SQL Server Review

Quite reliable in cluster configurations and has helped me to reduce downtime and improve SLAs

What is our primary use case?

Usually I install an SQL Server as part of something bigger from Microsoft (NAV, CRM, SharePoint, SCCM, SCOM, BizTalk, etc.) or some custom built solution that was designed around this DMBS. 

I also teach in a university. My students admit that SQL Server is quite easy to install and work with if you are a total beginner (compared with others). 

How has it helped my organization?

I am not sure, as we have been working with it from the start. Comparing with other database management systems that I tried in other companies, SQL Server is quite easy to install, configure, and maintain. It is also quite reliable in cluster configurations and has helped me to reduce downtime and improve SLAs. If backups and alerts are configured properly, I can also rely on my restoration plan saving my butt more than once. 

What is most valuable?

Always On is my favorite feature. I do like availability groups and cannot imagine how I lived with them before. 

Microsoft tries to release new features with every version, but I cannot say that they are killer features. Usually these are just "nice to have" stuff. However, SQL Server works and it works just fine. It is really reliable if you don't shoot your own leg. All the basic functionality is 100% bulletproof. 

What needs improvement?

I like it the way it is, though I would appreciate a dark theme for SQL Server Management Studio and ability to add databases with TDE enabled into availability groups.

I am aware of Connect and Trello pages, and there are a lot of good ideas from other people, most of them are useful only in some very rare scenarios. There are interesting suggestions present, and Microsoft should pay more attention. 

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Over the years, there was one service pack and two cumulative updates that were recalled as problematic ones, but otherwise it is very stable system.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Unfortunately, SQL Server cannot be scaled out so easily as some NoSQL solutions. There are some options that may allow it to work with quite enormous workloads. For example, try to google how Stack Overflow is built (yes, it works with SQL Server). They have quite an interesting architecture. 

How is customer service and technical support?

It depends. The shear number of support specialists is huge. You can get a freshman or a seasoned veteran. Usually, it is tolerable but it might take a while to solve a problem. In my experience, 50% of all problems can be resolved by installation of the latest patch. In 25% of times, it is your own stupidity. The 25% that left are real bugs, exotic configurations, and rocket science-level problems with a real high-load and very specific code and environments. 

How was the initial setup?

It depends how many features you want to implement. Basic stuff is very easy to install, but if you want to implement all the features or deploy a high-load or a clustered environment, it might be tricky. That is why you need a good architect and skilled DBA for something really complicated. 

What about the implementation team?

I have seen everything. It always depends on people skills. To get full performance from the SQL Server you need a well prepared environment and hard team work. 

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

This is a downside of enterprise Microsoft products. Currently, almost all of my machines are in Azure and I think it is the best way of licensing now (VM+software).

What other advice do I have?

Though I do like the SQL Server, I must say it is very hard to find a good DBA nowadays and having a DBMS without a DBA is like having a car without a driver and skills to drive it yourself. Before choosing or switching to this DMBS, check what kind of workforce is available in your area. 

You may consider Azure SQL Database as a simple alternative, but I would advise it only for small workloads though.

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