SQL Server 2008: Which Edition’s Right for You?

Executive Summary: How can you help your organization choose the edition of SQL Server 2008 it needs? Michael Otey takes a quick tour through the available options.

Like death and taxes, the proliferation of editions of Microsoft products is a certainty we’ve come to expect. With eight editions, SQL Server 2008 has more offerings than any previous release of SQL Server. If you’re considering a move to SQL Server 2008, you’ll need to know which features and functionality each edition offers so you can decide which one is right for your organization.

Choosing Among SQL Server 2008 Editions

Most businesses will want either SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition or SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition. Both of these editions provide the core SQL Server relational database feature set as well as all the SQL Server business intelligence (BI) subsystems. If your organization can foot the bill, SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition is definitely the way to go. Yes, it costs more: $24,999 per processor as opposed to $5,999 per processor for the Standard Edition. (Microsoft counts processors by motherboard socket rather than by CPU core.) However, most of the cool new SQL Server 2008 features are Enterprise-only, including the Resource Governor, Data Compression, Transparent Data Encryption, and Change Data Capture (CDC). Plus, if you’re getting into virtualization for server consolidation, the Enterprise Edition has some important benefits—it lets you run an unlimited number of SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition instances in virtual machines (VMs) if all the processors in the system have been licensed.

If you’re economizing, the Standard Edition still stacks up well against other enterprise-capable database platforms. Its inclusion of the full BI stack gives it more built-in features and a better ROI than its non-Microsoft competitors. Volume discount pricing and other enterprise agreements, such as Software Assurance (SA), lower the price that you actually pay for the product.

The Developer Edition shares the same feature set as the Enterprise Edition, but it’s licensed for development work only and can’t be used in production environments. It’s $49.

The Web, Workgroup, and Express editions have the core SQL Server engine code-base, but the Express Edition doesn’t include the BI subsystems. The Web and Workgroup editions support only SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

The Web Edition lets web hosting providers offer more competitively priced SQL Server-based database services. It’s not intended for use as an internal line-of-business (LOB) database. Pricing is $15 per processor under a Services Provider License Agreement.

The Workgroup Edition has limited scalability and is intended for departmental and branch office installations to support their local database applications. It’s limited by the number of processors it supports (two) and in the total memory it can access (4GB). It might be acceptable for some small businesses, but its limited BI functionality makes it less useful for large organizations. The Workgroup Edition retails at $3,899 per processor.

The Express Edition is free. It supports a single processor, 1GB of RAM, and a database limit of 4GB. Small businesses could use it as their database. Express Edition is more limited than Workgroup Edition: Microsoft and other software vendors often include Express Edition with their applications to provide database services. Express Edition with Advanced Services adds SSRS to its core SQL Server Express relational database services.

Compact Edition 3.5 is a different animal altogether. Instead of being a service-based database like the other editions of SQL Server, it’s an in-process database. It’s free and intended for desktop database services.

Doing More Research

For more information about licensing and pricing, go to www.microsoft.com/sql/howtobuy/editionspricing.mspx. To learn more about which features are included in each SQL Server 2008 edition, see “Features Supported by the Editions of SQL Server 2008” at msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645993.aspx.

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