Server-side licensing changes for SharePoint Server 2013 affect both overall costs and the types of licenses needed for deployments. The consolidation of multiple SharePoint server-side license types will generally reduce licensing costs. However, an increase in the base server license price, modifications to license reassignment rules, and requirements to use newer versions of Windows Server and SQL Server will increase overall licensing spend for most customers. (SharePoint 2013 also introduces a variety of client-side licensing changes as well, which will be covered in an upcoming report.)

For internal use of the software, SharePoint 2013 employs the same licensing model as prior versions did. Each client accessing SharePoint Server 2013 requires one or two SharePoint 2013 Client Access Licenses (CALs), and CALs are available on a per-user or per-device basis. The Standard CAL (SCAL) is always required and licenses access to the core SharePoint features, while the Enterprise CAL (ECAL) is optional and additive to the SCAL. The ECAL licenses access to various business intelligence, application development, search, and legal discovery features. Each server running SharePoint Server 2013 components, called an instance, requires a server license. There is only one general purpose server-side license, unlike other Microsoft server products that have multiple editions such as Standard, Enterprise, or Datacenter. (Confusingly, Microsoft literature often refers to "SharePoint Server Standard" and "SharePoint Server Enterprise," with the errant terminology referring to the types of CALs owned—SCAL alone or both the SCAL and ECAL—rather than the edition of the server software.)

Special-Purpose Server-Side Licenses Eliminated

SharePoint 2010 had five types of server-side licenses, one general purpose and four intended for specific scenarios, whereas SharePoint 2013 has just one. The four special-purpose licenses have been discontinued, largely made superfluous by changes to the use rights for the SharePoint Server 2013 server license. (License grants for customers who had Software Assurance on the discontinued licenses are covered in the illustration "SharePoint License Prices and SA Grants".)

FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint was a server-side license for use of a higher capacity and more customizable search engine than was included with the SharePoint Server 2010 server-side license. If FAST technology was employed to improve the search experience, the servers processing search queries required a FAST Search Server 2010 license at the cost of over four times more than a SharePoint Server 2010 license. SharePoint Server 2013 now features a single search engine, based around the FAST technology. Installing and running this technology on servers is now covered by the general purpose SharePoint Server 2013 server license. Customers needing to license new or expanded deployments of FAST Search Server 2010 should buy a SharePoint Server 2013 server license and apply SharePoint 2013's downgrade rights to install and run FAST Search Server 2010 in its place. (For details, see Microsoft's Dec. 2012 or more recent Product List document.)

Search Server 2010 was a server-side license for customers wanting to use SharePoint 2010 solely as an internal enterprise search solution. A Search Server 2010 license provided the right for SharePoint Server 2010's indexing and search components to be installed on a server and be accessed by an unlimited number of employee clients; no client-side licenses were required as long as SharePoint was being used solely to provide search services. With SharePoint 2013, customers wishing to use SharePoint as part of an internal enterprise search solution must license the product through the server-CAL model, meaning employees or the devices they use need one or both of the SharePoint 2013 CALs. Alternatively, the search capabilities have been improved in SharePoint Foundation 2013, a free download for Windows Server customers, and may suffice in some circumstances.

SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites (FIS) Standard and Enterprise editions were server-side licenses that allowed SharePoint Server 2010 to be installed on an Internet-facing server and accessed by an unlimited number of nonemployee clients, such as business partners, suppliers, and customers. The FIS Standard edition license permitted SCAL-level capabilities and was more than twice as expensive as a SharePoint Server 2010 license. The FIS Enterprise edition allowed both SCAL-level and ECAL-level capabilities and was more than eight times as expensive as a SharePoint Server 2010 license. The use rights for SharePoint Server 2013 server-side license now allow an unlimited number of nonemployee clients to access an Internet-facing server running the entire SharePoint feature set (both SCAL- and ECAL-level capabilities). As a result, wherever a FIS Standard or Enterprise edition license was previously used, a (much less expensive) SharePoint Server 2013 license now suffices. Customers with new deployments of Internet-facing SharePoint Server 2010-based sites should purchase SharePoint Server 2013 server licenses and exercise downgrade rights, which grant the ability to deploy SharePoint 2010 under SharePoint 2013's more generous Internet-related rules.

Server License Price Increases

A server license for SharePoint Server 2013 (US$6,798 in Open License) is approximately 40% more expensive than the equivalent server license for SharePoint Server 2010. (See the illustration "SharePoint License Prices and SA Grants".) Exactly when a customer becomes subject to the pricing change depends on the circumstance.

Existing licenses covered by Software Assurance (SA). SA is a subscription offering that provides rights to new product versions and other benefits, and the annual cost is 25% of the license price in effect at the start of the SA coverage period, usually lasting between two or three years. The annual SA fee for SharePoint Server licenses owned before Dec. 2012 and covered by SA remain constant through the end of a customer's current SA term, regardless of which volume licensing program was used. However, customers will be subject to the price increase on renewal of SA coverage.

New license purchases. Customers purchasing new SharePoint Server 2013 licenses through Select, Select Plus, Open Value Non Organization-Wide, or Open License are subject to the new higher prices as of Dec. 1, 2012. In contrast, customers with Enterprise Agreements (and in some cases, Open Value Organization-Wide and Open Value Subscription programs) that include at least one SharePoint server license purchased prior to Dec. 1, 2012, can acquire new licenses at the old price through the end of the current agreement.

Frequent Reassignment Now Requires SA

Many organizations use VMware, Hyper-V, or other virtualization technologies to allow a virtual machine (VM) to move frequently between physical servers—often without operator intervention—for load balancing, high-availability, and other purposes. When a VM running SharePoint moves to a different physical server, the SharePoint server license (being a device-based license) is effectively reassigned to the destination server. Microsoft product use rights define the frequency with which licenses can be reassigned between devices, and in the case of the SharePoint Server 2013 server-side license, there is a notable change that affects customers who virtualize the product.

SharePoint 2007 and 2010 server licenses allow reassignment as often as necessary within a "server farm," defined by Microsoft as up to two data centers that are in time zones no more than four hours apart. (The four-hour rule prevents "follow-the-sun" licensing, in which licenses are transferred to follow the workday across the globe.) To obtain equivalent reassignment rights for SharePoint Server 2013, an organization must buy server licenses with SA. Without SA coverage, a SharePoint Server 2013 license allows reassignment between physical servers at most once every 90 days. In such a case, the only way to adequately license a frequently moved SharePoint Server 2013 VM is to purchase a license for every physical server where the VM might run, far more expensive than purchasing SA for a single server license.

Customers renewing SA on existing SharePoint Server licenses may at some point be at a disadvantage if they continue to use SharePoint 2010 or earlier versions in virtualization scenarios. In general, when SA is renewed on a license, the license becomes the latest version available, and the use rights of the latest version apply to the licensed installation, even if it's a "downgraded" installation running an earlier version. This becomes especially relevant when use rights become stricter, as is the case for SharePoint 2013 server licenses. For example, a SharePoint Server 2010 installation licensed with SA coverage scheduled to expire in Aug. 2013 becomes a SharePoint Server 2013 license upon SA renewal. At that time, it becomes subject to SharePoint Server 2013 use rights, with frequent license reassignment now predicated on maintaining SA coverage. As a consequence, existing virtualized installations of SharePoint 2010 could fall out of compliance with the reassignment rule if SA coverage were allowed to expire in Aug. 2016 (assuming SA coverage periods of three years). On the other hand, SharePoint Server 2010 (or earlier) licenses purchased without SA coverage are not affected: they keep their original use rights, including the more liberal reassignment provisions.

Newer Versions of Windows and SQL Server Required

SharePoint Server 2013 requires more recent versions of the Windows Server OS and SQL Server than its predecessor, prerequisites that could impact overall SharePoint 2013-related licensing costs for some customers.

Windows Server. SharePoint Server 2013 (and SharePoint Foundation 2013) requires Windows Server 2008 R2 or 2012, but does not run on Windows Server 2008 as SharePoint 2010 can. SharePoint 2013 servers function the same on Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter editions, as the two OS editions are indistinguishable technically. (The only difference between the two editions are virtualization-related licensing rules.) However, customers wanting to use Windows Server 2008 R2 to run a SharePoint Server 2013 instance that requires large memory and clustering support will need the Enterprise or Datacenter OS edition. (Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses include the right to downgrade to older versions of the Enterprise edition and can be used to license deployments of SharePoint 2013 on Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise.) Users or devices accessing SharePoint will require CALs for the underlying Windows Server version as well: if SharePoint is deployed on Windows Server 2012, clients require 2012 CALs; if SharePoint is deployed on Windows Server 2008 R2, clients require Windows Server 2008 or 2012 CALs. (The 2008 R2 version of Windows Server does not have its own CALs.)

SQL Server. SharePoint Server depends on SQL Server for data storage, reporting, and other functions. While the free SQL Server Express edition can be employed, its throughput and capacity limitations make it suitable only for very modest deployments, so a fee-based edition such as Standard, Business Intelligence (BI), or Enterprise is generally used. At a minimum, SharePoint Server 2013 (and SharePoint Foundation 2013) requires SQL Server 2008 R2 or 2012 and does not function with SQL 2005 or 2008 as SharePoint 2010 can. However, some workloads require SQL Server 2012 SP1, making even SQL Server 2008 R2 insufficient. For example, use of Access Services 2013 requires SQL Server 2012 Standard, BI, or Enterprise editions. Furthermore, some capabilities require the BI or Enterprise editions of SQL 2012. Capabilities that require these editions include sending scheduled reports via SQL Server Reporting Services and using the Power View and PowerPivot data analysis features in conjunction with SharePoint.


The licensing implications of Internet-facing sites built on SharePoint 2013 are covered in "Licensing Internet Sites Built on SharePoint 2013" on page 22 of the May 2013 Update.

A Licensing Brief for SharePoint 2013 is available at

The SharePoint 2013 licensing presentation given by Microsoft at the Nov. 2012 SharePoint Conference is available at The video is approximately 80 minutes long.

Technical capabilities new to SharePoint 2013 are covered in "SharePoint 2013 Web Content Management", "SharePoint 2013 Improves and Consolidates Search" on page 6 of the May 2013 Update, and "SharePoint 2013 eDiscovery and Compliance Improvements" on page 11 of the Apr. 2013 Update.

SharePoint Server 2010 licensing is explained in the Sept. 2010 Licensing Outline, "Licensing SharePoint Server 2010."

Changes to reassignment rights for SharePoint Server 2013 server licenses are discussed in more detail in "Virtualized Servers More Likely to Need SA" on page 17 of the Nov. 2012 Update.

Licensing downgrade rules are discussed in "Downgrades Are Key to License Compliance" on page 17 of the Feb. 2013 Update.