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I have two fresh Win2K3 boxes (Quad Core 2.5GHz, 4GB ram) which need SQL Server on them. I need to buy licenses/set them up but am not too sure of the application requirements other than that it wil be a single reasonably small website to start without too many other crazy requirements. Can I get away with Express 2008 or will this not take advantage of multiple processors/are there other limitations?

I do know both servers will host basically the same things with one used for staging and one for production; seems like a waste of processing power but that's the way it is.

So I need some version of SQL Server on both of them that will at least take advantage of the multicores and 4gb ram. What is the cheapest solution to implement here? I can rent copies from the host for $500-something a month but that seems ridiculous to me. Searching on Google finds physical copies of SQL Server 2005 for $250. Is this legit/will it work? Thanks.

BTW we don't have physical access and have to do everything through RD.

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If you need definitive licensing answers, the best thing to do is usually to talk to Microsoft licensing. They want you to use their products and will give you a straight answer.

You can see information on the differences between the versions here on Microsoft's website (that page is form SQL 2008 but similar ones exist for 2005).

Express will not take advantage of multiple processors, but will work on multiple cores, believe it or not. It's a socket restriction, not a logical core restriction. It will also take advantage of only 1GB of RAM for in-memory database operations.

Frankly, since you say it will be a "single reasonably-small website", it seems unlikely that you really need it to take advantage of multiple physical processors and 4GB of RAM, but again I don't know your exact requirements. It may be that Web edition through your hosting provider would be a good option, but from the sound of it I bet you could get away with Express. If you start that way and decide to upgrade, it's a pretty simple affair to detach and reattach the DBs to a higher version.

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Also, you may be able to run multiple instances of SQL Express, though from the sound of it you don't really have the need for multiple databases. I believe the artificial limits are per instance - though you should verify that before counting on it. – Goyuix Jan 26 '10 at 22:43
You also have a limit of 4 Gigs of data per database. The memory and CPU limits are per instance, so you could install two SQL Express instances and each instance could use up to 4 Gigs of memory, but this would present you with a programming challenge. Based on the size info you gave, a single SQL Express instance should be just fine. – mrdenny Jan 26 '10 at 23:08

Instead of rehashing all what's already been published, I'll let you check out Microsoft's own edition comparison to see if Express will work for you. However, I can tell you that express does not utilize more than one socket (it does use more than one core) and does not use more than 1GB of RAM.

Plenty of people are using express edition with success, but if you need the 4GB of RAM and multiple sockets, you're out of luck.

SQL Server 2005 for $250 is really cheap... cheaper than a non-profit discount that I'm accustomed to in my job so I'd be very wary. If you're doing a public facing website, you may want to consider getting per processor licensing which for Standard Edition costs about $5,000 USD, 30K for Enterprise. Personally, $500 a month doesn't sound too terribly bad especially if you get Enterprise edition and they take care of backups for you.

In the end, Phoebus's advice to talk to your licensing specialist is the right thing to do concerning determining what license model to use.

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Goodness... 3 answers already while I was typing. Trying to beat people to an answer here is like footracing a Ferrari. If only I had the patented Evan Anderson cybernetic implant. =) – Wesley Jan 26 '10 at 19:15
Voting you up for an answer at least as good if not better than mine, esp addressing the $250 "licenses". :) – phoebus Jan 26 '10 at 21:19

Express 2008 has a 4GB database size limit. Plus I believe there are many other features which are also not available. If your web site is small enough you may use that. I have nothing against SQL Server, but you may also look at other alternatives like MySQL if you do not want to spent money for Licenses.

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Here's a link to the vendor page that compares the editions. You only say you have quad-core machines, not how many sockets you have, and that matters. The workload and database max size also matters. Web, Workgroup, or Standard may all work for you.

The page also has links on how to buy. If you're thinking of buying from a source that doesn't seem legit, it probably isn't.

Lastly, you can download and eval every SQL edition. Try each of them on your hardware and try to simulate your expected load, and see if you need to use all of that hardware.

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An option for you may be to sign up to Microsoft's BizSpark program. You get 3 year deployment licenses for software such as Windows Server and SQL Server that you can use for production.

For non-production you should be able to purchase a SQL Server Developer Edition license for cheap (if your not eligible for bizspark).

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