In these trying economic times many SQL Server shops report that they're looking for ways to save money. In spite of the downturn most organizations aren’t yet planning to cut back on existing services or ongoing projects. Most still want to press forward with their existing workloads—they just want it all to happen with less money. So what are some of the best ways to cuts costs for a SQL Server installation?

Lower Development Costs

One easy and effective way to save money with SQL Server is to make sure you’re running the right edition. Start with your development systems. Make sure those development systems are all running the Developer Edition. At $50 per processor and no CAL costs the Developer Edition is significantly cheaper than full featured SQL Server editions. Even though you can’t use the Developer Edition to run your production workloads it makes good economic sense for your development servers to run the lower cost Developer Edition. If you’re not sure which edition of SQL Server you’re using you can find out by running the following command from the Query Editor:

select serverproperty('Edition')

Lower Departmental System Costs

Next, look for savings in your departmental systems. It might be possible for you to convert these systems to the free SQL Server Express edition. Lightly loaded systems or servers with limited users are great candidates to convert to SQL Server Express. Often overlooked, SQL Server Express is a very capable relational database server. It’s limited to 1 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a maximum of 4GB of storage per user database, but for lightly taxed departmental systems that configuration can support a good number of concurrent users. Remember that SQL Server Express Edition can act only as a subscriber and not as a publisher, so you can’t use replication publication on these systems. SQL Server 2008 Express supports the new synchronization services, but older SQL Server implementations typically won’t be using these services.

Many organizations buy the Enterprise edition because it’s the easy way: You don’t spend time making decisions about features or or worrying if you have the capability to apply those cool new SQL Server technologies that you’ve read about to your new projects. However, my bean-counter friends point out that if you’re not using the features you’re paying for you’re leaving money on the table.

Just because you have and love the SQL Server Enterprise Edition doesn’t mean that there aren’t savings to be had. Although Enterprise is the most expensive edition of SQL Server it also provides several money-saving features. For instance, in SQL Server 2008 database compression and Resource Governor are two features that can directly impact your bottom line. Database compression can reduce both the storage required by your server and your backup media, as well as reduce the time to perform backups. Resource Governor can stave off the need to upgrade servers by limiting the CPU usage by queries that are low priority or poorly designed. This lets critical queries run without interference.

Try Consolidation and Virtualization

Another potentially profitable but more difficult place to find savings is through server consolidation. Server consolidation enables you to process the same workload on fewer systems. You can consolidate servers in a number of different ways—by combining workloads, by combining multiple SQL Server instances, or through virtualization. Combining workloads and or instances can reduce the number of servers required as well as the number of SQL Server licenses you need. However, the server consolidation requires you to perform due diligence to ensure that different applications don’t adversely impact one another. You can find more information on server consolidation see my article on Server Consolidation Essentials.

Virtualization also can help you reduce the number of servers you need, but SQL Server licenses are still required unless you’re using the SQL Server Enterprise Edition. SQL Server Enterprise edition allows an unlimited number of virtual SQL Server instances if you’ve licensed all the processors in the host. For more information on licensing check out this article from Microsoft on Special Licensing Considerations.

Hey! You’re Already Saving Money

Finally, be assured that in selecting SQL Server you’ve already chosen the database that delivers the best value for the dollar. Of all of the enterprise database offerings SQL Server is the only one that includes business intelligence (BI) functionality and user friendly features such as Reporting Services right out of the box with no additional costs. For even greater cost savings you can always look at converting those expensive Oracle systems to SQL Server 2008. (I just had to throw that in.) Do you have any SQL Server cost saving tips that you’d like to share? If so, drop me a line at motey@sqlmag.com or letters@sqlmag.com.