If you’re looking to address looming SQL Server costs, get accurate data on the productive use of each instance.
The first thing to consider is the fact that Microsoft doesn’t care about where SQL Server is installed. The following quote is lifted directly from the most recent Microsoft document on licensing server technologies (1):
“Use terms for each software license specify the number of instances of software that you can run on a particular server at a time, rather than the number of copies of the software that you can install and use on your server.
Each software license allows you to create and store any number of instances of the software on any of your servers or storage media to make it easier for you to run those instances on any of your licensed servers.”
It means to determine how much SQL Server liability exists; the first requirement is to identify the running instances NOT the number of installations.
Next is to understand the use case for such instances. With server proliferation, as a result of virtualization, a great many running instances in an organization will be “spinning” while supporting no productive access.
“Productive access” is the key phrase here. Simply identifying whether access occurs is pointless, as backups and other housekeeping jobs are hardly productive. To identify those instances of SQL Server, which are critical to the business, requires and understanding of the user databases being referenced, the nature of that activity and the nature of the calling applications. The intersection of these three data points yields unequivocal evidence of which SQL Servers must be maintained and which can be retired.
In our experience the number of licensable SQL Server instances in their organization, which are doing nothing but consuming licenses, regularly shocks customers.
1) Volume Licensing Brief: Licensing Microsoft server products for use in virtualized environments