I had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Barela, SQL Server Technical Specialist at Microsoft. She’s very passionate in her role and without question a great resource. In this interview, it’s all about SQL. More importantly, it’s about SQL for the service provider community. Although this blog is about licensing, I focused more on the features of SQL.
Special thanks to Sarah and the US Microsoft Hosting team for accommodating!
SPLA Man – Hi Sarah, thank you for spending some time with me this morning to chat about one of your favorite topics…SQL.
Sarah – My pleasure!
SPLA Man – So tell me a little bit about yourself, where did this passion for SQL start?
Sarah – (Chuckles) I started working with SQL over 17 years ago; back in the day with SQL 6.5. (I might be dating myself here) I worked for (who at the time) a service provider called Maximum ASP. Our primary focus was working with the Microsoft developer community and my role was database management. My responsibilities grew to the point I was managing over 1k databases by myself! Needless to say I became a specialists in managing larger deployments which ultimately led me to Microsoft in 2013. Now my role is to help service providers deploy new SQL Server offers.
SPLA Man – What are some cool new features of 2014 that service providers can take advantage of?
Sarah – Biggest new feature is called in memory OLTP – stands for online transactional processing. From the most basic level it allows to you to put your tables in your database into RAM memory to make it very fast. There’s also a lot of new hybrid features to move from on premise to public cloud to make the transition easier.
SPLA Man – So I talk to service provider’s all day long. One thing that always surprises me is although they have the right to use the latest version under SPLA, for one reason or another they still are running SQL 2008 and in some cases 2005. Why would now be a good time to upgrade?
Sarah – For one thing, it’s support. Both 2005 and 2008 is in extended support. I’ve found that cloud technologies and customers want more features more rapidly. Waiting to deploy newer versions is becoming less of an option, as your customers will be out of data. There are also more features added that applications want to take advantage of including the in memory feature within SQL 2014. There’s also minimal effort in deployment, but the impact in performance could significant.
SPLA Man – There’s a lot of talk about SQL Enterprise, what type of service provider’s do you see deploying Enterprise? Is there anything special they should consider?
Sarah – I think it really boils down to database needs over a specific market profile. Think of social media companies (as an example). They may have fewer employees, but consume parabyte’s of data. By any other standard, they would be considered a small business. I think that’s the biggest thing. All service providers use Enterprise on some level but I would say those service provider’s that consume a large amount of data and have high availability requirements would be a starting point.
SPLA Man – So speaking of data, one of the features in SQL Enterprise is something called data compression. Which is available in Enterprise, but not available in Standard. What is data compression?
Sarah – So what data compression does is it’s an algorithm used to compress data as it is stored on discs. So let’s take an example of a database that stores a consumer’s address. A person’s street address is fairly unique. But city, state, and zip code are more common; (there are only 50 states as an example), so what data compression does is it finds data and shrinks it down so it does not store duplicate information. So ultimately, this reduces the amount of disc space needed; especially in very large environments. If you are spending a large amount of money on storage and you can reduce that by (whatever amount that equates) than that saves actual money on hardware. That’s why it is so important.
SPLA Man –So data compression aside…what are other areas a service provider become more profitable by switching to SQL Enterprise over Standard? As an example, are tasks better performed with 1 instance of SQL Enterprise v. several instances of SQL Standard?
Sarah – One of the things that SQL Enterprise allows you to do is it has features in there that support multi-tenancy. The more customers you can have running on a single server, you can spread that cost over more customers; which can lower your cost as well as the overall cost per individual customer. Those features like the resource governor, allows a service provider to divide up resources within the SQL server. It prevents things such as (what we call) “the noisy neighbor” in other words, one customer can’t impact the processing of another. There are also features within Enterprise that allows for isolation; so one customer has no access to another customer’s database. So it is secure. From a licensing perspective, Enterprise does allow unlimited virtualization if you license by the physical core. This allows for more consolidation (including hardware). Although the price per core is higher than Standard, when you look at spinning up multiple VM’s it becomes much more cost-effective. So it all goes back to the idea of multi-tenancy. The more customers you can run on a single physical hardware or by using virtualization, you can spread the cost of Enterprise across different customers.
SPLA Man – What about SQL BI? I rarely see this being reported. Are service providers missing something? What’s a good differentiation between SQL Standard and SQL BI?
Sarah – Service providers are hosting applications that are used by multiple people. What I have found in BI Edition (which is SQL Standard plus additional data warehousing and Business Intelligence technologies in the SQL server stack) is that often times the number of users that are using those features conflicts with the way it’s licensed. SQL BI is licensed by SAL only (not by core), and it is often more cost-effective to use Enterprise in a hosted environment. (Large amount of end users) I also think there’s familiarity with Enterprise and/or Standard, so they stick with what they know. If you have smaller environments where users are connecting to that database, than BI is a good option.
SPLA Man – A ton of service providers license SQL Web because it’s cheap. Although SQL Web is less expensive, from a licensing perspective there are some limitations. Can you elaborate?
Sarah – When I started at Microsoft, I did not know that SQL Web Edition was just for public websites. When you read it you think it could be used for any website. One trick is it has to be public website and certainly cannot be used to support a line of business applications. One thing to consider, if a website has a log in; then it’s not public.
Side Note – from the SPUR page 26. Notice it states: “support public AND Internet accessible” Not public OR Internet accessible” There’s a big difference between “and” and “or”
The software may be used only to support public and Internet accessible
It may not be used to support line of business applications (e.g., Customer Relationship Management, Enterprise Resource Management and other similar applications).
SPLA Man – One service provider told me that Oracle was better, simply because it wasn’t dependent on the platform that it runs on. How would you respond to that?
Sarah – Although true, Windows is universal and is highly available as well.
SPLA Man – Are there any promotions service providers can take advantage of?
Sarah – SPLA partners may want to check with their SPLA reseller from time to time to see if there are any upcoming promotions, new products, or licensing changes.
Side Note – although there’s not a special promotion tied to SQL at this time, service providers can always offer free trials and product demonstrations to your end customers. This is part of the SPLA agreement.
SPLA Man – Where’s a good resource for more information?
Sarah – One of the resources I used the most when I was working at a service provider was the feature matrix, which shows what features are in each edition of SQL server. This is found at www.microsoft.com/SQL you can also check out http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/sql-server/default.aspx
SPLA Man – Well I think that covers it. Thank you again for taking the time.
Sarah – No problem! Great catching up with you.
So what are your thoughts? How do you leverage SQL in a hosted environment? Need help with licensing? Reach out to us and let’s review your options.
Thanks for reading,