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Measure of a DBA

Marketing people are often surprised when a new version of SQL Server doesn’t quite generate the atmosphere of excited anticipation that they expected. After all, people seem to get themselves in a state of frenzy when a new iPhone is introduced, and suddenly their present phone looks like a museum item. The urge to upgrade is hard to resist.

DBAs aren’t like that. You didn’t see DBAs queuing around the block overnight to get their new licenses to SQL Server 2016. With the possible exception of Query Store, presentations about SQL Server 2016 at SQLBits didn’t generally burst out of their allocated space. It is a measured reaction. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, a production system running on a particular version of SQL Server is expensive to upgrade and the chances are that you won’t notice a huge difference in performance: the upgrade has to be justified in terms of ROI. Secondly, sometimes the industry sector has to approve the version of SQL Server before it is used, or sometimes it requires a complex certification process for a change. Thirdly, businesses often prefer to leave a database application running undisturbed with an antiquated version of the RDBMS, unless it is going to fix something that is broken.

Sure, if database people have a choice they’ll go for the latest version of SQL Server. There is no equivalent to Vista or Windows 8 to trigger caution: all releases of SQL Server has been better than the one before, and the deprecation process is far more considerate. I, and my colleagues, are eagerly downloading the free developer edition of SQL Server 2016 for the purposes of familiarising ourselves with the new release. However, there is no equivalent to the smartphone ‘impulse purchase’ to SQL Server for an organisation; It will upgrade a database system when it makes sense to do. There is plenty in SQL Server 2016 to justify upgrading, and I must admit to a geeky surge of happiness when I’m trying out the new and improved bits, but let’s not pretend that its excellent new features are, by themselves, going to lead to a rapid adoption of the new version of the RDBMS.

So what would set the pulse racing with excitement? Would it be a change to SQL Server licensing? Is there a feature that, if it were introduced, would make such a difference that it would make a new version irresistible? What would you want to see in SQL Server 2018?

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