Friday, June 18, 2021

MS SQL Server Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) Review

The relational database management system (RDBMS) market brims with providers, but Microsoft SQL Server is one of the longest-standing, most popular, and most consistent competitors on the market. 

For a legacy product that has been around for 30+ years, Microsoft SQL Server has stayed relevant by tacking on new features in cloud and edge computing, big data analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) over the years, while also offering an extensive count of Microsoft and third-party integrations to round out its features.

See below to learn more about the RDBMS:

A Review of Microsoft SQL Server

Relational database management system (RDBMS) software

A database management system is software or a software family that organizes and manages data across databases. DBMS software can organize, categorize and label data, as well as elements like column headings and files, to simplify the data analysis process.

Relational database management system (RDBMS) software is a specific type of DBMS that shows relationships between data entries via tables. The relations across tables are managed through RDBMS software, allowing data to be cleaned and updated over time.

Database management systems should always move beyond the basic organization of databases, making sure that data analysts can efficiently analyze and create analytics reports on their most important data sets, according to Microsoft.

See more: What is a Database Management System?

Microsoft SQL Server features

With the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2019, Microsoft expanded on its offerings in the areas of big data clustering and intelligent query processing (IQP). 

Big data clusters help with streamlining data collections in a variety of ways, like building a shared data lake of both structured and unstructured data, preparing data to train artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools, and making cross-platform dissemination of data possible among both internal and external database hosting platforms. 

Intelligent query processing focuses on lifting some of the stress on database administrators who spend significant time adjusting their database and tweaking queries. IQP ensures their work does not interfere with memory or overall performance of corporate data. The function allows the system to postpone decision making during periods of optimization, execute on queries via batch mode, and remember past query performance while adjusting in real-time to unexpected query scenarios.

Microsoft SQL Server Big Data Clusters.
This diagram illustrates how the Big Data Clusters feature works. It is one of the newest features that accompanied the launch of SQL Server 2019. (Source: Microsoft)

These are some of the other top features of Microsoft SQL Server:

  • High availability and recovery
  • Compatible with Microsoft and Linux operating systems
  • End-to-end mobile business intelligence (BI)
  • Built-in security and compliance tracking
  • Data encryption and role filtering
  • Data masking 
  • Data virtualization
  • On-premises and cloud options

Microsoft SQL Server integrations

Microsoft SQL Server offers several built-in integrations, but the product is also friendly with most APIs. Within the SQL Server toolkit, you’ll find SQL Server Integration Services, the primary tool that assists in data warehousing, migration, and communication across internal and external platforms. 

Here are examples of the integrations that are possible:

Tools within the Microsoft family

  • Azure SQL Database
  • Azure SQL Data Warehouse
  • Azure Cosmos DB

Third-party integrations

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • MongoDB
  • Apache Spark
  • Oracle
  • Teradata
  • HDFS
  • IBM Cognos Analytics
  • Cloudera

Benefits of Microsoft SQL Server

  • Streamlined installation/deployment is available through the Installation Wizard in all packages.
  • User community forums and Microsoft customer service help troubleshoot a variety of issues.
  • Microsoft has been in the DBMS market since 1989 and releases new versions with new features every few years.
  • Microsoft offers flexible pricing packages that generally cost less than other top DBMS competitors.

Microsoft SQL Server Installation Wizard.
The Installation Wizard is one of the most highly praised features of Microsoft SQL Server, helping users of all backgrounds to successfully launch their SQL Server software. (Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft SQL Server use cases

This DBMS software is used by companies in a variety of industries and with varying levels of data expertise. Some users rely on Microsoft SQL Server for the setup and ease of use provided by the Installation Wizard, templates, and user forums. Others prefer the tool’s openness to custom-coded applications and integrations. 

Here’s what several users have to say about their experience with SQL Server and how they use it:

“I have been using SQL Server for many years. It provides me with the flexibility and reliability required for building various database applications. I’ve been amazed by SQL Server 2019’s new features like the Intelligent Query Processing and Big Data Clusters. Most of the features are easy to use, and I always check the community forums when I need to resolve an issue.” -IT administrator in the manufacturing industry, review of Microsoft SQL Server at Gartner Peer Insights

“[We like] its flexibility and its ability to integrate with various data sources as well as its supported functions such as automation through SSIS packages or reporting through SSRS. We also have a high level of support through other services that can integrate with MS SQL Server, such as Tableau, amongst other things for more refined reporting.” -Analyst and developer in the communications industry, review of Microsoft SQL Server at Gartner Peer Insights

“We needed a mature RDBMS to support both our critical and less critical applications. Also an RDBMS that is used by a large number of organizations all over the world with an active community to support the product. SQL Server seems to have all these features.” -Head of database operations in the finance industry, review of Microsoft SQL Server at Gartner Peer Insights

Read Next: AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud: 2021 Cloud Platform Comparison

User reviews of Microsoft SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server performs well in most user review categories, and it particularly shines in the areas of administration/management, security, and dealing with multiple data types/structures. 

Overall, users give the product a 4.5 out of 5 at Gartner Peer Insights

Across 10 categories, users give it scores ranging from 4.3 to 4.6.

As far as weaknesses for the platform go, several users note it can take a long time to load queries on SQL Server, which can slow functionality and overall performance for database administrators. 

Others express some concern about a lack of support infrastructure for new features when they’re rolled out, making it difficult for them to benefit from the features. While these concerns have mostly focused on older features like PolyBase, many more recent add-ons have received positive reviews.

Microsoft SQL Server pricing

Microsoft offers several different pricing packages for SQL Server depending on an organization’s size and needs, including free versions like Developer and Express. 

The Enterprise version comes with the highest list price, but many users explained that few organizations will need DBMS capabilities beyond those included on the lower-level and standard packages.

Although these numbers may vary based on the sales channel and purchase, these are Microsoft SQL Server’s pricing packages: 

LevelPriceSubscription Rate
ExpressFreeN/A
WebCheck for pricingN/A
DeveloperFreeN/A
Standard (CAL)$209$1,418/year
Big data node cores: $400/year
Standard (server)$899$1,418/year
Big data node cores: $400/year
Standard (per core)$3,586$1,418/year
Big data node cores: $400/year
Enterprise$13,748$5,434/year
Big data node cores: $400/year

(Source: Microsoft

Microsoft SQL Server competitors

The database management system market has experienced healthy growth for many years, reaching a market value of about $58.4 billion in 2020. 

The global DBMS market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.81% between 2021 and 2026, with a predicted value of about $126.9 billion by 2026, according to Expert Market Research

While this growth is coming from all types of businesses, much of it is attributed to companies that work with growing pools of e-commerce and social media data. 

These are some of Microsoft SQL Server’s top competitors in the DBMS and RDBMS market:

  • Oracle Database
  • Amazon RDS
  • IBM Db2
  • Altibase
  • SAP HANA
  • MongoDB
  • Caspio
  • DbVisualizer
  • InterSystems IRIS
  • Teradata

More on Top DBMS Tools: Best Database Management Software 2020 

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