Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Use of SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition with Microsoft and Non-Microsoft BI platforms

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SQL Server Express Edition is one of the most admired databases for BI platforms. Before a couple of years, I would not have been able to make this statement, but through the due course of experiences of my career, I can make this statement quite confidently today. Non only on microsoft platform, but non-microsoft based BI solutions are quite happy to include express edition as one of the constituents of a BI solution for either housekeeping tasks or to catalyze data / data processing. Some of the interesting use of express editions are listed below.

1) Proof Of Concept development: During the POC phase, projects are least likely to procure licenses. One of the first benefits of express edition is that it's license free for use in development as well as production, and does not come with a time bomb in it. As far as programmability features are concerned, it comes with almost all the features that an enterprise edition contains. So if the requirement is just a database container, express edition is one of the best starters on the menu.

2) Test data store: Instead of using resources on the server with higher editions of sql server, express edition can be used as a warehouse to store test data. When the development team requires test data during the development phase, they can always synchronize their local instances with test data from an express edition which can be treated as a test data server. This express instance can be handed over to a business analyst who would generally prefer to own a database free of complexity.

3) Metadata provider: Often many legacy systems or systems like SAP or other CRM systems emit out data in text / CSV files. Now these files many times contain non-printable characters or other junk characters, and the issue occurs during the import process. As a part of structural testing, legacy data files can be imported into express instance which can be installed at the source. Importing full / sample data into express edition can provide concrete metadata structure to the data (which does not exist in text / csv files) as well as test the import process. This can be done right at the source free of cost with express edition, making ETL processes and data migration more smooth. Many non-microsoft platforms would consider express edition as a tempting choice for purposes similar to these.

4) Temporary Staging: SQL Server 2008 R2 express edition has the database size limit of 10GB. This is a reasonable size for considering express instance as a temporary staging server in your ETL solution to stage master and/or transactional data.

5) BI Housekeeping: A production / UAT / QA server DBA would not allow external applications to connect to these servers. A project might want to retain a repository of execution and performance data history, and express edition is one of the best choice for such purposes. One can use any number of analysis / reporting tools on this edition without any security concerns.

Above mentioned are some of the uses of express edition in a BI solution development environment. 10GB DB size, SSMS, almost full DB programmability features, and license free production use are the major features of express edition. Keeping these features in view, you can consider SQL Server Express edition to economically catalyze your BI solution development.


Anonymous said...

A Developer Edition would have been nice.

Siddharth Mehta said...

Developer edition cannot be used in Production.

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