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Upgrade SQL Server; your BI system will thank you

Better performing BI systems are invaluable to businesses itching to get ahead. Upgrade SQL Server to a newer version, Don Jones says, and you’ll be a step closer.

SQL Server is one of the least-upgraded components in an enterprise. You may think your company will never get off of Windows XP, but odds are you have versions of SQL Server older than that floating around, and there are no plans to upgrade them. After all, it’s easier to leave existing versions in place if they’re working properly, right?

When it comes to business intelligence (BI) systems, however, there are significant advantages to upgrading an existing installation. Upgrade SQL Server, and you’ll find improved performance is one of them, especially if your migration will also involve a move to newer hardware. Recent versions of SQL Server are often tuned for the mainstream hardware of the day, and that means better use of memory capacity and processor capabilities. And they almost always pack improvements in the basic database engine, caching algorithms and whatnot, all providing performance improvements that might seem minor on a per-query basis, but add up substantially over time.

Improvements to SQL Server Analysis Services are also something to consider, and any version upgrade will include these. Better management of in-memory analysis means -- again -- better performance, enabling you to support more users on the same hardware.

The biggest improvements in a version upgrade, however, are often in the realm of management. While Microsoft’s SQL Server team continues to focus on performance (as they should), recent versions have shown a strong emphasis on improved manageability and security. For example, recent versions’ policy-based management gives you the ability to manage the configuration and security of several servers as if they were a single unit, helping to raise the bar for security, consistency, maintenance and control. Improved high availability and disaster recovery options -- like better database mirroring, easier clustering, and so forth -- all mean a BI environment that’s more reliable, and it requires less effort from your IT team.

Of course, it should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: Compatibility is always a concern. Don’t forgo an upgrade because you’re afraid that your BI system won’t be compatible with a new version of SQL Server, but do check its compatibility. Verify that your solution can be supported on the version of SQL Server you’re moving to, and do some lab-based testing to ensure that everything works OK.

So if you’re starting to eye that SQL Server 2000 installation, wondering if an upgrade might be beneficial, the answer is definitely yes. Make sure an upgrade won’t break anything, then make the move.

Don Jones
is a senior partner and principal technologist at strategic consulting firm Concentrated Technology. Contact him via

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