In tough economic times, IT infrastructure investments are the first to go. From the typical C-title perspective, infrastructure is a necessary evil: You need it to do business, but it doesn't directly contribute to sales, customer satisfaction, or product quality. Unfortunately, IT shops that want to build better solutions for their companies often require better infrastructures, either upgraded equipment or new software. And when infrastructure spending drops, IT has to figure out how to do more with less.
In the SQL Server world, one of the first ways you can stretch existing resources is by properly tuning servers and applications to extend the life of current hardware. SQL Server's dynamic-tuning features let the server quickly adjust to changing demands on system resources. However, poor performance often stems from application problems. And spending money on faster hardware without attending to your application woes usually provides only a short-term performance improvement—if it helps at all. With a little time and effort, and the help of such free SQL Server tools as SQL Server Profiler, you can tune your application's queries and indexes, letting your current servers do more work.
Doing more with less also means taking full advantage of other powerful tools available in SQL Server. Take the area of business intelligence (BI), for example, which gives organizations the ability to analyze data and make better business decisions—decisions that can make your company money as well as save your company money. Although SQL Server comes with an industrial-strength BI tool (Analysis Services in SQL Server 2000 and OLAP Services in SQL Server 7.0), only about 30 percent of respondents to a recent SQL Server Magazine online poll said they were using SQL Server's BI capabilities. Analysis Services was the leading OLAP offering in 2002, according to the OLAP Report, but it remains an untapped resource for many companies and represents a tremendous opportunity for IT shops to add business value to their organizations.
Although SQL Server's built-in tools give you plenty of capabilities to provide new business solutions, your options don't end there. For SQL Server 2000, Microsoft also offers XML for SQL Server 2000 Web releases (SQLXML) and Notification Services, both of which you can download for free at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/downloads/default.asp. SQLXML 3.0 lets you expose SQL Server stored procedures as Web services and lets you use XML to query and update databases. Notification Services lets you create applications that generate custom messages based on internal or external events. You can even download SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition to begin building mobile solutions—all without investing anything beyond your existing SQL Server license. Later this year, Microsoft also plans to release Reporting Services, which fills an important hole in the SQL Server product by letting you build and distribute reports.
Doing more with less doesn't mean providing IT solutions at no cost; it means shifting expenditures. Instead of spending on capital improvements, you invest in human resources to get more out of what you already have. SQL Server offers by far the best value of any enterprise database system, providing a wealth of built-in capabilities that many customers aren't taking advantage of. And when you need to do more with less, that's almost as good as money in the bank.