Support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 ends on April 12, but organizations still contemplating an upgrade should ignore that date.
Running unsupported software creates a host of unnecessary risks, including opening up organizations to new security threats. But the benefits of upgrading don’t arise exclusively out of defense — a move to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 can actively boost performance of essential business applications and enhance availability and disaster recovery, security and compliance as well as scalability and support.
“There’s always a natural fear of the unknown when migrating from an older platform to a newer version,” says Anil Desai, an independent IT consultant. “That shouldn’t deter companies from modernizing their SQL Server platforms. They’ll see many benefits from running a modern database designed for today’s hardware.”
Realizing Performance Improvements
A Forrester Research study recently highlighted some of those benefits. A number of companies running the latest versions of SQL Server saw returns on investment within 9.5 months, according to the report.
“Microsoft SQL Server 2014 and SQL Server 2012 can help companies reduce management and resource costs, drive incremental revenue from improved performance and reliability of systems, and improve IT and end-user productivity,” the report states.
Others quantified some of those performance improvements, specifically in terms of data storage and retrieval efficiencies. For example, tests by TPC, a nonprofit that develops database benchmarks, found that online-transaction processing workloads run 13 times faster on the latest SQL Server versions compared with the 2005 edition.
One of the core performance accelerators comes from SQL Server 2014’s in-memory capabilities. Rather than caching frequently used data on hard disks, the platform can house the information in system memory located on the physical server. SQL Server 2014 includes memory-optimized tables, which enable database administrators to determine the specific databases, tables or portions of tables that can best take advantage of available system memory resources. The latest version also offers the Memory Optimization Advisor to guide administrators in making allocation decisions.
Because system memory is often in short supply, SQL Server 2014 gives admins another option, speeding access to frequently requested information. The platform’s buffer pool extensions load records on high-speed solid-state disks.
“With SSDs, active databases can see hundreds of times faster performance for queries versus standard hard disks,” Desai says.
Other migration payoffs come from built-in business intelligence and new tools for analytics, data visualization and reporting in the newest SQL Server versions. “Business users will … be able to gain new insights into their data and have the ability to create their own reporting dashboards to collaborate with colleagues,” the Forrester report also states.
Organizations can also capitalize on the close integration between SQL Server 2014 and Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.
“With just a few clicks of a mouse, I can move a database up to a SQL Server platform running in Azure,” Desai says. “This opens up a nearly infinite level of additional resources for increased reliability and scalability.”
Microsoft’s Always On technology, which creates database clusters for automatic failure when an individual database encounters problems, also enhances availability.
The migration process itself offers opportunities to increase efficiency. For example, IT managers may significantly reduce their physical server headcount. “A single SQL Server 2014 instance may be able to replace 20 physical servers that had been running SQL Server 2005, while running the database program more effectively.”
The reason: Less capable hardware from a decade ago typically required a dedicated physical server and SQL database combination for each Microsoft SharePoint, HR, or other business application. “That practice was valid in 2005, but now it’s easy for a single server to run hundreds of databases,” Desai says. “That’s an opportunity for operational improvements and cleaning up the IT environment.”
For more on upgrade options for SQL Server 2005, check out this post on the CDW Solutions Blog.