The SQL Server 2005 Learning Curve Revisited
For some organizations, surprisingly, SQL Server 2005 has been a more or less turnkey migration experience—especially on the BI front.
So SQL Server 2005 has a somewhat steep learning curve. (http://www.tdwi.org/News/display.aspx?ID=8219)
Big deal, say SQL Server pros: it’s well worth the wait, learning curve or no. And for some organizations, surprisingly, SQL Server 2005 has been a more or less turnkey migration experience—especially on the business intelligence (BI) front.
"Our main driver for deploying [SQL Server] 2005 was in the new Analysis Services offering. The [universal data model] is a big step forward over the previous version and has given us a lot more flexibility in the design of our solutions. We have had challenges with the new architecture around drill-through and some of the requirements around the infrastructure, but the increased flexibility more than outweighs these problems," says Andrew Wall, a SQL Server professional with a public sector agency. "We were able to deploy quickly, migrating our Analysis Services 2000 databases [and] cubes over to the new platform with ease. We moved one project from [Analysis Services 2000] to [SQL Server 2005] in the space of a few months. We are more than satisfied with it."
If Wall has any criticism about SQL Server 2005’s newness, at least as a potential bulwark to adoption, it’s that community resources (such as a robust troubleshooting knowledgebase) are still evolving: "[D]ue to it being a new technology, the community knowledgebase is catching up. Coupled with … a poor books online [support] meant we had some late nights googling."
There’s a sense in which the industry might be on the verge of a SQL Server 2005 tsunami, too. Consider the case of Erland Sommarskog, a SQL Server MVP and a SQL pro with a Swedish ISV that develops software for securities trading. Sommarskog’s firm is almost entirely dependent on SQL Server for its in-house operations, and it also develops its packaged software to run on that platform, too. Sommarskog’s company supports SQL Server 2005 across most of its application line, but—irony of ironies—none of its customers are currently using that database. At the same time, it looks as if new customer wins will increasingly be coming on board with SQL Server 2005 already in-house.
"We have no customers running SQL 2005. But with some luck, we will have one in two weeks—a new customer. We expect to bring about all customers to SQL Server 2005 in 2007," he comments.
Most importantly, Sommarskog says, although his employer hasn’t yet tapped too much of SQL Server’s built-in BI functionality, that should change as it expands its use of SQL Server 2005—starting first and foremost with Reporting Services. "Thus far we have only used the database engine, but we have just started to develop for Reporting Services as a replacement to Crystal," he indicates. "We hope that Reporting Services meets all our reporting needs, because we don't like Crystal."
In the same way, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)—which first shipped (as an add-on for SQL Server 2000) in January of 2004—looks to be a killer app of sorts for SQL Server 2005, driving uptake in terms of accelerating SQL Server 2005 adoptions and by bringing new users into the fold, too. "Our use of [SQL Server’s] BI capabilities is limited to Reporting Services. We've toyed with Analysis Services in the past, but nothing ever really came out of that," confirms Topher Thiessen, a manager of metrics and analytics at a subsidiary of a prominent lending and mortgage firm. Thiessen’s employer made some use of SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services, but—in tandem with a planned migration to SQL Server 2005—it plans to greatly expand its usage of that solution.
SQL Server pro Wall, for his part, says SSRS has become a franchise technology for his employer. "In terms of reporting RS goes a long way to meeting our needs. We are slowly migrating off an old crystal reports platform to wholly RS. Sure the editor is not as good as CR—although improvements have been made over the 2000 release—or the functions [and] expressions not as powerful but it does, tick 90 percent of our reporting requirements," he comments. "Couple that with the cost saving of deploying something like Crystal Enterprise means it is an attractive offering."
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.