Free Version of Microsoft SQL Server

I’ll be doing some more research on this before recommending it for specific projects, but Microsoft now offers a free database server: SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. Basically, it’s a free version of SQL Server that’s redistributable and can be used in a production environment (unlike their earlier, free-ish SQL Server 2000 Developer Edition). There are some functionality limitations, including a 4-gig database size limit. But frankly, I haven’t worked on a web project yet that would have exceeded that limit. Obviously this is something Microsoft has developed under mounting pressure from MySQL and Oracle’s freebie version.

However, having played around with the full version of SQL Server 2005 a bit, I have to warn you there is significant culture shock moving from SQL Server 2000–it’s not trivial to translate databases (or DBA skills for that matter) between the two. And having recently implemented a MySQL database for a remote production environment, I can say that the stability, functionality and manageability of the most recent MySQL release almost makes SQL Server moot for small-scale projects. Still, something to keep an eye on.


3 thoughts on “Free Version of Microsoft SQL Server”

  1. It would seem that you are losing your edge, for I recall a Dick Diamond who was once more than willing to exploit a 1 user -license (maybe 2?) NetWare 4.1 server as a DHCP server for a sales network in a production environment. (Hey, it’s not like it ever actually logged a user, per se)

    Should I also mention that you also had the balls to run it on a cobbled together system, the foundation being an Acer EISA desktop PC?

    Perhaps this was a transitional period, where the key was my participation in a coalition of the willingly insane?

  2. I should add that I’ve had some very recent fun with making database transitions. I’ve been dealing with multiple aborted attempts at updating the dB on one of our Sun machines. We’ve pulled out on that upgrade so many times I’m starting to feel like a Catholic schoolboy on prom night.

    Relating to my first comment, I’d note that there are at least two major projects that come to mind over the past 2-3 years where this kind of license would have saved the day. Fundamental dependencies on MS SQL killed our ability to launch what could have been a couple of ‘killer’ projects. At the time, we could neither cost-justify the license or the knowledge build-up required for MS SQL.

    I should add that the whole time we were trying to figure out how we might compensate for MS SQL dependencies we were happily running a MySQL system for almost no other reason than ‘we could’.

  3. Interestingly, said Acer is sitting not six feet from me at this moment. Having been corporately decommissioned as not Y2K-compliant back in 1999, I still occasionally use it to boot a TRS-80 emulator program that requires more direct floppy controller access than is available on any post-1996 chipset. (All pronoun disagreements intended.)

    And yes, I’ve been shockingly pleased with my latest MySQL deployment. Like PHP, it benefits from the would-be-nice feature set possible under a paradigm of nightly (versus twice-decadely) builds. On this most recent project, the group_concat function alone saved several hundred dollars in report-writing costs. And now that I’ve uttered that statement, please shoot me.

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