SQL Server Review

Enabled us to use an Agile approach to the design and implementation of DW solutions.


What is most valuable?

  • SQL Server Integration Services tools
  • Data Quality Services tools
  • Master Data Services tools
  • SQL Server Reporting Services tools
  • Data Partitioning (Horizontal Partitioning) tools
  • ColumnStore Indices
  • In-Memory OLTP tables

How has it helped my organization?

We design and implement DW solutions with SS 2016 Dev Ed tools. This solution has given us high levels of productivity, which has allowed us to use an Agile approach to the design and implementation of DW solutions for our customers, and this Agile approach has in turn given us a competitive advantage in our market.

We have also started exploring the use of Microsoft R Client, MS R Services and MS R Server with SQL Server 2016 Dev Ed, which are part of the hosted Data Science package.

We are also looking forward the inclusion of Python support in SQL Server 2017 for said hosted Data Science package.

We are very interested in complementing DW solutions with Data Science and Machine Learning solutions, which could be a major plus for our existing DW customers, even though all hosted data science tools are only available in Enterprise Ed (for our customers), which again presents the same limiting factor (budget) already mentioned.

Having said that, we see that the potential that the hosted Data Science tools offer to some of our customers is large enough to be explored and considered on a case by case basis, with proper ROI analysis.

What needs improvement?

We do not have much to complain about SS 2016 Dev Ed in itself, we do have some complaints regarding licensing for SQL Server 2016 Enterprise Ed. In an emerging market like Argentina, it is very steep for our customers to pay U$S 28,000 or more on licensing for an instance of SS 2016 Enterprise Ed, and this poses a limiting factor to our growth.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using SS 2016 Dev Ed for a few months so far, but have been using the previous version (SS 2014 Dev Ed) for more than two years.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

The deployment tools for DW solutions in both 2014 and 2016 editions of SQL Server are part of the SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) package. As SSDT is based on Visual Studio, this toolset has been very stable since its inception, both in terms of performance as well as in terms of functionality, so, deployment in 2016 is done in the same way as in 2014, which translates into no issues during deployment.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

There were no stability issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

There were no scalability issues, even though the Dev Ed does not offer the same level of performance and scalability that the equivalent Enterprise Ed offers.

Pertaining to the hosted Data Science package that we have been exploring, we have found an important increase in scalability when comparing the performance of a given solution running as hosted, and the same solution running on the same server with only client R tools.

This scalability advantage presents itself as an important reason to consider these tools as a viable solution to some of our DW customers.

How is customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

As usual, MS offers a very good customer service. The amount of resources (self-study materials, online courses, tutorials) is huge, most of it is free.

Paid customer service is also very good.

Technical Support:

Paid tech support is very good and efficient.

Which solutions did we use previously?

I have always used DW tools from Microsoft since SQL Server 2000.

How was the initial setup?

If prior to the setup you do the proper training, there are no issues with setup, but the learning curve is wide and tall.

You could get started fast and sure if you stick to the many Wizards included with the tools, but the scope of said Wizards is limited.

What about the implementation team?

We did not have deployment/implementation issues.

What was our ROI?

Since SS 2014 Dev Ed, MS is offering these tools free of charge, ROI mainly is focused around training investment. As I have said, we do the training in-house. ROI is around one year (12 months).

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

No issues with pricing and licensing for SS 2016 Dev Ed, as it is free of charge, as mentioned above, the thorny issue with pricing and licensing is with customers. We do our best to design DW solutions that can cover reqs from our customers within the capabilities of SS 2016 Standard Ed.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The cost-benefit ratio offered by Microsoft's DW solutions is, by a long shot, much more convenient for our customers (small and medium companies) than solutions from other vendors, hands down.

What other advice do I have?

Consider the ROI (most training investment). If training is not in-house, only hire training from an official Microsoft Training Center in your region. Look for the best Training Center. Once you are done with the training, you can start taking customers for DW projects.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: I teach MOC courses on the design and implementation of DW solutions with the aforementioned tools.
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