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The latest version of SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT), unlike previous versions can be installed either standalone or as a plug-in to existing an Community, Professional or Enterprise version of Visual Studio 2015.

This guide helps you understand if you need/want to licence Visual Studio 2015 with SSDT for Visual Studio 2015.

To set up a developer machine for a Microsoft BI developer there are three things required:

  • SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) for Visual Studio 2015.
  • SQL Server Developer edition.
  • Optionally and ideally, Visual Studio 2015 Community, Professional or Enterprise.

Why would you pay for a Visual Studio 2015 Professional or Enterprise subscription?

There are 4 reasons:

  1. Your company is not eligible for Community edition. (See definition below).
  2. To get access to Team Explorer functionality i.e. built in Source Control, access to Visual Studio Team Services, TFS and TFS Cal. Team Explorer is only available in Visual Studio 2015 Community, Professional, or Enterprise editions. If you work in a team this is generally a deal breaker.
  3. The subscription options give you access to additional resources you need. E.g. SQL Server Developer licence, Team Services licence, TFS, TFS CALs, Azure credits, training etc.
  4. An integrated experience. If you rely on other Visual Studio plug-ins like Dimodelo Architect (Data Warehouse Automation tool for the Microsoft SQL Server Platform), then all your plug-ins work within the one Visual Studio instance.

First things first are you an Enterprise vs Non Enterprise Organisation?

Knowing if your organisation is considered Enterprise or Non Enterprise is important for your options.

Definition of Non Enterprise Organisation Microsoft only define an ‘Enterprise Organisation’ as an organisation (and its affiliates) who collectively have >250 PCs OR > $1 Million US dollars in annual revenue. So a ‘Non Enterprise’ organisation is every other organisation. If you fall into the ‘Non Enterprise’ organisation category, then you can install Visual Studio Community for up to 5 users. Actually, from the licence terms – ‘5 of your individual users can use the software concurrently to develop and test your applications’.

What are your Options ?

1. Free option – Available to any Enterprise or Individual

  • What
    • Install SSDT standalone.
    • Dev Essentials subscription. Includes SQL Server 2016 Developer edition, Azure $25 credit, Visual Studio Team Service subscription (basic level).
  • Cons:
    • No Visual Studio Team Services (or TFS) or Team Explorer functionality in Visual Studio.
    • No TFS licence (on premise) or TFS CAL.
    • Disjointed Development environment.
    • No Windows licence.

Cost: $0/developer (other than Windows licence cost)

2. Non Enterprise Customer option – Available to only Non Enterprise customers and Individuals

  • What
    • Install Visual Studio 2015 Community edition.
    • Install SSDT integrated into Visual Studio 2015 Community.
    • Dev Essentials subscription. Includes SQL Server 2016 Developer edition, Azure $25 credit, Visual Studio Team Service subscription (basic level).
  • Cons:
    • No Windows licence.

Cost: $0/developer (other than Windows licence cost)

3. Enterprise Customer options – Available to Enterprise and Non Enterprise and Individual customers.

3.1 Cheapest

If you are a BI developer this is just about everything you need, but there is a better option if you are not budget constrained.

  • What
    • Buy Visual Studio 2015 standalone.
    • Install SSDT integrated.
    • Dev Essentials subscription. Includes SQL Server 2016 Developer edition, Azure $25 credit, Visual Studio Team Service subscription (basic level).
  • Cons:
    • No software upgrades.
    • Requires additional free subscription by developer.
    • No Windows licence.

Cost: one off cost of $US 499/developer (plus Windows licence cost)

3.2 Best

If you are a BI developer in an Enterprise this is usually everything you need.

  • What
    • Subscribe to Visual Studio Professional Cloud Subscription. A Cloud subscription is not actually in the cloud! This is different to MSDN subscriptions. See explanation in the next sections. Includes Azure $50 credit, SQL Server developer edition, Windows, Windows server, Visual Studio Team Services etc.
    • Install SSDT integrated.
    • SQL Server included in subscription.
    • Windows included in subscription.
    • Visual Studio Team Services subscription (online source control & project management).
  • Cons:
    • Visual Studio licence is not perpetual.

Cost: $US 539/developer/annum (Windows licence included). Alternatively $US 45/month.

How to buy cloud subscription – https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/subscriptions

3.3 Everything included

This is more suited to a developer who is:

  • Developing for multiple Microsoft platforms like SharePoint, Exchange, Dynamics, Mobile
  • Needs Testing or Architecture and Modelling functionality.
  • Heavily into DevOps.

The subscription also bundles Office 365 Dev, Office Professional Plus, Power BI Pro subscription and $150 Azure credit per month.

It really comes down to how many of those features you will use and the cost of licencing them individually.

Check out the differences between Professional and Enterprise: https://www.visualstudio.com/vs/compare/ Or in-depth inclusions list – https://download.microsoft.com/download/1/5/4/15454442-CF17-47B9-A65D-DF84EF88511B/Products_by_Benefit_Level.xlsx

  • What
    • Subscribe to Visual Studio Enterprise Cloud Subscription. A Cloud subscription is not actually in the cloud! This is different to MSDN subscriptions. See explanation in the next sections. Includes Azure $150 credit, SQL Server developer edition, Windows, Windows server, Visual Studio Team Services etc.
    • Install SSDT integrated.
    • SQL Server included in subscription.
    • Windows included in subscription.
    • Visual Studio Team Services subscription (online source control & project management + Test manager).
  • Cons:
    • Visual Studio licence is not perpetual.

Cost: $US 2999/developer/annum (Windows licence included). Alternatively $US 250/month.

How to buy cloud subscription – https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/subscriptions

Visual Studio 2015 licencing – More info

SSDT for Visual Studio 2015

SQL Server Data Tools is required to develop SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS projects.

Download –  https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt204009.aspx

SSDT can be installed either as a standalone product or integrated into an existing install of Visual Studio 2015 on your machine. It will only integrate with VS 2015 Community, Professional, and Enterprise editions.

Installing SSDT Standalone

“If you don’t have Visual Studio installed on your machine, installing SSDT will also install a minimal “Integrated Shell” version of Visual Studio 2015. This version of Visual Studio is free to install and use on as many machines as you wish. It gives you all the SQL Server project types, plus SQL Server Object Explorer and other SQL tools experiences.”

You don’t get integrated source control i.e. “Team Explorer”, which can be a deal breaker.

You can’t also install other plug-ins (Like Dimodelo Architect – Data Warehouse Automation tool for the Microsoft Platform) and have Dimodelo Architect and other BI project types (e.g. SSAS, SSRS, SSIS) available side by side under the same Solution.

Visual Studio Community

Visual Studio Community intention is to make Visual Studio available for free to ‘Non Enterprises organisation’ and Individual developers.

Non Enterprise:  What is a Non Enterprise Organisation? Well, Microsoft only define an ‘Enterprise Organisation’ as an organisation (and its affiliates) who collectively have >250 PCs or > $1 Million US dollars in annual revenue. So a ‘Non Enterprise’ organisation is every other organisation. If you fall into the ‘Non Enterprise’ organisation category, then you can install Visual Studio for up to 5 users. Actually, from the licence terms – ‘5 of your individual users can use the software concurrently to develop and test your applications’.

Enterprise: An unlimited number of users within an organization can use Visual Studio Community for the following scenarios: in a classroom learning environment, for academic research, or for contributing to open source projects.

Individual license.  If you are an individual working on your own applications to sell or for any other purpose, you may use the software to develop and test those applications.

Demo use. The uses permitted above include use of the software in demonstrating your applications.

Licence terms – https://www.visualstudio.com/support/legal/mt171547

To get Visual Studio 2015 Community edition, join the Dev Essentials program, which comes with lots of other benefits including SQL Server Developer edition and Azure credits – https://www.visualstudio.com/dev-essentials/

Or download from here – https://www.visualstudio.com/vs/community/

Visual Studio Professional and Enterprise Subscriptions

You can buy Visual Studio Professional or Enterprise in a number of ways:

Channel Price
Standalone Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs (resellers) and Microsoft Store. Professional: $US 499
Standard Subscription With MSDN Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs (resellers) and Microsoft Store. Professional: $US1199, renew $799

Enterprise: $US5999 renew $US 2569

Cloud Subscription

(Not actually in the Cloud!)

Only available through https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/subscriptions Professional: $539/yr, $45/mo

Enterprise: $2999/yr, $250/mo

 

Visual Studio Standard (MSDN) vs Cloud Subscriptions, Why has Microsoft introduced Cloud Subscriptions?

Visual Studio Standard (MSDN) vs Cloud subscriptions include exactly the same benefits.

The only differences I can see between the Standard and Cloud subscriptions are:

  • The Standard (MSDN) subscriptions include a perpetual licence of Visual Studio 2015, where the Visual Studio Cloud subscription is only active while the subscription is active (you have to sign in).
  • The channels the subscription can be purchased through.

So why has Microsoft introduced Cloud subscriptions?

A subscription that gives you a perpetual licence to software (i.e. Standard MSDN) isn’t really a subscription is it. You can pay the first year, and then keep using the software perpetually, without renewing. I’m sure Microsoft saw this phenomenon quite often. They are also moving with the times, where software subscriptions have become the norm. In my opinion the Standard MSDN subscription is legacy.

Microsoft have also cleverly priced their cloud subscriptions to be attractive and the cheapest way to get this software.

For example

  • 2 years professional visual studio cloud subscription $1078 < 1st year standard subscription $1199
  • 3 years professional visual studio cloud subscription $1617 vs 3 years standard subscription $2797

So if you think it’s cheaper to just get the first year of a standard subscription and not renew, you’re wrong. In the third year, to get the latest version of software, you will probably need to subscribe again (at the new subscription price), total cost $1199 * 2 = $2398 vs $1617.

I think the Standard (MSDN) subscriptions only persist because Microsoft don’t want to upset their resellers.

Quote from – How to buy – https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/docs/marketplace/buy-vs-subscriptions  about Volume licensing:

“If you buy through volume licensing, these subscriptions are still the most cost effective way to get Visual Studio and other Microsoft software and services for dev and test. There’s no plan to stop selling standard Visual Studio subscriptions, so they’re still available through Microsoft Volume Licensing resellers and the online Microsoft Store.”

Subscriptions inclusions

Visual Studio Licence:

  • Standard subscription: licence is perpetual.
  • Cloud Subscription: licence expires if subscription is cancelled.

Cloud Services:

  • Azure Developer Services. Hard to work out what that is. Mentions discounted development and test rates, exclusive access to subscriber only image gallery of preconfigured VM’s. I think it’s this – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/solutions/dev-test/, but it’s difficult to track down.
  • Visual Studio Team Services – access to unlimited number of accounts. (There is a limit to the number of Team services accounts I can access otherwise?)
  • Office 365 Dev Subscription (only available to Visual Studio Enterprise Standard Subscription or Enterprise Cloud Annual Subscription).
  • PowerBI Pro, (only available to Visual Studio Enterprise Standard Subscription or Enterprise Cloud Annual Subscription or MSDN Platforms Subscription).

Software:

  • Access to the following software with per user licencing.
    • Windows and Windows Server.
    • SQL Server.
    • SharePoint and Exchange (only available to Visual Studio Enterprise Standard Subscription or Enterprise Cloud Annual Subscription or MSDN Platforms Subscription).
    • Office Professional Plus (only available to Visual Studio Enterprise Standard Subscription or Enterprise Cloud Annual Subscription).

Training:

  • Pluralsight training
  • Xamarin University
  • Microsoft Professional Technical Support incidents

Note: Much of this training is available with the free Dev Essentials.

More details at: https://www.visualstudio.com/vs/pricing/

The fine print

In depth licencing whitepaper – https://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/licensing/

Within this whitepaper there are a few interesting facts:

When Windows on the “Developer Desktop” Requires a Separate License

In most situations, Windows used for the main PC (or set of PCs) must be licensed separately from the Visual Studio subscription due to mixed use—both design, development, testing, and demonstration of your programs (the use allowed under the Visual Studio subscription license) and some other use. Using the software in any other way, such as for doing email, playing games, or editing a document is another use and is not allowed under the Visual Studio subscription license. When there is mixed use the underlying operating system must be licensed normally by purchasing a regular copy of Windows such as the one that came with a new OEM PC.

Thus the need for a virtual machine, but….

Distribution of the Software as Part of an Installation Image

Physical or virtual machine images provide a quick and convenient way to set up client or server machines. However, when the software is used to create images and the Visual Studio subscription through which that software is licensed was purchased through a retail channel, then those installation images cannot be distributed to others. This restriction holds true even if the target users that will install and/or use the image also have appropriate Visual Studio subscriptions for the software contained within the installation image. These users can, of course, download the software from Subscriber Downloads directly and create their own installation image.

If the Visual Studio subscription was obtained by an organization through a Volume Licensing program, then the installation image may be distributed among users licensed for the appropriate Visual Studio subscription level within the same organization only, including to external contractors working for the organization who have been temporarily assigned a Visual Studio subscription from the organization’s available licenses. Redistribution of the software to 3rd parties is not allowed in any form, including physical and virtual machine images, DVDs and ISO files.

Dam you Microsoft!!!

Express editions

Express editions are free but target specific platforms (e.g. Desktop, Windows 10, and Web). They don’t allow you to install other extensions like SSDT, and have other restrictions.

Download: https://www.visualstudio.com/downloads/ (expand Visual Studio 2015)

It appears to me that Microsoft is not promoting these versions anywhere, which is a sign they may not be around much longer.

Visual Studio Standalone Shell (Integrated and Isolated)

Products like SSDT and Dimodelo Architect (Data Warehouse Automation Tool for the Microsoft SQL Server platform) are distributed with Visual Studio Standalone integrated shell. If Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise, Professional or Community exist on the install PC, then SSDT and Dimodelo Architect are installed in integrated mode. This means new project types are added to the list of project types you can create within Visual Studio. Otherwise they are installed in ‘Standalone’ mode, meaning there is a separate Visual Studio ‘instance’ for SSDT and Dimodelo Architect. These instances act independently. Within the SSDT instance you can only create SSDT projects, and within the Dimodelo instance you can only create a Dimodelo Architect project.

Significantly, you can’t access Visual Studio team services functionality in a standalone instance.

The Standalone shell version of Visual studio is primarily used by developers to develop Visual Studio extensions, and distribute those extensions as standalone products.

SQL Server Developer edition

SQL Server Developer edition is available as:

SQL Server 2016 Developer edition VM images are now available on Azure. Example pricing is DS2 – 2 Core, 7GB Memory, 14GB local SSD = $295/month (Australian Dollars), that’s about $1.50 US… Just kidding – about $220 US.

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