The Cost of Switching

I read the book Space Prison a few years ago. It’s about a group of humans, attacked and left as prisoners on a harsh planet. There’s a few hundred of them, many dying in the first few weeks. They must fight just to survive against the planet’s weather, as well as it’s plant and animal life. However they persevere and get revenge on the race that left them there. Not the survivors themselves, but their descendents, hundreds of years later. It’s a story about a group of people truly investing for the future. Not one they’ll see, but one their children’s children’s children will experience.

I thought about that when I saw a post from Ray Terrill asking for AlwaysOn Availability Groups to be a part of Standard Edition in the next version of SQL Server. He makes a few arguments, but one that is interesting is the idea that the other possibilities for databases with good HA/DR cost less. I certainly agree that the cost of switching, and retraining (or rehiring) is high, it’s all about how you approach things.

If a company really wants to play long ball, to look to the future and start making decisions for not the next year or two, but for ten years in the future, then is the cost of switching high? Imagine I’m a medium sized company with 500 employees. I have some IT staff (10-20) and say 20 SQL Server standard instances for various things. Replacing one SQL Server that provides basic database services now with something like PostgreSQL might slow me down in development for a couple years, but my staff would gain experience, and I’d have options. I might easily be able to replace more of, or all of, my instances in the next five years. Every decision from then on might be whether I get value specific to SQL Server, or can I use another platform that costs less.

I know that overall SQL Server provides fantastic value and there isn’t anything else that can replace it wholesale, but the base level of database services that many applications need can be provided by other products, and unless Microsoft gives us good value in Standard Edition, I think it’s a matter of time before the people writing the checks start to think about other options. Good security, encryption, and HA/DR are becoming not “nice to haves”, but necessary for many applications. However not so necessary that I think I want to pay Enterprise Edition prices for most of my applications.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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