By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2005-12-05 Print this article Print

Management makeover

The outward face of SQL Server 2005 is SQL Server Management Studio, a tool that rolls in all the applications in SQL Server 2000, including Enterprise Manager and Query Analyzer.

In many ways, we found Management Studio to resemble an all-in-one power tool, but although there is a convenience factor in having everything in one place, we sometimes felt like we were removing the circular saw to get at the screw gun. However, while Management Studio is, at times, unwieldy, it does a good job of providing contextual access to tools and features, and the new capabilities are well-integrated throughout the application. We particularly liked the scripting capabilities within SQL Server 2005, with which we could write and reuse scripts through templates that allowed us to pass parameters from the command line.

Management Studio makes use of the same kind of customization prevalent in other Microsoft applications. For example, we were able to customize our views and tool bar settings to create a developer or administrator view of the tool. In addition, administrators can create their own custom elements, such as frequently used command-line tasks, through the CLR.

We were impressed by several of SQL Server 2005s database management elements. The Maintenance Plan tools, for example, include a wizard and a design view for creating maintenance workflows. We appreciated the visual representation, as well as the ability to drag and drop common tasks to the design view.

As Oracle did with Oracle Database 10g, Microsoft has added a tuning engine to SQL Server that optimizes performance founded on a knowledge base of best-practice tuning parameters. The Database Engine Tuning Advisor provides good options for administrators. For example, when tuning multiple databases with the same workload, the Database Engine Tuning Advisor made some recommendations based on projected time to tune and percent of workload completed.

Oracle still has the edge in database optimization, but SQL Server has been improved significantly in this area and bears careful consideration in competitive evaluations.

Management Studio includes a built-in interface to Microsofts support forums that allows administrators and developers to post and monitor responses to technical questions. This interface also is customizable, so a company could create its own internal forum for managing application development.

while the jury will be out for quite some time on how secure SQL Server 2005 is, Microsoft has done a good deal to prevent administrators from making mistakes that open the server up to unauthorized access.

The new Surface Area Configuration Tool, for example, allows administrators to see the services that have been installed and are running after initial installation. In addition, it allows administrators to set up features as needed. We also liked that we could easily pull up configuration data, such as protocols and service status, in a dedicated tool.

With Microsoft putting so much capability in a single tool—namely, Management Studio—we were concerned about permissions and rights for the range of developers, administrators and analysts who may access a database. Microsoft has addressed this with the ability to configure rights granularly and to allow administrators to perform maintenance tasks without broad administrative privileges. For example, the Database Engine Tuning Advisor requires just database owner privileges, not administrative privileges, to run.

Kerberos authentication is now supported, so administrators can maintain a consistent log-in policy across applications. We also liked that users have been separated from schema—this makes it much easier to drop users from a database because administrators no longer have to reassign or delete an object before doing so.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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