Inside the Windows 2008 stack experience
Laughter, tears, upgrades
Project Watch: Microsoft 2008 Register Developer regular Mark Whitehorn is rolling out a significant new IT project. This has, at its heart, a database of around 1TB and is ultimately expected to support several thousand users.
The project is using nothing less than upgrades to a trio of big-ticket products from Microsoft - Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 - that are due next month. With Reg Dev, Mark will chart his experiences and record his frustrations during deployment of these major updates.
Over to Mark who, this week, sets the scene...
Experience has taught database people to be very, very conservative. Actually, it's more like a selection thing. There are old DBAs and there are bold DBAs, but there are no old, bold DBAs.
If an application runs fine on version eight of your preferred RDBMS, why would you even consider upgrading to version nine? The best you can possibly hope for is that it continues to run fine (no gain there then); the worst is crash, burn and time to find a new job elsewhere. This is why we have production systems still running in COBOL.
Our current database is running on SQL Server 2005, sitting on Windows Server 2003. We are also using Analysis Server 2005 to produce the OLAP cubes and ProClarity for the data visualization. It works. So why am I sitting here, two months shy of the launch of SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, desperately seeking servers that will run this entire 2008 stack and porting an application that will go live (for a subset of the users) long before the summer?
Masochism and/or bravado spring to mind, but it isn't those. Killer features continue to appear in software that confer such competitive advantage that procrastination is impossible. Of course, it's only a killer feature if you need it and our application really, really needs it.
The "it" in question here is the ability to handle spatial data. SQL Server 2008 has it. End of story. Yes, I know Oracle had spatial data types first, but are there other, associated, reasons such as the business intelligence capabilities that made SQL Server 2008 the obvious choice for us.
OK, but why Windows and Visual Studio 2008 as well? Don't think we didn't think long and hard about this. But, while the decision adds to the workload now, it should reduce it in the future. And if we don't, we will spend the next two years sailing the sea of uncertain upgrades, dreading the support calls that start with "What OS are you running that on? Ah, well, if only you were running on..."
Having made the decision for all the right reasons, it would be disingenuous to pretend that we aren't looking forward to the challenge. I believe the conservatism discussed above is essentially forced upon DBAs by commercial considerations. In truth if we aren't excited by challenges, if we don't like problem solving, what are we doing working in computing?
And the good news is that I can share the excitement (and the pain) with you as the project proceeds. Does it really work? Where are the bugs, where is the missing functionality? How easy is it to load all three and get them working? What are the highs and lows?
Next time, Mark digs further into his need for spatial data and SQL Server 2008.®
"competitive advantage" - nope, your playing catch-up
"Killer features continue to appear in software that confer such competitive advantage that procrastination is impossible.
The "it" in question here is the ability to handle spatial data. SQL Server 2008 has it. End of story. Yes, I know Oracle had spatial data types first"
That doesn't give you any competitive advantive as you'll be playing catch-up to the companies already using Oracle (as you pointed out)
re:SQL Server 2008 delayed to Q3 2008
Happily, as I say in the next, exciting, episode (which should appear soon), having lived through the release of SQL Server 2003/2004/2005 I'd already allowed for substantial slippage in the 2008 version. This doesn’t mean I am happy about the slippage, but I was prepared. The project will go live in the summer, but only with a subset of the users and we can do that on the beta (sorry, CTP).
"Are you sure you don't want to consider an open source alternative for this project, Mark?"
We have already done so. When the project started we drew up a spec. and then matched that against the available products; some of which were open source. A subset of open source products was potentially capable of meeting the database requirements but not the BI (specifically the OLAP and data mining) requirements.
However, for other projects I am always open to suggestion and the world is constantly changing. So if any Reg. Dev. readers are aware of good open source OLAP engines and data mining tools (in particular those capable of scaling well) please do let me know.
SQL Server 2008 delayed to Q3 2008
According to today's article by Kelly Fiveash (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/28/sql_server_2008_delayed/), Mark is going to have to find an alternative to SQL Server 2008, especially if he needs to roll out a version of his new IT project before the summer.
Are you sure you don't want to consider an open source alternative for this project, Mark?