Introduction to SQL Server Data Estate Modernization

This blog is the first in a series discussing what’s entailed in modernizing the Microsoft SQL server platform.

I hear the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” a lot during my conversations with clients about SQL Server, and many times it’s from the Database Administrators. Many DBA’s are reluctant to change—maybe they think their jobs will go away. It’s my opinion that their roles are not going anywhere, but they do need to expand their knowledge to support coming changes. Their role will involve innovation at a different level, merging application technology (think CI/CD pipelines) integrated into the mix. The DBA will also need to trust that their hardware partner has fully tested and vetted a solution for best possible SQL performance and can provide a Future Proof architecture to grow and change as the needs of the business grow and change.

The New Normal Is Hybrid Cloud

When “public clouds” first became mainstream, the knee-jerk reaction was everything must go to the cloud! If this had happened, then the DBA’s job would have gone away by default. This could not be farther from the truth and, of course, it’s not what happened. With regards to SQL Server, the new normal is hybrid.

Now some years later, will some data stores have a place in public cloud?

Absolutely, they will.

However, it’s become apparent that many of these data stores are better suited to existing on-premises.  Also, there are current trends where data is being re-patriated from the public cloud back to the on-premises environments due to cost, management and data gravity (keeping the data close to the business need and/or specific regulatory compliance needs).

The SQL Server data estate can be a vast, and in some cases, a hodgepodge of “Rube Goldberg” design processes. In the past, I was the lead architect of many of these designs, I am sad to admit. (I continue to ask forgiveness from the IT gods.) Today, IT departments manage one base set of database architecture technology for operational databases, another potential hardware partner caching layer, and yet another architecture for data analytics and emerging AI.

Oh wait…one more point…all this data needs to be at the fingertips of a mobile device and edge computing. Managing and executing on all these requirements, in a real-time fashion, can result in a highly complex and specialized platform.

Data Estate Modernization

Illustration created in honor of Rube Goldberg by Cody Bass,

The new normal everyone wants is to keep it as simple as possible. Remember those “Rube Goldberg” designs referenced above? They’re no longer applicable. Simple, portable and seamless execution is key. As data volumes increase, DBA’s partnering with hardware vendors need to simplify as security, compliance and data integrity remain a fixed concern. However, there is a new normal for data estate management; one where large volumes of data can be referenced in place, with push down compute or seamlessly snapped and copied in a highly efficient manner to other managed environments. The evolution of SQL Server 2019 will also be a part of the data estate orchestration solution.

Are you an early adopter of SQL 2019?

Get Modern: A Unified Approach of Data Estate Management

SQL Server Get Modern architecture from Dell EMC can consolidate your data estate, defined with our high value core pillars that align perfectly for SQL Server.

The pillars will work with any size environment, from the small and agile to the very large and complex SQL database landscape. There IS a valid solution for all environments. All the pillars work in concert to complement each other across all feature sets and integration points.

  • Accelerate – To not only accelerate and Future-Proof the environment but completely modernize your SQL infrastructure. A revamped perspective on storage, leveraging RAM and other memory technologies, to maximum effect.
  • Protect – Protect your database with industry leading backups, replication, resiliency and self-service Deduplicated copies.
  • Reuse – Reuse snapshots. Operational recovery. Dev/Test repurposing. CI/CD pipelines.

Aligning along these pillars will bring efficiency and consistency to a unified approach of data estate management. The combination of a strong, consistent, high-performance architecture supporting the database platform will make your IT team the modernization execution masters.

What Are Some of the Compelling Reasons to Modernize Your SQL Server Data Estate?

Here are some of the pain point challenges I hear frequently in my travels chatting with clients. I will talk through these topics in future blog posts.

  1. Our SQL Server environment is running on aging hardware:
    • Dev/Test/Stage/Prod do not have the same performance characteristics making it hard to regression test and performance test.
  2. We have modernization challenges:
    • How can I make the case for modernization?
    • My team does not have the cycles to address a full modernization workstream.
  3. The Hybrid data estate is the answer… how to we get there?
  4. We are at EOL (End of Life) for SQL Server 2008 / 2008R2 and Windows Server but are stuck due to:
    • ISV (Independent Software Vendor) “lock in” requirement to a specific SQL Server engine version.
    • Migration plan to modernize SQL cannot be staffed and executed through to completion.
  5. We need to consolidate SQL Server sprawl and standardize on a SQL Server version:
    • Build for the future, where disruptive SQL version upgrades become a thing of the distant past. Think…containerized SQL Server. OH yeah!
    • CI/CD success – the database is a key piece of the puzzle for success.
    • Copies of databases for App Dev / Test / Reporting copies are consuming valuable space on disk.
    • Backups take too long and consume too much space.
  6. I want to embrace SQL Server on Linux.
  7. Let’s talk modern SQL Server application tuning and performance.
  8. Where do you see the DBA role in the next few years?


I hope you will come along this SQL Server journey with me as I discuss each of these customer challenges in this blog series:

Best Practices to Accelerate SQL Server Modernization (Part I)

Best Practices to Accelerate SQL Server Modernization (Part II)

And, if you’re ready to consider a certified, award-winning Microsoft partner who understands your Microsoft SQL Server endeavors for modernization, Dell EMC’s holistic approach can help you minimize risk and business disruption. To find out more, contact your Dell EMC representative.

About the Author: Robert F. Sonders

Robert F. Sonders has been with Dell Technologies for over 10 years. During his tenure he has been laser-focused on Microsoft workloads, both on-premises, and hybrid, specifically around the entire SQL Server ecosystem, both from an Administrative and Business Intelligence perspective. During this journey, Robert has lead SQL Server delivery project teams as a technical consultant architect and a pre-sales Solution Principal. Throughout his 25+ years of IT experience, Robert has been passionately engaged in implementations that have directly contributed to the advanced performance and productivity of diverse organization verticals in healthcare, financial, and e-commerce. Robert will always begin with understanding the unique challenges of the business verticals with a focus on first learning the client’s perspective (listening first) and then will align the subsequent requirements to formulate a solution that will uniquely fit their needs. He prides himself on staying bleeding edge with his respective “wheelhouse” technologies. His current role now aligns with core Dell Technologies workloads as a “Principal System Engineer – Data-Centric Workloads for Microsoft”, His major focus is on all things SQL Server and Azure Hybrid ecosystem, complementing all Account Teams and Systems Engineering teams for all pre-sales efforts. As an MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer), the opportunity to present innovative Microsoft technologies, allows Robert to insightfully move clients to overcome any roadblocks. These types of engagements and conversations also allow Robert to provide a client feedback loop, back to Dell internal engineering, and even Microsoft product engineering teams. When he is not consumed with reading and learning he is traveling, handling AKC champion Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and vigorously enjoying the outdoors that surround his desert home. He resides in Scottsdale AZ with his wife and Corgis.