Fitting One More Clown in the Beetle

What does the number of clowns you can fit in a Volkswagen Beetle have to do with the SQL Server licensing model? Last week, I asserted that SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services will have a significant effect on all SQL Server shops, whether they deploy the product or not. I pointed out that someone might ask you to defend a decision to spend money on a third-party reporting solution that you could have gotten for free. In response, a SQL Server Magazine editor forwarded a reader's comment asking how Microsoft could call Reporting Services free when most customers can't install the product on current SQL Server systems because of performance restrictions. True, you must run Reporting Services on a machine that's already licensed for SQL Server, but we're all running SQL Server on dedicated machines, right? Here's where SQL Server's licensing model begins to resemble a VW Beetle full of circus clowns.

There's a Web site that claims 24 circus clowns can fit in a VW Beetle. If you assume that you can transport 24 circus clowns in one VW Beetle, then a circus with 12 clowns and a VW Beetle can hire 12 more clowns without increasing transportation costs, right? Maybe not. I'm trying to teach my little girl, Emily, that you don't always do something just because you can. The lesson applies to performance tuning and capacity planning as well. Many customers have no business installing Reporting Services on an existing SQL Server production server—even though Reporting Services would then be free—because it will degrade the server's performance. You can't always fit another clown in the car. For these customers, Reporting Services isn't free. However, many small and medium-sized businesses can efficiently run Reporting Services on an existing SQL Server box. The installation might slow performance some, but there's room to add one more clown to the car. For these customers, Reporting Services is free.

For those of you who believe it's naive to think that many customers have the hardware room to add Reporting Services to their existing SQL Server systems, let me tell you a story. I recently helped a customer drop average CPU utilization on its servers from more than 50 percent (with spikes up to 100 percent) down to an average of 5 percent by tweaking only three procedures. I've seen similar situations repeatedly. Many customers have plenty of room on their SQL Server boxes—provided their applications are running efficiently. And most customers can fit one more clown inside the Beetle—or Reporting Services on the box.

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