SQLskills SQL101: SQL Server Core Factor Table

Over the past couple of months, SQLskills has embarked on a new initiative to blog about basic topics, which we’re calling SQL101. We’ll all be blogging about things that we often see done incorrectly, technologies used the wrong way, or where there are many misunderstandings that lead to serious problems. If you want to find all of our SQLskills SQL101 blog posts, check out SQLskills.com/help/SQL101.

Back in the SQL Server 2012 release time-frame, Microsoft published a SQL Server Core Factor Table document that essentially provided a 25% discount for most AMD Opteron processors with six or more physical cores. This document was updated for the SQL Server 2014 release.

Even with this discount, it was not really cost-effective to use AMD Opteron processors for SQL Server usage, because of their extremely poor single-threaded performance. You could easily get more total capacity, better single-threaded performance, and lower SQL Server licensing costs with an appropriate, modern Intel Xeon E5 or E7 processor.

For the SQL Server 2016 release, there was no update for the SQL Server Core Factor Table. In fact, Microsoft has a useful new document, entitled “Introduction to Per Core Licensing and Basic Definitions” where they explicitly state that the Core Factor Table is not applicable to SQL Server starting with SQL Server 2016. So far, there has been no word of any change in this stance for SQL Server 2017.

Despite this, there is still some confusion and misinformation about the SQL Server Core Factor Table, such as this example:

Using the Core Factor Table

The SQL Server Core Factor Table is not necessary for SQL Server 2008 R2 (which used processor licensing instead of core licensing), and it does not apply to SQL Server 2016 and newer. It is only valid for SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014.

It will be interesting to see whether the upcoming AMD Epyc “Naples” server processors will perform well with SQL Server workloads. They certainly will have enough memory density and PCIe 3.0 lanes to be very interesting for some types of SQL Server workloads, such as DW/Reporting. AMD is also pitching the idea that a single-socket server using an AMD Epyc processor will be a good alternative to a two-socket Intel server.

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