SQL Server users love the new features inside of the platform and each new release brings more exciting enhancements that motivate end users towards upgrading from previous editions. However, one of the biggest gripes I see from the SQL Server Community is that the hot new features are primarily Enterprise Edition only. Today I read a blog post by John Magnabosco over on Simple Talk titled “What If TDE Was Available In Standard Edition?” that once again brought up the subject of a newer Enterprise Edition feature that “should” be in Standard Edition according to John. Now to be perfectly fair to John, who I don’t know but I am sure he is a great person, the argument he makes in his blog post has been made before. The key statement in his blog post is:
You shouldn't have to be a large company with a large budget to create a secure environment.
To a degree I couldn’t agree with him more, but you don’t have to have TDE to create a secure environment. TDE is the icing on the cake in my opinion. However, in the not so recent past, this same type of argument has been made about other aspects of Enterprise Edition by the community. At PASS Summit 2008, which happened to be my first Summit and my first year as a MVP, during a insider session with Microsoft, some of the better known MVP’s drove the point home to Microsoft that stability shouldn’t be an Enterprise only feature. What specifically were they talking about? The ability to Lock Pages in Memory with 64 bit SQL Servers that can now scale memory beyond the previous limits of 32 bit architectures and with potentially devastating consequences if the SQL Server working set got trimmed or paged out by Windows Server 2003 under memory pressure. The result was a Cumulative Update to SQL Server allowing a this in Standard Edition.
Another big feature that debutted in SQL Server 2008 RTM was backup compression, which offered huge performance improvements and storage savings for backing up SQL Server databases. A number of third party tools have existed for a long time offering this feature including LiteSpeed by Quest Software and SQL Backup by Redgate, both of which are still industry standard tools for SQL Server backups despite the feature being available in the RTM of SQL Server 2008. Why are they still industry standard? Simple, backup compression was introduced as a Enterprise Only feature, and for $300-800 a third party tool makes much better financial sense versus the cost of an Enterprise license over a Standard license. Not to short change the third party tools, they offer a number of other awesome features beyond backup compression as well. As of SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM, backup compression is now available in Standard Edition of SQL Server as well.
So it begs the question, of this blog post. Should SQL Server advanced features be available a la carte? The competing RDBMS vendors have been selling features a la carte for a long time now. Are we to the point that SQL Server will also join the ranks with Oracle, Informix, and Sybase (this is an old link I know) on this? Would that even make the SQL Server community happy, or would we just begin complaining about the added costs on top of the base cost of the platform?
At some point Microsoft has to monetize their efforts on the product and the advanced features of it, there is after all a significant cost associated with developing, testing, releasing, and supporting it. SQL Server 2005 brought a number of features into the Standard SKU that were previously Enterprise only features, while also introducing a number of newer features in the Standard SKU, as well as a number of Enterprise only features. Coupled with this, the SQL Express platform is extremely robust for FREE and in SQL Server 2008 R2, now supports 10GB databases, which is larger than a number of the most basic databases in use by a lot of systems I encounter in consulting work.
What are your thoughts? What Enterprise only features do you think should be in Standard Edition? Should SQL Server features be available a la carte allowing you to determine what’s the most important to you, and if you are willing to pay for just those features?