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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

My company is trying to virtualize our existing application stack through amazon EC2. Our current deployment stack requires Windows server 2008, MS SQL 2008 Enterprise, and some Java stuff (for which licensing is not an issue, yet [oracle!]).

Traditionally, we have been building servers containing the stack, software and licences on customer sites, and periodically accessing them for upgrades, fixes etc. Customer usage is very inconsistant and usually requires heavy usage for a few days several times a month (e.g to run analytics) in response to business events.

We are hoping to move to a hosted model where we can turn EC2 instances on and off [on demand] and maintained up to date AMIs containing latest, qa blessed software.

Amazon does not, however, offer MS SQL 2K8 among it's supported AMIs. We've built an AMI that runs the required stack. However we are concerned about how licensing terms would apply when scaling this model up to support our customers.

The architecture of the database would evoke problems if their aren't strict lines of demarcation between database instances and the corresponding data so we where intending to operate these under individual amazon block stores.

I figure the usage will be ~1-5 CPU years with less than a TB of total data, but for 60-100 customers / database instances.

Microsoft licensing seemed clueless about how licensing a custom AMI works, and would only say that standard terms apply, which is, worst case, $--k/per instance. Amazons forums didn't seem to be much help.

Does making this model work require either fixing the numerous flaws in the database model requiring separate instances per customer or paying Microsoft a new licensing fee for every instance start (or maybe just once for each EBS copy), or is their some datacenter/administration rules which make this a little more reasonable without having to change a bunch of code

Or some other advice I haven't considered.


2 Answers 2


I would have thought (and I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree here, im not a licencing expert) that if you were hosting SQL on EC2, that you would be looking at using SPLA licencing, so you would pay on a monthly basis per instance, and deal with the licening your self.

Also, I assume you have to use Enterprise edition of SQL? As Amazon do have an AMI with Standard editiond - http://aws.amazon.com/amis/AWS/3202

  • This issue is that we would not be running instances continually. We would be running several at any given time on average, but not all sixty, and not continuously. We've been in contact with SPLA licencing. They're contract leaves a lot of room for flexibility, and they where vocally agreeable to the proposal, but when asked for the confirmation in writing didn't seem to want to commit to what they said.
    – gbegley
    Jan 21, 2011 at 14:54

Contact Microsoft SPLA partners and sign a SPLA contract. That is what you need, legally - a cotract as service provider.

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