Why planning for upgrade to SQL Server 2008

Disclosure: Please note that this post is based on some other posts i came across while searching for upgrade process of SQL server. I tried to be honest with the original posts. I am writing this post as notes for myself and others, who wants to learn the upgrade process of SQL server 2008. It tried to make this post more compact and easy to understand for readers.

Now that SQL Server 2012 has been released. Some companies which still are using SQL Server 2005 or older versions of SQL Server can surly get benefited from SQL Server 2008 because it is proven technology and have some great features which can help companies achieve their goals. The Question is what are the drivers from a business, technology and career perspective one needs to know about when planning for upgrade to SQL Server 2008? What are the decision making factors a DBA should understand and research before talking to management about moving to SQL Server 2008?

It is very difficult sometimes for DBA to make a compelling reason to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 in some organization. The same is true for new development with SQL Server 2008.  It is necessary is to understand where your organization or specific projects fall into this spectrum. Depending on the expectations at this level, It can drive a great deal of the decision to upgrade or perform new development.  If you are faced with a situation where the upgrade has not been a consideration, try to learn about the decision making factors to understand how the technology is perceived by the business.

Below are the drivers from a business, technology and career perspective one needs to know about when planning for upgrade to SQL Server 2008.

1. Business

When making the case to upgrade or perform new development on SQL Server 2008 with your management team, be sure to speak their language.  They might not understand all of the intricacies of SQL Server and they may not have the time to research the items you bring forth, so consider these aspects when speaking to them:

  • Operating costs – Based on how your organization does business, research the SQL Server 2008 features then outline aspects of SQL Server 2008 that will reduce operating costs or improve business\process efficiency.  Here are a few examples:
    • Resource Governor can be used to split the resources across the SQL Server 2008 instance for multiple business, application or processing needs extending the life of the hardware platform
    • Transparent Data Encryption: Enabling encryption of the database, data files, or log files, including Search encrypted data. Data encryption provides the ability to natively protect your sensitive data and put your customers at ease.
    • Change Data Capture (CDC): Auditing is also natively available to ensure your applications are meeting internal, industry and contractual agreements. Change Data Capture (CDC) makes database auditing easier.
    • Performance Data Collection: Reduce Performance tuning and troubleshooting which is a time-consuming task for DBA. A new centralized data repository for storing performance data, and new tools for reporting and monitoring.
    • Policy-Based Management: It could possibly save DBAs a huge amount of time admin.
  • Microsoft support – It is very surprising that support from Microsoft alone has not driven customers to upgrade from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2008.  Based on the two entries below, it appears as if Microsoft will continue to support customers, but the support is based on a customer support agreement or an extended support agreement, which may be more costly than working through the upgrade or ensuring new systems are developed with SQL Server 2008.  Based on your agreement with Microsoft find out about these costs and determine what the financial impacts are for upgrading or not.  Please reference this information from Microsoft concerning SQL Server mainstream support:
  • Return on investment (ROI) – One of the first items when I think about ROI for the SQL Server 2008 platform is extending the life of the hardware.  With the support for hot pluggable CPUs and SQL Server Resource Governor you have the ability to scale and segment the resources to enable SQL Server to grow with your business.  To me this enables the organization to extend the life of the platform with the many hardware advances from various vendors.
  • Third party application support – Many vendors have been working with Microsoft to ensure their products support as well as leverage the new SQL Server 2008 features.  If your organization is dependent on many off the shelf products then it is necessary to ensure your third party vendors will support your platform moving forward.  Service and support agreements can be expensive, so make sure your platform does not violate any portion of the agreement based on the software versions.  If so, consider upgrading to not have an additional expense for extended support similar to the support needed with Microsoft.
  • Contractual agreements, external partners and relationships – In some organizations, the decision to upgrade or perform development on a new platform is based on an external organization or contractual agreement.  If that is the case in your organization, make sure you understand the ramifications before making a hard sell to your management.  Your management may be on board, but you may need to ask them to work with the other party to get SQL Server 2008 approved as an acceptable database platform.

2. Technology

From a technology perspective, SQL Server 2008 has introduced not only enhancements to existing features, but also delivered new functionality with the release to include:

  • Relational Engine
    • Development
      • Query guide support
      • MERGE statement
      • Change tracking support
      • LINQ
      • XML enhancements
    • DBA
      • Backup stream and data storage compression
      • Performance data collection
      • Native auditing objects
  • Integration Services
    • Many new toolbox features
    • Persistent lookups
    • Improved threading
  • Reporting Services
    • Native Microsoft Word based rendering
    • Eliminate IIS dependency
    • Improved charting and graphing
  • Analysis Services
    • Star JOIN support
    • Excel data mining interface
    • Partition table parallelism
  • External Key Management – This new functionality relates to consolidation of key management and integration with external products
  • Data Auditing – This is one core feature of SQL Server 2008 that will include a number of new features to include:
    • The introduction of first class ‘AUDIT’ objects
    • Auditing DDL (data definition language) commands
    • Support for multiple logging targets
  • DBA productivity and efficiency (manageability) – For sure SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) has been improvised from 2005 to 2008. Here are what I consider to be some of the most important improvements in SSMS 2008:
      • Activity Monitor
      • Object Explorer Details
      • Object Search
      • Multi-Server Queries
      • Intellisense Added to the Query Editor
      • T-SQL Debugger Added to the Query Editor
  • Increased performance – Yes, There is a pre-requisite to achieve better performance that how your database has been normalized and designed and how queries are extracting. But in SQL Server 2008 Microsoft has also invested lots of effort to improve our data warehousing performance, and the performance of our BI services. SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS.
  • Increased availability – There is a sure enhancement in availability with the added features to clustering and fine tuning the aspects of database mirroring as compared to 2005 version. I would say the better availability feature of Cluster has been redesigned as per Windows 2008 features; again there is a catch here about using Enterprise Edition as you cannot achieve them with lesser editions.

To know more about new features of SQL Server 2008. Please refer to this blog post: http://www.mssqltips.com/sqlservertip/1313/sql-server-2008-features-function-and-value/

3. Career

Some employers expect candidates to be up on the latest and greatest technologies.  This is a key item that should be kept in mind while job hunting.

As DBAs\Developers are very busy and do not have time to research all of the latest and greatest technology when development deadlines are looming or systems are having issues.  I think what is necessary is to strike some sort of balance and not be complacent.  In reality very few people have production exposure to SQL Server 2008 as of the writing of this tip, so you are lucky if you are one of the few.  However, the masses have the opportunity to download, install and learn from the CTP’s, online resources (web casts, online hosting, tips, articles, etc.) or local events (user groups, code camps, etc.).  Just be sure to take the time to get some exposure and pull together a plan for yourself to learn about the latest and greatest features of SQL Server 2008 that are of interest to you and your organization.

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Hope you like this post, please share your thoughts in the comment section.


About Ashish Jain

I am Ashish Jain, a software engineer by profession. My goal of creating this blog is to share my knowledge of SQL server with all other SQL enthusiasts and also to learn from them.
This entry was posted in SQL Installation and Upgrade and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why planning for upgrade to SQL Server 2008

  1. Pingback: How should DBA plan for SQL Server 2008 Upgrade | SQL Destination

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