So you’re still running SQL Server 2008?

Crucially, it means no more hotfixes, no more cumulative updates and no more service packs. If a bug is identified, it will not be fixed, even if it is a critical bug that severely hinders normal operation. For those businesses running critical operations, this may be unacceptable, and so upgrading to a newer version is clearly the answer.

The preferred version to upgrade to at this point in time would be SQL Server 2014. There are two main editions: Standard and Enterprise. Standard edition is intended for non-mission critical workloads and small organisations. It lacks many of the scalability and availability features in Enterprise edition. Enterprise edition is aimed at the important workloads where minimising downtime and maximising performance is critical.

Switching to SQL Server 2014 is not insanely bleeding-edge. With releases now coming every two years now, there are few good reasons to upgrade to an older version. The habit of waiting for SP1 is old fashioned. Service packs are released less frequently and are replaced with more regular and smaller cumulative updates. Of course, staying within support is not the only reason one would upgrade, the features that appear in newer versions are an incentive to upgrade, too. There have been some great enhancements made in SQL Server 2014 that make it worth considering, these include:

  • Memory-optimised tables
  • Columnstore indexes
  • Buffer pool extension
  • Encrypted backups
  • AlwaysOn for HA/DR

Memory-optimised tables and Columnstore indexes are two aspects of SQL Server’s in-memory offering – see https://www.entelect.co.za/News/DisplayNewsItem.aspx?niid=33889. Memory-optimised tables enable transaction processing at the very highest level and Columnstore indexes allow for incredibly fast analytics.

The Buffer-pool extension allows both Standard and Enterprise editions to use solid- state devices as if they were memory, offering improved scalability and throughput for both OLTP and reporting workloads.

While SQL Server has offered compressed backups for multiple versions, encrypted backups have been a long-standing request. With increasing numbers of data thefts and breeches, it is more important than ever to properly protect backups, and that protection starts by encrypting the backup at creation time. This can now be done in SQL Server 2014, in both Standard and Enterprise editions.

AlwaysOn, available from SQL Server 2012, allows for both high availability and scale-out of reporting workloads with its combination of synchronous and asynchronous replicas. It also allows for the offloading of a backup workload so that the primary server can continue serving the business and customers without interruption.

Although the end of support for SQL 2008 is drawing nearer, the exciting features available in SQL Server 2012 and 2014, make upgrading a sound proposition.

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