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SQL Server 2016 Standard – Your Cake. You Can Eat it too.

Today Microsoft just made a huge announcement. All of the features you can build into your databases in SQL Server (well the vast majority at least) are no longer just included in Enterprise Editions. There are some exceptions… But the main point here is – you can be on SQL Server Standard – and you can use those features you wish you could use. Oh, and by the way – SQL Server 2016 ships. Today.

It’s Already In There…

If you were from the 80s, you remember the Prego Spaghetti sauce commercials, right? “What about the tomatoes?” “It’s in there”…

Microsoft has always had this “Prego Model” (I just made it up on the spot, sorry) of licensing compared to other DBMBS vendors. For instance, if you buy from the folks who have all the Yachts, you can have any feature you want. You just pay per feature. High Availability? Sure, what type? Okay.. Pay $n for that. Scale out solutions? $$$ You get nickle and dimed for features. Microsoft kept it simple – you want that stuff, just buy Enterprise Edition. It’s already in there already. “What about?” “It’s in there”… 

The trade has  always been – you buy Standard when you don’t need those enterprise class features that Microsoft already does really well and includes in their Enterprise licenses. You want to scale out memory or CPU or use a “big organization loves!” feature? Just buy Enterprise Edition. As we all know in the SQL Server world, that means per core pricing. And it’s just a bit more expensive than Standard (but less than a similarly equipped Oracle or DB2 installation). It’s been a rather fair deal all said when compared to most of the other large enterprise DBMS providers on the market.

But. Let’s be honest. It’s a been a royal pain in the butt for Software Vendors. And for customers who are on the cusp. How many times have you thought or said “I just wish I could have encryption or fine grain auditing to stay compliant, but we can’t justify going to Enterprise!” or “Compression would be great to use here in Standard. We’re happy with 128GB of RAM, CPU load is good, just wish I could compress without the Enterprise Edition price tag”.

And the plight for vendors who make and sell software is far worse! Do you make an Enterprise Edition only product? Force your market share to be of a certain type and size? Do you support Standard edition only features so your SMBs are happy? Do you spend extra time writing, coding and developing for either edition – checking which edition you are on before doing a database deployment? Do you sell two different products with code forks and messy deployments and extra testing?

Microsoft just said “ENOUGH!” to all of those people asking questions. Well it wasn’t an angry “You shall not pass!” style enough like the bold and exclamation means. It is more like Oprah and her “A neewwwwwwwwwwwww Car!” giveaways.

SQL Server Enterprise features in SQL Server Standard? No Problem!
SQL Server Enterprise features in SQL Server Standard? No Problem!

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! – they didn’t say “But you have to upgrade to v.Next when it comes out” they said “how about you upgrade to Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2016 right now, it’s available, and have access to these Enterprise Edition Features today.”

So yeah. That’s the announcement that was made this morning at Microsoft’s Connect(); event. There were a lot more announcements. You can read about them following SQL Server on twitter, checking out their blogs or stay tuned here, I’ll be posting about the other things coming. Also check out docs.microsoft.com. The times? They are a changin’

What’s Not Included?

So this is great news even with this. Most of the features that you can code against and build products around are now in all the editions (well more or less. Express is limited still. I mean it’s express). But things that are for operational or performance are still Enterprise features, as they should be. You need online index rebuilds? Enterprise. You need more than 128GB of RAM in your buffer pool? Enterprise. Need more than 1/4 of the RAM allocated to your buffer pool available for in-memory OLTP or Columnstore? Enterprise.  Enterprise level high availability or DR features? Enterprise Edition SQL is right for you.

That makes sense and I’m fine with that. I think this will make my Senior DBA on Demand clients who write and make software very happy. I think this will make many of the smaller shops I work with that are fine with the memory limitations or other limitations above quite happy, also.

I’d say the majority of my Enterprise Edition clients will still be happy. They need Enterprise for their 24/7 pace, serious HA/DR need or their 2TB of RAM SQL Server installations.

What Features?

So you can read about the announcement and you should read about the announcement on those sources. Microsoft will release/has released an edition feature matrix update but if you think about what I said – the things you can code for  – you get the picture.

Features like: Compression, Columnstore Indexes, In-Memory OLTP, Always Encrypted, Row Level Security, Fine Grain Auditing, Dynamic Data Masking, Partitioning, Change Data Capture, Polybase features, and others.

You can see more at the blog post from Microsoft discussing the release of SQL Server 2016 SP1. You’ll see you can even use these features in SQL Server Express. Just with less memory or smaller databases.

How Do you Take Advantage Of This?

You upgrade to SQL Server 2016.
You develop against those new features…

Upgrades don’t have to be as painful as many people fear. They can be quite painless. I’ve helped many clients navigate the upgrade process. There has never been a better reason to adopt SQL Server 2016. It was already the right time with the new features like Always Encrypted and the amazing performance benefits folks are showing just by upgrading to SQL Server 2016. But now the reason to push off your upgrade just got a bit smaller. And a shameless plug to end – we can help you here. We can review your current setup, understand your needs, help you plan and seamlessly execute your upgrade with you or for you. Reach out and we can perform a SQL Server Safety Check to understand what your baseline is and receive an upgrade analysis with the exam.

Article by Mike Walsh

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