Gethyn Ellis, SQL Consultant, Northdoor
20th September 2019
Software upgrades and new versions of SQL Server seem to be increasingly frequent. Trying to keep up to date can become quite a chore, and often quite impractical and expensive for many organisations with hundreds of machines all with different service level agreements that need to be adhered to.
We don’t replace our car every time a new model comes out so why do we need to update software every time Microsoft releases a new version? What’s wrong with sticking with the old tried and tested version of our favourite software that just keeps working? This is an approach that a lot of organisations take and is the reason why there is still a large number of SQL Servers out there in the wild running now out of support versions of SQL Server.
There are plenty of business-driven reasons for moving from SQL 2008 to the latest (or just a later) version of SQL Server.
Firstly, as previously mentioned, anything older than SQL Server 2008 R2 is out of support with Microsoft. If you have a problem with your old version Microsoft aren’t going to help you, they will tell you to upgrade before they will help you so you could end up missing out on vital support for your systems.
The latest SQL server versions simply run faster. Without having to make any code changes you will get better performance. SQL Server from SQL Server 2014 had its optimiser and cardinality estimator upgraded, revised, improved…call it what you will. In theory your query will run faster (note: this is not true for every query and there has been cases of regression but in general performance will be better). This could save you money on hardware upgrades. So, there may be a cost benefit to upgrading.
There are so many new features in the latest versions of SQL server that can help you improve the design and performance of your database such as in-memory databases, column store indexes and the ability to index databases whilst they are online.
With an out of date SQL Server your systems aren’t getting any security updates or bug fixes, so you are potentially more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. No one wants their data stolen and have to explain to the boss the reason why the company can’t trade any more is because you ran vulnerable software. Security is important for all organisations, so it is important you prioritise this.SQL has new security features like Always Encrypted, Dynamic Data Masking and Row Level Security which can help you to keep your data more secure.
There are improved features for HA and DR that will ensure your databases stay up in the event of a disaster or problem. SQL Server 2012 saw the introduction of Availability Groups and Microsoft have improved and enhanced this product with every release since.
Furthermore, there are lots of new features: graph processing, query store, adaptive query processing, CHECKDB improvements, support for the R and Python languages, JSON and Polybase, Power BI, data compression and more.
SQL server is also now available not just for Windows but Linux and containers which means you can run your SQL on just about any platform.
If upgrading your data centre fills you with dread, why not look at moving your databases to Azure where you will have all these features available to you and upgrades to the last version will happen seamlessly.
If you haven’t considered it yet I would recommend looking at modernising your legacy SQL servers.
The above article focuses on the SQL Server engine improvements but there have been many other enhancements in Integration Services (SSIS), Analysis Services (SSAS) & Reporting Services (SSRS).