SQL Server Review

The best-ever SQL Server release - again

Microsoft’s flagship database engine, SQL Server, keeps getting better with every release. The SQL Server 2014 platform is the best-ever SQL Server release, and is packed full of features for organizations of all sizes.

Every organization has different requirements for data. Vendors might specify a particular product or platform for their software. In-house development staff might be geared towards one platform over others. Management might have their preferences. SQL Server might not be right for all shops out there, but I can state that it provides the same scalability, flexibility, and raw power of other DBMS platforms on the market, and does it with the easiest to manage suite of features that I encounter. I enjoy this product and the technical community that has grown up around this product so much that I have dedicated this portion of my career to the mastery of SQL Server as a database and architecture consultant. SQL Server 2014 continues the platform’s evolution towards the future, and I continue to stand by it.

The core database engine is one of the easiest portions of the product to administer via the included SQL Server Management Studio tool. Quite a few of the SQL Server installations that I encounter in the wild are installed by non-DBAs who just click through the installation wizard and stand up their required SQL Server instances. This simplicity is one of the product’s double-edged swords, because even though it is trivial to install, non-DBAs tend to skip the best practices around infrastructure architecture, installation, post-installation configuration, and ongoing management that helps the product to really shine.

The Enterprise edition contains an updated and enhanced feature called AlwaysOn, and it allows for the simple setup of highly available databases so that the data is available if a server fails. It also plays a double role in allowing for the setup of disaster recovery database servers so that if an entire datacenter fails, applications can continue to work with only a minor interruption in service (usually measured in seconds). Failover and failback are trivial, and a single interface is all that is required to manage the entire setup. I love this feature, and as my clients are starting to migrate to SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014, see a tremendous increase in AlwaysOn adoption at the moment.

The other huge feature is with In-Memory OLTP, or codename Hekaton. It is in-memory extensions that allow an application to begin to use memory to dramatically improve the performance of an application with only minor modifications to the app code.

Other features included in the core engine and licenses editions of the production include:

  • Backup encryption to make things more secure
  • Resource governance to keep high trafficked databases from being ‘noisy neighbors’ to other application databases
  • Data and backup encryption
  • Finely tuned security levels, based on your organization’s requirements
  • Integration Services - that includes a graphical means to transport, load, and transform data
  • Analysis Services – build data warehouses and cubes to help you gain serious insight into your business trends
  • PowerPivot for Excel to allow your end users to manage and transform the data that they require for decision support processes
  • Reporting Services – grant your users the ability to run and schedule their own reports in a simple to use management interface
  • Report Builder – advanced end users can construct their own reports, and even their own queries with the ‘model’ of the data that you present to them

SQL Server also now has the ability to move data into and out of the public cloud with ease through backing up to Microsoft’s Azure platform.

If you currently have SQL Servers in your organization, run – don’t walk – to SQL Server 2014. If you have some of the other database platforms on the market, consider migrating to SQL Server so you can reduce licensing costs, improve scalability while reducing complexity, and increase the number of database that a single DBA can individually manage.

Pros: Tremendous scalability. Easy to use and manage. Blur High Availability and Disaster Recovery with AlwaysOn Database Availability Groups. Business intelligence tools increases business insight into data.

Cons: The licensing has persisted the per-core model, and as a result the cost for the platform stays higher than expected. Adding software assurance, which I consider a must for virtualizing SQL Server, also drives up the cost.

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