Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2: Choosing the Correct Edition

SQL Server 2008 R2 is the latest release in Microsoft’s enterprise relational database platform series. As an upgrade to the SQL Server 2008 platform, SQL Server 2008 R2 comes at a higher price point.

Let’s take a look at the seven different editions of SQL Server 2008 R2 that you can use:

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition replaces the Microsoft Data Engine (MSDE) as the free version of SQL Server for application development and lightweight use. It remains free and retains the limitations of MSDE with respect to client connections and performance. It’s a great tool for developing and testing applications and extremely small implementations, but that’s about as far as you can run with it.
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Workgroup is billed as a “small business SQL Server” and it offers an impressive array of functionality for a $3,899 price tag per processor. (It’s also available under a 5-user license for $739). Workgroup edition maxes out at 2 CPUs with 3GB of RAM and allows for most of the functionality you’d expect from a server-based relational database. It offers limited replication capabilities as well.
  • The workhorse SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition remains the staple of the product line for serious database applications. It can handle up to 4 CPUs with an unlimited amount of RAM. Standard Edition 2005 introduces database mirroring and integration services. It’s priced at $7,499 for a processor or $1,849 for 5 users.
  • SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is now more limited than in the past. It previously supported unlimited processors but is now capped at 8 CPUs. It's also more expensive than it was before at $28,749 per processor or $13,969 for 25 users.
  • The new SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition supports up to 256 logical processors and provides high-end scalability. Datacenter edition provides access to SQL Server's new multiserver administration tools and allows the use of unlimited memory.
  • The other new edition, SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse Edition provides an appliance-based solution for highly scalable data warehouse applications. It supports the standard hub-and-spoke data warehouse architecture.
  • Developers needing the full features of SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition for use in a non-production environment may find SQL Server 2008 R2 Developer Edition the right tool for the job. This product has the exact same functionality as Enterprise Edition and only differs in the license. (Oh, and by the way, it’s much cheaper at only $50 per license!) Microsoft also offers a direct upgrade path to convert Developer servers to production licensing
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Web is a specialized version of SQL Server for use in web hosting environments. Like Standard edition, it has no limitations on the amount of memory used and supports the use of up to 4 CPUs. Pricing for web edition runs $15 per processor per month.
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Compact is a free version of SQL Server for use in embedded environments, such as mobile devices and other Windows systems.
That sums up the licensing options available for SQL Server 2008 R2. As you’ve discovered, Microsoft offers a wide variety of licenses and choosing the correct one for your environment can save you thousands of dollars.