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Microsoft SQL Server 2008: Choosing the Correct Edition

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Note that SQL Server 2008 has been replaced by SQL Server 2008 R2, which has different editions and price points. For more information, see SQL Server 2008 R2 Editions

SQL Server 2008 is the latest release in Microsoft's enterprise relational database platform series. In this substantial upgrade, they've packed the new database engine full of new features, but fortunately it doesn't pack any additional punch in your wallet: SQL Server 2008 is available at the same price points used by SQL Server 2005.

Let's take a look at the seven different editions of SQL Server 2008 that you can use:
  • SQL Server 2008 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 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 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 $5,999 for a processor or $1,849 for 5 users.
  • The big kid on the block is SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. With the release of 2005, Enterprise Edition allows unlimited scalability and partitioning. It's truly an enterprise-class database and it's hefty price tag ($24,999 per processor or $13,969 for 25 users) reflects its value.
  • Developers needing the full features of SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition for use in a non-production environment may find SQL Server 2008 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 $24,949 cheaper at only $50 per license!) Microsoft also offers a direct upgrade path to convert Developer servers to production licensing
  • SQL Server 2008 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 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. 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.
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