SQL Server Review

Stable with a straightforward setup and the capability to scale

What is our primary use case?

In my role as faculty, I would use it to facilitate having a database with all the teachers needed that are equivalent to Oracle as a database for a small scale project.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable aspect of the solution is that the metadata is just generalized. Metadata is the way that data is described both for technical aspects of building a database and for the user interfaces. Our metadata is the objects attached to the database, not in the software. 

It helps with moving the design of the database into reality.

What needs improvement?

The server itself doesn't need much improvement. 

The product overall would benefit from the addition of better tutorials to help master the skills necessary to actually build a project database. Right now, what is available isn't sufficient.

Overall, I would suggest a nice tight integration with the toolset now known as Power BI. It might not even be missing, however, I'm planning to concentrate a lot of my time with the tutorials and I have Power BI loaded onto my HP laptop. bA brilliant student did it for me when she demoed it in a class. I'm going to use that copy of it and have many tutorials to get ready. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I have enough experience to support students and grad students who use it as a database backend to accomplish their projects.

I have to qualify my experience with "using" the solution. I have done not very much on my own individually or for a client using SQL Server. I have been supportive in the role of facilitator for students to succeed with it and to be observant of how it is very similar in conceptual important ways to my very deep experience with Oracle as the database backend.

That said, I've been familiar with the solution for about ten years now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

What I don't know yet is if it would be stable when being migrated from the scale of a project that would be in a prototype on a small machine, into a much larger environment in order to get ready to go to production. I'm not sure of that experience, whether it's vulnerable or not. I haven't tried it.

However, in my experience, so far, the solution is quite stable. In terms of stability, with Microsoft being so supportive of its success, and so many smart professionals who have the skillsets to use it, that it would be stable. I'm confident about that. It's not a new tool, so stable being defined as it doesn't break down.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of scalability, with the right people supporting it, who have the skills to do so, it would scale up. It's likely to be true in the context of the overall tool called Power BI that Microsoft has released, and which has high credibility among Gardner Group and others about it being available for business intelligence.

The solution isn't used often or widely per se. Not many people, if any, use it regularly due to the fact that an instance of SQL Server is set up only to accomplish a project relevant to a course that needs to have a database. After that, it doesn't stick around. It doesn't last longer than that.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Previous to my position at the university, I worked both as an employee and a consultant and was very much involved with Oracle as a database for years, going back to 1997 and until about 2010.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup isn't complex. It's certainly straightforward. The downloads and the installs don't all fall apart. It succeeds. The constraint is in the context of the students enabling a SQL Server to run on a laptop. That's a constraint rather than on an actual problem with the hardware server itself. 

Deployment takes, on average, about four hours. After that, you have a somewhat bare-bones server with the capability of running SQL datum to create the data itself or to import it from another database.

Since the solution is only really used for training purposes for classes and isn't meant to exist permanently, there's no one who needs to really maintain it.

What about the implementation team?

I don't recall any help from people in the university who had the knowledge to support a student who was doing it for the course I was teaching. Sometimes these students have plenty of experience in their own professional job and they bring it to class to help succeed with the effort.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I, unfortunately, do not handle licensing, so I don't know what the costs are for the product.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

MySQL as a database is sufficient for the scale of the projects that I've been talking about for ht purposes we have currently. PostgreSQL, which I do not personally know very well, is something else we looked at. It's a matter of the scale, generally. When I'm teaching, I'm probably the only member of faculty teaching actual database design in our school of engineering. We only would work on something that I call prototyping. Nothing that would reach for the responsibility of becoming our actual production database. 

What other advice do I have?

In August of last summer, we updated to the latest version of the solution. At least, at that time, it was the latest version.

What the school does in its academics is make a minimum training available for students who want to use it. They can learn how.

Now we're all online. I do not know if the University has SQL Server as the backend for any of its regular production databases. I think it only is a database for students to choose when they need one for a project.

I don't think it has extensive utilization. And in the teaching involved for online learning, I would probably express very lightweight recommendations to try it because we're not on campus. We cannot connect to a real server for a backend in order to do the install on onsite. This is just a COVID-19 in constraint.

If a company is considering utilizing this tool in the future, I would advise that they have someone on staff or in a consulting agreement who really knows the tool, and has succeeded with it.

I'd rate the solution ten out of ten. It's the right tool for production-ready or enabled databases. It's now equivalent to Oracle.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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