The Top 5 SQL Server Features You Aren't Using And WhyI’m throwing my money away.

I know I am, and yet I still do it. It’s not a lot of money though.

See, I pay for a services bundle (phone, internet, cable television) from the one-and-only provider for my town and I’m certain that I am not using every possible feature. For example, I have hundreds of channels at my disposal and tonight I found myself watching a movie streamed through my Xbox from YouTube.

Seems like a waste, right?

It *is* a waste. Just like it is a waste to have these five features of SQL Server 2012 at your fingertips and to not be using them.

Here is my list of the top SQL Server features that most of us are simply not using.

1. Resource Governor

Released in 2008 this feature allows for you to effectively throttle workloads by setting a minimum and maximum for resource consumption in order to avoid contention. Rarely used by many, this feature has been given a facelift in SQL 2014 to include the ability to throttle a workload by I/O. In the 6+ years this feature has been publicly available I would estimate that it is used by less than 6% of all customers.

2. Database Snapshots

This is a wonderful feature, and especially handy for change deployments. Snapshots make it easy for you to rollback a change by allowing you to quickly recover data or objects. Despite the many benefits snapshots offer they remain about as used as Bing. On second thought, probably not even that much.

3. Policy Based Management

I’ve been a big fan of this for years, ever since it was known as “declarative management framework”. I even helped to do the technical review for the Pro SQL Server 2008 Policy-Based Management book. PBM offers you the ability to quickly deploy a policy to check all instances registered within a Central Management Server (something else you probably aren’t using either).

4. SQL Audit

I still find people asking questions in forums regarding how best to trace activity against an instance of SQL Server for audit purposes. The answer? Use SQL Audit! Alas, many people have no idea that this feature exists, or how to use it efficiently.

5. Native Row and/or Page Compression

The gap between customer adoption (very low) and performance benefit (very high) for this feature represents the widest gap on this list. Compression is easy to implement and you will see performance gains right away.

Now, take a good look at the list above. Do you see anything in common between all those features?

Here’s a hint for you, check out this chart:

Did you guess it yet?

That’s right, every one of those features is Enterprise edition only.

And therein lies the problem. When I am presenting at events like a SQL Saturday I will ask the attendees if they are using the above features. The answer is almost always “no, because it is Enterprise only”. [Of course every feature has a cost, benefit, and risk associated with it's use, but the business can’t decide the business case for those features if their data professionals don’t know (or care to know) about the features or their benefits.]

I know that one of the few people reading this post is saying “YES, STANDARD EDITION ALL THE FEATURES”. And to those people I would say this: I find your lack of foresight disturbing.

Microsoft Licensing: The Only Thing More Confusing Than Airline Ticket Pricing

SQL Server licensing is a very complex beast so let’s consider a simple example. Let’s say I want to run SQL Server Enterprise edition on top of Windows Server 2012 on a server that has eight logical cores, hosted in my own datacenter, which means I have to pay someone to take care of things like racking the server, buying storage, and paying for Software Assurance in order to have Microsoft support. I don’t have the full costs available (because you don’t ever get them in advance) so let’s just say it’s a lot, close to $60k just for licensing and software and not including hardware, storage, and staff. There is also electricity, cooling, fire prevention, flood prevention, physical security, security staff, and time to production (getting a physical server up and running can take months in a corporate process.)

Considering some folks are still running SQL2000 instances (do you know what year it is?), how many years from now might someone still be running this Enterprise edition of SQL 2012?

Years, that’s how long.

And every year that goes by, Microsoft may get a whopping total of $0 for that server. Not likely, but possible.

Now, go here and do some digging around: 

An Enterprise edition of SQL Server on eight logical cores in an Azure VM will cost roughly $4,300 USD per month (not including bandwidth for egress, but we didn’t talk network costs for the first server either). That’s about $50,000 USD per year. And that price includes the Windows O/S,  the hardware, and you won’t need to pay anyone to watch the server in your datacenter at night.

Which do you prefer? Don’t answer yet.

You think it might be less money for the Azure VM, and it is. But it is also more. At some point those costs will exceed the amount you paid for the first server in our example.

Why Microsoft Wants You in the Cloud

This is what Microsoft (or any company for that matter) truly wants: a predictable revenue stream. Microsoft has a chance to be the 21st century equivalent of The Electric Company. They want us to be plugged in, all the time. They want us to pay a little bit, every month, forever.

They don’t want us to pay for software that we can use for years and will generate little additional income (like all those SQL 2000 boxes still running).

The feature limits imposed upon users of SQL Server Standard edition aren’t there to force customers to pay through the nose now for Enterprise edition. That would be a horrible business model if true. Customers would look to competing products and technologies.

Therefore, a smart company would offer a viable alternative that would allow them to retain customers. Limiting the features inside of SQL Server Standard edition will motivate business owners to evaluate Windows Azure as a viable alternative.

Check out what’s new in SQL Server 2014 and then check out what features and editions are available for SQL Server 2014. Notice the trend? I sure do.

If you think the five features listed above are worth using (and most people do believe they are) but haven’t been able to use them because you’ve been running SQL Server Standard edition, now would be a good time to look at Windows Azure.

[I'll even help get you started, go here and try it free for one month, then thank me later.]

The Top 5 SQL Server Features You Aren’t Using And Why is a post from: SQLRockstar - Thomas LaRock

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