Kevin Kline and Brent Ozar’s Thoughts on SQL Server 2008 R2 Migration

At TechEd 2010, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Kline, strategy manager for SQL Server at Quest Software, and Brent Ozar, a SQL Server DBA expert for Quest Software, to discuss the trends they’re seeing in the SQL Server community. They’ve offered their views on SQL Server virtualization, cloud computing, NoSQL, and solid state disk (SSD) storage so far. Now, in the final part of this series, let’s take a look at Brent and Kevin’s thoughts on SQL Server 2008 R2. (You can see the previous four parts of this series on the Database Administration blog.)

Megan Keller: What are your thoughts on SQL Server 2008 R2 migration?

Kevin Kline: Actually, I was surprised. I didn’t think many people would jump on it, and the exact opposite was the case. There was more interest in moving to it than I had seen with SQL Server 2008, and that puzzled me, so I asked around and talked to a lot of customers. What it was was a lot of them felt like SQL Server 2008 was a little too fast for them. The three year, 24/36 month kind of release cycle, well with the CTPs coming out, they were hearing about it like 18 months after SQL Server 2005 shipped. So what happened was a lot of people I think waited on SQL Server 2008 in anticipation of SQL Server 2008 R2, so they’re like, “Okay now we’re ready; now that we’re at SQL Server 2008 R2 we’re ready.” I think Microsoft is probably already in tune with the idea that, like with Oracle, a lot of people will skip releases, and I think we’re going to see folks doing that a lot more frequently. Two things: Uptake has been really good with SQL Server 2008 R2; I’m also seeing a lot of migration from other platforms.

Brent Ozar: So why do you think they’re migrating?

Kline: I actually did a blog post, it was a magazine article, about how we have a database oligopoly. You remember that from Economics 101? When you have just two or three companies dominating the business, just like when we had three big carmakers years ago when I was a kid, if one of them raised their prices, the other two did, too, immediately. Oracle announced a price increase in the summer of last year, June; Microsoft announced a price increase on all of their products at the PASS event. But they’re still incredibly affordable compared to Oracle compared to DB2. But we see them all kind of moving in lockstep with price increases; one does it, two or three months later another one will do it. Licensing is just so inexpensive, even with the price increases on SQL Server.

Keller: And a lot of people on other database platforms are already using Microsoft’s business intelligence tools. So if they move to SQL Server they can have full support over their entire environment.

Ozar: I’m intrigued to see how the market reacts to the SAP/Sybase thing. We used SQL Server for a while there, it looked like it was going to be the default platform for all of the SAP installations, and you know we had the BI stack, and that was kind of an awkward dance because they had Business Objects. But now I have to think it’s on like Donkey Kong with SAP buying Sybase and having Business Objects. And everybody I know who’s doing SSRS implementations is seeing more people leave Business Objects and come to the SQL Server stack because the pricing is just so affordable for SQL Server relative to the other guys.

Keller: When I started at SQL Server Magazine, almost 5 years ago, Crystal Reports was talked about more than SSRS. Now I hear people asking, what’s Crystal Reports?

Kline: And let’s go ahead and say it explicitly too, just to make sure that we’ve got it on the table—not only is it just pricing, but it’s, to me, the huge advantage of everything in the box. You get replication, you get high availability and mirroring, you get filestreams, you get Reporting Services, you get Analysis Services. When you buy from the other vendors, every one of those things is another license that you have to pay for; one more thing that has to be audited and kept in maintenance. The costs multiple themselves.

Ozar: It was interesting to see in SQL Server 2008 R2 the number of products that they started throwing into the box, too. So you had StreamInsight, master data services. And what I’m not seeing is people knocking the doors down to get to those products. I’m not seeing people say, “I got to get me R2 so that I can get me some of the master data services.” I’m not seeing that. I think that they’re seeing SQL Server 2008 R2 as more stable, not that SQL Server 2008 was unstable but it’s just an even more stable 2008. It has some cool BI stuff in the box in the form of PowerPivot, but I’m not seeing people go wild and crazy over these additional features, so that’s kind of interesting to see that they’re continuing to throw stuff in the box.

Keller: If people aren’t quick to pick these features up now, will they pick them up the next version?

Ozar: If I was a DBA and I was looking at long-term future features, I would implement SQL Server 2008 R2 everywhere today. I would have complete comfort in doing that, but I would look very strongly as far as where I go for the next version more toward the cloud and say what does this have to offer me, and look at where that goes. SQL Server 2008 R2’s a fantastic release; I would love to see engine improvements—I haven’t seen a good T-SQL improvement in quite a while and that bums me out as a T-SQL guy. But what really intrigues me more now is the cloud, and I’m really more curious to see where that goes.

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