.

Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be challenging. There are proven ways to get to Azure that drive business impact. Through Azure Dedicated Host, you can bring your existing licenses to Azure. By purchasing Software Assurance, you maximize your licensing discounts and unlock more benefits, such as Azure Hybrid Benefit, unlimited virtualization, and dual-use rights.

Learn more about our product and pricing offers for SQL Server migration:

Get started with your migration to Azure using Azure Migrate.