A Client Access License (CAL) is not a type of software, but rather, a license that grants Users or Devices access to SQL Server software. SQL CALs are a requirement only for the SQL license + CAL model, meaning that if you purchase SQL Server licenses per core (Standard Core / Enterprise Core) you will not need to purchase any additional licenses. The license + CAL model is beneficial for businesses that have a finite amount of users or devices and want to keep the cost of licensing to a minimum. If you cannot count the number of users or devices, it may be best to consider licensing SQL per core instead.
There are two types of CALs that you can purchase – User or Device. Each license type has its advantages depending on your environment. See below for a brief representation of how each type of CAL can best be utilized.
Every User or Device accessing the SQL Server software, virtual or physical, must be licensed with a SQL CAL. Users and Devices accessing the SQL software indirectly through another application or hardware device will still need a CAL.
A User or Device licensed with a CAL will be covered for each instance of SQL Server software on the VMs in the same environment.
The same CAL licensing terms apply when licensing SQL Server hosted in a container
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