We database professionals constantly strive to get every last ounce of performance improvement out of our systems. We bend over backwards to make our systems run faster and better. But while we're worrying about tweaks, we sometimes forget about making easy changes that can dramatically improve performance. In his May 2003 editorial, "The OS Factor" (http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=38440), SQL Server Magazine Senior Technical Editor Michael Otey points out that DBAs often forget about the effect that the OS has on SQL Server. Remember the OS? It's that boring piece of software that our glamorous, exciting database engines run on. Have you considered whether upgrading to Windows Server 2003 might provide a significant performance bang for your buck? According to Otey, the improvement is greater than you might expect.
I was surprised at the performance gains that Windows 2003 offers. Otey explains that Windows 2003's improved I/O management can provide 35 percent better I/O throughput with at least a 30 percent reduction in CPU utilization—without requiring you to upgrade your hardware. Not too shabby! And Windows 2003's network stack improves TCP/IP send performance by as much as 25 percent. In addition, Otey notes, the new OS version offers improved support for hyper threading, 64-bit memory support, and a host of other features. You'll find supporting information in the Microsoft article "Benefits of Using Windows Server 2003 with SQL Server 2000" at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/techinfo/planning/winsvr2003benefits.asp.
Microsoft achieved its most recent Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) world-record benchmark of 707,102 tpmC (which was posted just this week) on a system running Windows 2003. I originally assumed that this number was driven by the increased memory support that 64-bit SQL Server provides. But I now realize that Windows 2003 offers I/O, networking, and CPU utilization benefits beyond the gains you get with 64-bit memory.
Regrettably, Windows 2003 supports only SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 3 (SP3). Users who have SQL Server 2000 SP2 or earlier need not apply for the nifty performance gains of the new OS. I'm sure there are lots of technical reasons for this requirement and that it's not just an effort to get people to upgrade—right?