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. Your customers probably have many more pressing IT initiatives than an SQL Server upgrade. Chances are, SQL Server 2000 has been part of their environments 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 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 a customer's SQL Server environment.
- 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
- 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.
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 your customers only want to employ its base functionality they are missing out on a wealth of functions. Case in point: Analysis Services, SQL Server's business intelligence 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.
Make sure your staff get the proper training. You do not necessarily need to go to a training class, but make sure everyone is setting aside time to continue understanding the product, nuances of its new features and how your channel business and your customers' organizations 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 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.
SQL Server has been around for quite some time, it has a huge installed base and it's clearly not going anywhere. But, if you haven't already, you should 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.