Data Virtualization Poised to Expand Into the Cloud

Today’s enterprise database environments are growing in size and complexity, fueled by rising data volumes and new business demands. Many databases that have been at the heart of existing enterprises to power mission-critical applications are now being positioned to support new Digital Native businesses. As a result, 24x7 high availability is no longer a luxury for select applications; it’s a necessity for the bulk of the business—many organizations can no longer afford downtime in their data environments—even for a minute.

These are some of the findings of a recent survey of SQL Server data environments, conducted by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., that fielded a survey among the members of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), the leading organization for SQL Server professionals. The research was conducted independently and underwritten by Dell EMC and VMware. A total of 357 SQL Server users participated from companies of all sizes and industries (“SQL Server Transformation: Toward Agility & Resiliency; 2017 PASS Database Management Survey,” Unisphere Research, January 2017).

The survey also found that while IT staff and budget resources are staying constant or declining, the challenge of maintaining the performance and availability of these business-critical enterprise database systems is growing. The intersection of these trends is threatening companies’ agility and resiliency. In order to address this challenge, enterprise data managers need to find smart ways to improve efficiency and availability, while reducing costs and complexity.

Resiliency and high availability are critical components of today’s enterprise data environments. The study found zero downtime is critical to many SQL Server sites. In fact, 23% of respondents said they require zero downtime for more than 25% of their database instances (Figure 1). Although disaster recovery and business continuity is a critical component of such always-on capabilities, it is not universal. While the majority of respondents’ sites, 70%, have a formal disaster recovery plan in place, only 44% have recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) service-level agreements. RTO and RPO are key elements in maintaining a seamless digital enterprise.

Percentage of Production SQL Server Instances Requiring Zero Downtime





More than 50%...17%

The rise of digital enterprises, as well as the big data required to power digital services and capabilities, is adding not only a significant amount of complexity to corporate data operations but also the need for greater capacity in servers and storage. To address these challenges, enterprises are turning to data virtualization, which is already in widespread use, the survey also reveals. The majority of database sites, 60%, are highly virtualized, meaning 75% or more of their data assets are virtualized. Primary uses of data virtualization are to address the challenges associated with evolving to digital enterprises as noted above, including high availability and disaster recovery. In addition, 63% of enterprise database sites plan to expand their use of virtualization within the next 2 years.

Percent of SQL Server Production Instances Currently Virtualized

1%–24%... 13%



75% or more...60%

None, entirely physical...6%

The next stage of the virtualization process is expansion or extension with a cloud-based service, both internal and external. This is on the drawing board for many enterprise data management teams, the survey shows. When it comes to both private and public cloud, data managers are proceeding cautiously—the majority of respondents indicated they do not use any cloud services today. However, future use is anticipated across all categories of cloud. The current leader is private cloud, with 21% of sites piloting or considering adoption. Private cloud is delivering the most tangible benefits and is also the most widely used service presently.

Use of Cloud For SQL Server

                                    Currently in use                       Piloting/considering

Public                                      9%                               15%

Private                                    15%                              21%

Hybrid                                     5%                               17%

Storage is an essential, but often overlooked, building block of digital businesses. With the rapid growth in the amount of digital data, storage technology used for backups is experiencing a dramatic transition. Traditional magnetic disk storage is still the primary target for backup with 53% of enterprise database sites. However, modern storage approaches are gaining adoption. The survey found that 13% of sites currently back up to flash and even more are planning the adoption of flash for backups.

SQL Server Backup Technology

Magnetic disk...53%

Dedicated backup appliance...42%



Flash array...13%