Blog | Data & Analytics

Are legacy database platforms holding you back?

Is your company using data effectively? Being able to use data fundamentally depends on having the right tools and structures. Plenty of companies today, however, are stuck with legacy infrastructures and platforms, hindering any ability for business leaders to make intelligence-driven decisions.

We’re going to go on a bit of a journey with an IT professional we’ll call Alex. Alex has just joined the company WIDGE Inc, that famed manufacturer of Widgets, in the position of Business Intelligence Manager. The story and its characters are fictitious, but it reflects an all too common reality for businesses everywhere.

WIDGE has tasked its business leaders, with the help of the BI team, to increase efficiency, respond more effectively to market forces and optimise operations based on facts. ACME’s new BI manager Alex is ambitious and excited, confident in the knowledge that, by using data, these things are quite possible.

After all, it’s 2019, BI has been around since forever, big data is so passé it isn’t even necessarily called big data any longer (after all, ‘big’ is totally open to interpretation) and the likes of Gartner, IDC and Forrester have been going on about AI and machine learning and that clearly depends on the availability of good data. And data science is a thing, now.

But, in the first few weeks on the job, Alex’s enthusiasm is dampened. Like many companies, WIDGE is running Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 database. Thing is, end-of-mainstream-life for this product was announced sometime in 2014. And by July this year, extended support will be turned off.

This is a problem, Alex immediately surmises. If the BI team is going to have any chance of succeeding, it can’t spend its time running to stand still and chasing its tail with support issues.

Alex knows migrating to the most recent on-premises version of SQL might be an easier step to take, but it only pushes the problem further down the road. There will be another EOL announcement in a few years’ time and WIDGE will need to migrate again.  They’ll miss out on all the benefits cloud has to offer in the meantime, including always being on the most recent version of SQL thanks to the rolling updates.

Of sticks and carrots

As Alex builds a business case for a move to a cloud database and attendant tools, a look is taken at ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors.

The issues with unsupported software are obvious to anyone in the industry: risk of failure, risk of compliance and risk of excessive costs should the database require attention. Without ‘patch Tuesday’, security is likely to very quickly become a problem – and when it’s an enterprise product, this is a clear governance issue Alex and WIDGE really want to avoid.

That’s the stick, then.

With a little research, Alex comes up with the goods from a carrot perspective. By demonstrating that businesses are increasingly putting enterprise databases into the cloud, the usual ‘cloud advantages’ are brought to bear: eliminated capex, instant unlimited scalability and access to a whole range of very clever advanced analytics services. This is backed by analyst forecasts which have plenty in common: that the cloud is the way forward.

Since the company’s already on SQL Server, evidence that Microsoft is a leader in analytics helps the case. And SQL Server in the cloud has some very appealing advantages, too.

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Supportability is more than support

While Alex started with the challenge of supportability, the business case for an upgrade doesn’t just mean a move to the cloud equals ‘WIDGE gets support and patches’.

It means WIDGE get software designed for today and the future. Even Patch Tuesday goes out the window, as cloud SQL Server 2017 is updated constantly, keeping WIDGE on the most recent and most secure version, with low-no impact. It’s the classic cloud SaaS benefits of reduced capital cost and reduced operational overhead.

Most importantly of all, with a modern platform, WIDGE lays the foundations to use data rather than spending time managing the structure which contains it.

Alex is pleased. It’s a powerful business case.

In the next instalment, we look at how Alex approaches moving to the cloud and establishes a best practice data platform, capable of keeping up with the demands of the WIDGE business leaders. 

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