Lately, I’m dealing with people on a near daily basis trying to help them specify their servers. One of the common subjects is Microsoft SQL. Funny, it’s rare I meet people looking for MySQL or Oracle. Microsoft Ireland’s DPE team must be doing a pretty good job! Anyway, the big question is “What version and edition of SQL do you need?”.
Version is usually very quick. If they are working with existing code the answer is usually 2005. SQL has a much longer support cycle from MS than other products and developers are usually in a comfort zone that they don’t want to leave. I’m OK with that because it makes sense. If they’re doing something new or there’s something appealing in SQL 2008 then they go that way.
The difficult bit is the edition of SQL. I’m in the hosting business so we sell SPLA licenses. This means were normally dealing with per processor licenses. The monthly lease price difference between the free SQL Express versus the top end SQL Enterprise is staggering. Why? There are no users to count for CAL’s so Microsoft compensates by increasing the cost of the per processor license.
So which edition do you go for? I can’t blame developers for being confused about this because it’s not necessarily simple to compare one edition of SQL to another … and then it changes when you alter the version of SQL.
For SQL 2005 these are your options:
- SQL Express: Free but most limited in functionality and scalability
- SQL Workgroup: Pretty cheap. Has scalability but limited to basic functionality
- SQL Standard: Getting pricey. Has most functionality.
- SQL Enterprise: Most expensive but with all the features.
You can compare the SQL 2005 editions on Microsoft’s site.
Microsoft added an additional SKU with SQL 2008 called SQL Web Edition. It is very cheap and is intended to run on web servers, e.g. Windows 2008 Web Server edition.
You can learn more about the editions of SQL Server 2008 features comparison on Microsoft’s web site.
My advice is simple. Start with the cheapest one in your decision making process. Look through the features. If there’s something missing then move up the edition table and start again. When you find an edition that does every thing you need now (and in the near/mid future) then go with that edition.