SharePoint 2010 Licensing Part II: Windows Server and SQL Server

While Windows Server and SQL Server are left out of many SharePoint 2010 Licensing discussions, they are vitally important when determining overall cost for any SharePoint 2010 initiative.  You cannot run SharePoint 2010 without Windows Server.  You cannot run SharePoint 2010 without SQL Server.  It is that simple.

Windows Server.  Let’s start with Windows.  Why?  SharePoint 2010 will only run on Windows (sorry Ubuntu fans).  Since all versions of SharePoint 2010 are 64-bit, you need a 64-bit version of Windows Server for every server – including your SQL Server(s).  SharePoint 2010 will only run on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (and presumably later versions).  SharePoint 2010 is supported on Windows Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, and Web Server editions.  If you recall from SharePoint 2010 Licensing Part I, we simplified the conversation by dividing users into two groups: internal (staff) and external (everyone that isn’t staff, including public).  Licensing for Windows Server 2008 follows the same basic principles – if you are licensing for internal users, Windows follows a client/server CAL model.  Microsoft has details about the CAL model on the Server 2008 Licensing Client Access License page.  Note that you don’t need CALs for up to 2 admins and you don’t need CALs if you are using the Web Server license.

If you are licensing for external users then you must purchase a Windows 2008 Server External Connector license.   Microsoft provides a detailed explanation of the External Connector license on their 2008 Licensing External Connector Licensing Overview page.  What most people overlook is that if you are running SQL Server to support your SharePoint 2010 environment, you must also purchase Windows 2008 Server External Connector licenses for your SQL Servers as well.  Microsoft explicitly states that External Connector licenses should be acquired for each Windows server that the external user is accessing (not just for the server to which they are authenticating).

Regardless of the version of SharePoint 2010 that you are running, you must have Windows licensed appropriately.  Your internal users will have CALs (user or device) and external users will have External Connector licensed access.  Using either of these models will properly license all users to leverage SharePoint Foundation 2010 – no other licenses are needed (if using SQL Server 2008 Express)!

For the complete story regarding Windows Server 2008 licensing, please visit

SQL Server.  As with Windows, you must be running SQL Server 64-bit to support SharePoint 2010.  What most people don’t realize is that you can actually run any of a variety of different of SQL Server versions:

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 64-bit with Service Pack 3
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 64-bit
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 64-bit
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express (only supported in stand alone server configuration).

From a licensing perspective, I feel that SQL Server is the most flexible of all of the Microsoft software discussed in this series.  SQL Server has two main licensing models: client/server (CAL) and Processor Licensing.  The flexibility I mentioned earlier lies with the fact that SQL Server licensing allows you to choose either licensing model for either internal or external use.  If your organization is of sufficient size that the Processor Licensing is less expensive to run internally, you can choose to run Processor Licensing internally (though if you have many SQL Servers you may find this model quite expensive).  On the flip side, if your external audience (authenticated users) is a small enough group, you can simply purchase enough SQL Server CALs to cover all users that will be authenticating into SharePoint 2010.  If you are running a public (anonymous) site that does not require authentication, then you must utilize SQL Server Processor Licenses.  SQL Server Processor Licenses are defined per physical processor – not per processor core.  Additionally, passive failover support servers do not require licenses as long as these servers have the same number or less than the number of processors as the active nodes.

I’ve heard a lot of folks try to get out of multiple SQL Server CAL licenses by insisting that users never connect directly to SQL Server because they connect through SharePoint.  Microsoft explicitly defines these types of applications as multiplexing architectures and further explicitly require appropriate licensing for all users (or devices) that connect through any pooling, transaction, or multiplexing device, application, or appliance.

Of course, SQL Server 2008 Express is absolutely free, though it scaled for simpler applications.  A real SQL DBA would never even consider launching any production application on SQL Server 2008 Express, yet I have launched SharePoint sites on Express – though appropriately sized and utilized.   Quote directly from Microsoft’s SQL Server Licensing Overview: SQL Server 2008 Express edition is the fastest way for developers and enthusiasts to learn, build, and deploy simple data driven applications. It’s available as a free download at Please visit the SQL Server 2008 Editions pages for more information.

For more information regarding SQL Server licensing, please visit

As with all posts in this series, please consult your Microsoft Licensing Specialist and/or your software reseller.

This is Part II in a series on SharePoint 2010 Licensing.  Please view the entire series:
SharePoint 2010 Licensing Part I:

By John Stover

John Stover Bio.


  1. With External Connector license, it states that it is meant for: An external user is a person who is not an employee, or similar personnel of the company or its affiliates, and is not someone to whom you provide hosted services using the server software. I wonder if I create an application (e.g. CRM) on SharePoint, can I use this license for my clients?

  2. SharePoint is absolutely covered under the SharePoint license. 🙂 Furthermore, I’ve seen some VERY clever uses of the Business Connectivity Services to use SharePoint Foundation (with it’s extremely affordable costs) as an interface to some very expensive systems.

  3. in the website of Microsoft ((An external user is a person who is not an employee, or similar personnel of the company or its affiliates, and is not someone to whom you provide hosted services using the server software. An EC license can be acquired for servers running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2))

    So in my scenario , we have employees from other branches over the world who they need to access to sharepoint server foundation , do we need EC or CAL ?


  4. If your users are Employees, then the should already have the appropriate Windows licenses within your organization if they are using Windows somewhere within your org already. You do not need to purchase a CAL for each user for each server. You do need a CAL for each employee. Then you need a Windows Server license for each server. 1 CAL lets 1 user (or device) access many servers. Make sense?

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