If you are like many of our customers, you still have some SQL Server 2005 in your environment. In April of 2016 Microsoft will end extended support of SQL Server 2005. As discussed in an earlier post, there can be quite a few negative implications of this impending deadline. Other details can be found at Microsoft’s support website

Potential issues

You may have some application compatibility challenges. In fact, for many of you this worry is a major reason why you’ve been holding-off upgrading. There are options here as well. Your application may have a newer version that supports a higher version of SQL Server. Also, SQL Server has the ability to run older version of the database on newer versions of the SQL Server. This capability may help in bridging an application compatibility issue.

In addition to specific application support issues, you may have issues with supported features of SQL Server itself. For a good starting point and to see what kinds of compatibility issues you may encounter, run the SQL Server Upgrade Advisor from the install media of SQL Server.

Despite these challenges, staying on SQL Server 2005 may not be a valid option. The risks may be too great. If you think you need to move, how do you get to a new version of SQL Server?

Here are three options to consider:

  • Upgrading in place
  • Migrating to a new SQL Server
  • Taking advantage of the cloud

Upgrading in place

While we do not typically recommend this route, it may be possible in a pinch to extend the life of some existing hardware and put off a capital expense of new hardware acquisition. There may be complications here that make this method difficult. Things like OS version, 32-bit vs. 64-bit considerations and hardware lifespan viability are all common hurdles that may prevent you from taking this route. Rollback options can be dicey here as well, depending on the backup and/or snapshot technology available to you.

Migrating to a new SQL Server

This will likely be the path of least resistance for most folks. It does come with some potential disruption, though. You will still be taking some downtime and you will need additional hardware over performing an in-place upgrade.

The benefits are that you can typically move to a much cleaner environment, leaving behind all of that configuration drift that has been piling up over the years. You will also have the opportunity to move to a better-suited hardware platform. That may simply be a new server to take advantage of hardware improvements (like 64 bit platforms – oh my! Look at all of the RAM I now have available!). Another option would be to move the solution to a virtualized platform, either on premises or in a cloud-based service like Windows Azure.

Taking advantage of the cloud

The cloud may offer you options for your applications that were not feasible when you deployed your solution on SQL Server 2005. If you have the flexibility to reimagine the solution using today’s technology, could you provide a better one?

I mentioned using cloud-based virtualization in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) options like Windows Azure. With these types of solutions you are basically leasing a virtual machine from the vendor and avoiding large capital expenses when you need to add capacity.

Even if you decide to keep your SQL Server on premises, you can take advantage of Microsoft SQL Server to back up to the cloud or even set up an AlwaysOn High Availability Group, connecting your local server and a server in Azure.

Another way to take advantage of the cloud would be to look at moving your database into Azure SQL Database, which is a Platform as a Server (PaaS) solution. This would be like leasing a SQL Server from Microsoft and allowing them to take the database infrastructure management off your hands. In addition to off-loading a lot of the database administrator functions to Microsoft, it allows some pretty interesting use-case scenarios for scaling and availability which would be cost prohibitive or impossible using other, more traditional methods. You can read more about that on the Azure SQL Database site.

Another benefit?

As you consider options for migrating your individual servers off of SQL Server 2005, don’t forget to examine your environment more holistically. You may have opportunities for consolidation at the database, instance, or even server levels. This could lead to licensing and operations efficiencies and cost savings.

We Get IT

At CDW, we can help you overcome the challenges to upgrading. Our licensing experts can prepare you with information on the best ways to purchase SQL Server. We have experienced SQL Server Engineers who can help you overcome the hurdles and select the best method for you to move forward. We can also advise you of opportunities for consolidation. Please contact your account manager to discuss the available options to help you reduce the risk of continuing to run SQL Server 2005.