Surprising But True: The Basics Are Still Difficult

I always look forward to new research from Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., publishers of this magazine and other great products for data professionals. The latest report which you should read is “SQL Server Transformation: Toward Agility & Resiliency 2017; PASS Database Management Survey.” The survey was sponsored by Dell EMC and VMware, and Joe McKendrick, lead analyst at Unisphere Research, wrote the survey report.

The Demographics

The survey was conducted in partnership with the Professional Association for SQL Server (, the worldwide association for SQL Server professionals, and included responses from more than 350 SQL Server users from organizations of all sizes and across all industries. Of the respondents, 38% considered themselves DBAs, 9% were developers, 8% were managers or executives, another 8% were data or systems analysts, and 5% were BI
or analytics professionals.

Most respondents were running production on SQL Server versions 2008 R2, 2012, and 2014 (around 16% each), with SQL Server versions 2005, 2008, and 2016 at the next tier of adoption (around 10%). Most databases (around 44%) were less than 500GB in size. (Not surprisingly, 44% of respondents also said they had no requirement for zero downtime). But databases of .5TB to 10TB in size made up 29% of the installed base. A surprisingly large number of
respondents (about 12%) have at least one really big database of 50TB or greater.

Cloud adoption is lower than I expected. Only 9% of respondents were using a public cloud service for production, while 15% used a private cloud, and 5% a hybrid cloud solution. On the other hand, the percentage of respondents who were piloting or considering cloud use was quite a bit higher. What’s the hold-up on cloud adoption? I reckon that there are two major issues slowing down widespread adoption besides the ever-present FUD of moving to a new platform. First, DBAs and enterprises are too overloaded with fire-fighting to learn all the new technology of the cloud, and the second amplifies the first. The cloud technologies in place today are moving and evolving so quickly that if you spend a week learning how to use a given set of Azure technologies, those skills might be obsolete next month. Who actually wants to invest a lot of time in learning a major new technology when they’re in fact shooting at a moving target?

In a bit of good news, flash storage system adoption is on the rise. Unlike cloud adoption, flash adoption is far less nuanced. In my opinion, we have seen the early adopters start using flash without significant issue, while fully delivering on the promise of lightning fast I/O. Now, most DBAs and enterprises are simply waiting for the price to drop enough to meet their budgets. Once it does, flash vendors will see explosive growth in the SQL Server world.

The Difficulties

The survey revealed some very interesting and alarming gaps in the realm of business continuity, disaster recovery (DR), and high availability (HA). On the one hand, many respondents (23%) said that zero downtime is critical to many of their SQL Server instances. And, while most respondents (70%) said they have formal DR plans in place, only 44% said they have recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) service-level agreements. In my assessment, that means that only 44% of respondents have actual DR plans in place. On top of that, 11% of respondents have NO PLAN AT ALL and 18% claim that they are “still working on plans.” Again, if disaster strikes, that’s equivalent to having no plans at all. Once again, the problem in these technical systems is the human element and not the technology.

The survey reveals that many effective technologies are deployed to support DR/HA. Yet one of the most important components of successful DR/HA, the deliberate and careful planning for a disaster, are still an anomaly in the broader industry. This worry is further highlighted by the finding that 25% of
respondents never test their DR plans and another 25% said that they only test recovery “yearly.” If you happen to be a SQL Server consultant, I think this should make you smile.

Get the Survey and Report

I’ve only scratched the surface of the rich information contained in the report. I encourage you to download the report today at www. Toward-Agility-and-Resiliency-6705.aspx. Then, let me know what you think! Did I miss the mark? Are there other bits of wisdom you can glean from it?