SQL Server Review

Simple to deploy and manage, good reporting and analytical capabilities

What is our primary use case?

We use this Relational Database Management System for Line of Business systems, including Enterprise Resource Planning, Data Warehouse, Web Applications, and Business Intelligence.

Solutions are procured, built, and enhanced in the REIT industry, FMCG ERP, distribution and warehousing, manufacturing systems, knowledge workers such as workflow and portals, web applications, custom developments areas, enterprise reporting and analytics for internal reporting, and decision support systems.

Integration solutions provide robust integration to various and disparate third-party systems.

How has it helped my organization?

This is a simple to deploy, own, and manage RDMS.

Skills and support for this product are widely available. The security and vulnerability management are well-managed through the vendor. Lifecycles are greatly improved in recent releases, to make upgrades easier.

A license buys enterprise-grade data integration, reporting, and analytical capabilities as well.

It has broad adoption and support for integration with leading software brands such as SAP and Sage.

Data availability and security is well taken care of for the enterprise and is the backbone of first-class business continuity plans.

What is most valuable?

Support and adoption are important because skills are available to lower the total cost of ownership. 

High availability, read-only copy synchronization, and data integrity mean that it is relatively easy to ensure data security, availability, and integrity. Lower tier SKUs offer high-end features.

Data integration is available, as SSIS offers a flexible data integration platform with rich features including .NET integration for web-service integration, or bus architectures.

SSAS analytical DBs are powerful yet easy to develop and own.

SSRS offers enterprise reporting that is reasonably user-friendly.

It is easy to deploy cloud/on-premises hybrid implementations with a familiar and consistent toolset.

What needs improvement?

It is costly to implement high throughput systems, beyond millions of transactions per second. The hardware to run the systems, especially for high availability deployments is expensive, i.e. more resources to run.

Linux-based editions are not yet proven to be on par with Windows deployments.

Row-level security is obscure to implement.

Running cloud offerings are expensive; for example, the Instance as a Service offering.

Third-party tooling is required to manage code version control.

Managing BLOB data is not equally simple to implement.

The engine that implements query plans was updated in the 2012/2014 refresh that could necessitate a costly rewrite of queries.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with SQL Server for 21 years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have a very high opinion of the stability of the solution. It is one of the most mature products available.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Best practice setup is important to consider but when implemented correctly, it just runs.

How are customer service and technical support?

The vendor is excellent and their relationship with Microsoft has proven invaluable. The 2008 > 2012 and 2012 > 2014 upgrades had specific issues that made them costly. Recent upgrades have been relatively painless.

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

We have tried using different technologies, depending on the use case. This is not the best tool for document-oriented or unstructured data.

How was the initial setup?

It is relatively simple to run. We spent a good amount of time preparing the requirements for a high-availability cluster that paved the way for a reasonably straightforward implementation.

What about the implementation team?

We had assistance from our vendor. We consider our vendor nimble and best in class. They contributed greatly to the stable running of the platform.

What was our ROI?

It is a positive ROI, especially in that we leverage many of the features in the offering.

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

With recent releases, the Standard Edition (cheaper) SKU has some of the earlier version Enterprise features. SQL Express has some limitations.

The Azure Platform as a Service option remains relatively expensive, at least in South Africa, compared to on-premises, but it is worth exploring.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Some baseline comparisons were made around 2012 to Oracle, with MS SQL Server coming out to have a lower total cost of ownership.

What other advice do I have?

It is a first-class enterprise RDBMS and will continue to enjoy favourable sentiment from developers and DBAs.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

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