SQL Server 2005: To be or not to be an early adopter

SQL Server 2005 offers many new features, but do they outweigh the risks of trying out a new release? Get help evaluating the new capabilities in light of your own needs.


Greg Robidoux, Edgewood Solutions

Ready or not here it comes! The long-anticipated release of Microsoft's latest installment to SQL Server is finally

here. Previously known as Yukon, SQL Server 2005 is slated for release on Monday, Nov. 7, 2005. Several versions of this product were made available through beta programs and community technology previews (CTPs) over the past several years. But even with all the advanced notice and pre-release version availability, many CTOs still aren't aware of the benefits and risks this new product offers and many DBAs still aren't ready to invest their time and energy into pushing for it.

As with any new technology product, there are risks and benefits associated with adoption. Early adopters tend to pay the penalty for unknown problems or bugs, and then become part of the refining process rather than reap the benefits of a well-developed product. Early adopters often have unique situations where the benefits far outweigh the risks, but this black-and-white classification does not necessarily fit well with the release of SQL Server 2005.

SQL Server 2005 is not a brand new product and this release does not need to be treated as such. SQL Server has been around for over 10 years now and each new release yields a more sophisticated product, as well as additional feature-rich functionality. It is true there many changes and new features accompany this release, but proper education and planning are the keys to any successful IT project.

The old adage, "If it ain't broke don't fix it," is more befitting to SQL Server 2005. You probably have many more pressing IT initiatives then upgrading your SQL Servers. Chances are, SQL Server 2000 has been part of your environment for several years now, the kinks are worked out, there is an abundance of support material, plenty of people know the product inside and out and your applications are stable.

So what makes SQL Server 2005 compelling? The following short list highlights some of its great enhancements and new features. Several of these features should make a compelling case to enhance your SQL Server environment.

Early adopters often have unique situations where the benefits far outweigh the risks, but this black-and-white classification does not necessarily fit well with the release of SQL Server 2005.
Greg Robidoux
Edgewood Solutions
Enhanced features
  • T-SQL enhancements
  • Performance improvements
  • Backup enhancements
  • Online-maintenance operations
  • Business-intelligence enhancements
  • Management-GUI enhancements
  • Security enhancements
  • Increased memory usage with Standard Edition
  • XML enhancements
  • SSIS enhancements (formerly DTS)
  • Better e-mail handling
  • 64-bit support
New features
  • Common Language Runtime (CLR)
  • Service Broker
  • New product versions
  • High-availability features
  • Data encryption
  • Database Tuning Advisor
  • Dedicated administrator connection

Before you begin the process of upgrading or implementing SQL Server 2005, two key areas must be addressed: education and planning. As you can see from the lists, there are many new features and changes to discover and learn.

Educate
Take the time to understand the product and what it has to offer. The old days of popping a CD and loading the database engine are over. That approach does still work, but if you are only using the product's base functionality you are missing out on a wealth of functions. Case in point: Analysis Services, SQL Server's business analysis tools. This product has been available for several years and most people that use SQL Server have never taken advantage or know little about it.

As SQL Server continues to mature, more and more features are added to the base product. This is both good and bad. The plus side is that you get more than just a database engine. The down side is that you have a lot more to learn. The days of being of being an expert on every aspect of SQL Server are over -- but this doesn't mean that you can't still use these new features.

Train
Make sure your staff gets the proper training. You do not necessarily need to go to a training class, but make sure all DBAs and developers are setting aside time to continue understanding the product, nuances of its new features and how your organization can benefit. Just jumping without any training will probably yield results you don't like that you may be stuck with for some time.

Plan
Plan how you are going to implement SQL Server 2005. Even though much of the database engine's base functionality remains the same, the time taken to plan the upgrade process will be time well spent. DBAs and managers seem to have a different perspective on how easy or how hard this migration process will be. Make sure managers and DBAs are on the same page before you begin implementing. I would err on the side of it being more complex then a simple upgrade, but, either way, planning will be the key to your success.

Implement
Make the move. The sooner people start using the product to provide feedback and post problems and fixes on Web forums, blogs or other Internet sites, the faster the product will mature into a stable platform as SQL Server 2000 has become. I think this SQL Server 2005 offers significant advantages and many opportunities to do things that were never possible or were very difficult to implement before.

I can't say that if you don't jump on board now you are going to miss the boat. SQL Server has been around for quite some time, it has a huge installed base and it's clearly not going anywhere. But now that it is here, take the time to understand the feature set, determine how these enhancements can help your applications and put together a plan to move forward. Whether you start migrating to SQL Server 2005 tomorrow or not for another six months, take the time now to plan and educate your team.

About the author: Greg Robidoux is the president and founder of Edgewood Solutions LLC, a technology services company delivering professional services and product solutions for Microsoft SQL Server. He has authored numerous articles and has delivered presentations at regional SQL Server users' groups and national SQL Server events. Robidoux, who also serves as the SearchSQLServer.com Backup and Recovery expert, welcomes your questions.


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