Back in June last year, we spoke to one of our database consultants, Tim Reddish, about whether it was time to upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft's database.
Our verdict then was 'not yet', despite SQL Server 2016's exciting new features such as R language support and the flexibility of the 'stretch database'.
That view has now changed, as we predicted. It's now:
YES! You should upgrade as soon as you can.
There are always caveats, of course. The main one being: if you're upgrading, you need to make sure that the people carrying out the upgrade know what they're doing!
If you're unsure, we can help, whether that's purely consultative advice, to carrying out the upgrade or migration for you in full.
Why we advised caution last year
Although we hadn't heard of any significant flaws in the functionality of SQL Server 2016, last June we recommended to hold fire on upgrading your production database. It may have been worth using the new release database in a test environment and making plans for the change - but to not take the risk of using the unproven product straight away.
As Tim said, "From experience, release to manufacture (RTM) versions of SQL Server are just not stable enough to provide an adequate level of confidence when deciding to implement in a mission-critical or core business area."
However, the launch of SQL Server 2016 went well - compared to many software product launches - and on 18th January 2017, Microsoft released Service Pack 1, which addressed a few wrinkles. So it seems to us be the right time to take the plunge and take advantage of SQL Server 2016's new features.
Tim said today: "As with most SQL Server Service Pack releases, bugs, performance and security issues are addressed; SQL Server 2016 is no different. Now that SQL Server 2016 SP1 has been released, we can be confident that most of the significant issues have been addressed, it is time to upgrade and reap the benefits of new technology...”
You still need to be a little cautious
One of the most important considerations is whether your applications will work as seamlessly with the 2016 release as with your current database. Thankfully, developers have had plenty of time to update their apps: there were numerous pre-release versions, as well as the 9 months since June.
Yet, if your app only works with a very old version and is no longer supported, you could encounter difficulties.
As Tim said last year: "It’s likely that your current application will work with the better-performing SQL Server 2016, but as ever, we advise caution. The longer the ‘hop’ in version (e.g. 2014 to 2016 is shorter than 2008 to 2016), more difficult it will be."
Tim also had this to say about the importance of getting your upgrade right: “There are numerous methods available to DBAs when performing a SQL Server upgrade. However, not all methods provide a rollback strategy and allow for functional and technical testing.
It is also the ideal opportunity to investigate the new features available in later versions and how those features can be put to use to improve performance, high availability and disaster recovery in your business. To get the best value for money from your SQL Server License purchase, you need a high level of DBA experience.”
Tim is also a skydiver, so he knows about managing risk. Here's proof:
So speak to your developers, or get in touch with us if you have any concerns whatsoever. And enjoy the new functionality of SQL Server 2016!