Although differences in SQL Server 2000 editions can be confusing, implementing a production database boils down to three choices: the Enterprise Edition, the Standard Edition, and MSDE. Most companies use SQL Server 2000 Standard Edition. Although the Enterprise Edition also includes several large-business and enterprise features such as failover clustering and log shipping, the Enterprise and Standard editions share the same core feature set, provide the same relational database capabilities, and feature the same business intelligence (BI) functions such as Analysis Services and data mining.

With SQL Server 2005, the implementation choices have grown substantially more complicated. More so than in any previous release, the different SQL Server 2005 editions have a clear delineation of features that address the needs of distinct customers. However, new customers need to be careful to get the right version, particularly when choosing between the Workgroup Edition and the Standard Edition.

The SQL Server 2005 family consists of the Enterprise Edition, Standard Edition, Workgroup Edition, Express Edition, Express Edition with Advanced Services, and—as if that weren’t enough—the new SQL Server 2005 Everywhere Edition. As in SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition is restricted for development.

As you evaluate the different editions of SQL Server 2005, the most important decision point is whether you need BI capabilities. SQL Server 2005 Enterprise and Standard editions include the full Microsoft BI suite—Analysis Services, Reporting Services, Integration Services, and Notification Services. Again, the Standard Edition is the suitable choice for most organizations. However, the Enterprise Edition adds several enterprise-oriented features such as data partitioning, advanced high availability with database mirroring, online operations, database snapshots, and scale-out Reporting Services.

SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition could be called the BI-free edition because it doesn’t have most of the BI subsystems and features of the Enterprise and Standard editions. The Workgroup Edition (included in Small Business Server 2003 R2) provides the essential relational database engine, has no restrictions on database size, and offers limited BI-related features such as Import/Export Wizard and Reporting Services.

The free SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is primarily targeted toward Independent Software Vendors, developers,hobbyists, and small businesses. Express Edition is restricted to 1GB of RAM and a maximum database size of 4GB. The Workgroup and Express editions provide relational database capabilities but don’t have the BI features of the Standard and Enterprise editions. Notably, the Express Edition with Advanced Services includes Reporting Services, which isn’t in the original Express Edition.

Finally, SQL Server 2005 Everywhere Edition is targeted toward mobile devices and single-user applications and is free. Unlike the Express Edition, SQL Server 2005 Everywhere uses a different code base and lacks many standard SQL Server database features such as support for stored procedures and SQLCLR.

You can find more information about the SQL Server 2005 editions at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/prodinfo/features/compare-features.mspx. You can find more information about the features in SQL Server Everywhere at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/ctp_sqleverywhere.mspx.