The combination of SQL Server containers with database cloning is exploding in popularity, for delivery of complex data environments for development and test, and for reporting and BI. Complex data environments of a Terabyte or more are delivered in seconds. Teams simplify operations by using containers on a shared server, reducing the number of VMs used dramatically. Some teams run as many as 30 SQL Server containers on a single 8 core server.

These capabilities are wonderful in the eyes of many DBAs, but convincing management is not always straightforward. Perspectives vary on the costs and benefits of any technology, but here is a distillation of results collected from scores of Windocks customers.

Conclusions are consistent for on premise or cloud use, and include shortened release cycles with increased test coverage, simplified infrastructure and operations, and improved release quality. The bottom-line is significantly reduced operational costs, with an average 50% reduction in post-release hot fixes.

A Data Delivery Platform?

Database clones support full read/write operations, and are delivered in seconds and consume minimal storage. Containers can source data on existing Storage Array Networks (SANs), along with clones built on a Windows host. Cloned environments are delivered to Microsoft or Windocks containers, or conventional application instances. Containers and clones are also an emerging preferred tooling for use with Jenkins, Team City and other Continuous Integration strategies.

Windocks Dynamic Data 650 x 488

Legacy data delivery systems are expensive Solaris UNIX based systems, with their cadre of dedicated storage admins. Windocks is a Windows native solution that enables SQL Server DBAs and developers to develop, manage, and deliver enterprise data environments. Windocks is available for small teams, with a price of less than $20/month per developer.

This article looks at the costs and bottom line benefits associated with use of SQL Server containers and database clones.

Evaluating Business Benefits

Windocks delivers value when software developers need fast access to data environments that are 5 GB or greater in size. Database clones provide full read/write operations, delivered in seconds, with a minimal storage requirement. Significant saving are realized as the clones minimize storage, and teams use environments on a shared server, reducing their use and maintenance required of individual VMs.

Value is realized in simplified operations, fewer VMs, and less time wasted:

• Teams work with isolated containers on a shared server, reducing use of VMs by 6:1.
• Users don't spend time waiting, as containers are delivered in less than a minute.
• Time spent maintaining VMs is reduced, and new team members are immediately productive with containers
• Containers and database clones are portable, supporting on premise and cloud use.
• Most importantly, software releases are faster, with greater test coverage, and release quality.

"Show Me the Money!"

While Windocks is very affordable, it’s not free, and the cost needs to be evaluated against the benefits. Windocks customers on average are realizing a 10-20:1 immediate ROI, by simply reducing the numb;er of VMs used, and conservative labor estimates. Apply your own estimates, and more importantly give the software a try, and see if it not only pays for itself but delivers more strategic benefits.

A team of 6, on average, should realize the following:

Reduction in 5 Virtual Machines at $300/month each        $ 1,500/month

Environments delivered in 1 minute vs 1 hour (note 1)
6 people x 1 hour/week x $75/hr x 4.3 weeks/month         $ 1,935/month

Reduced VM maintenance of 1 hour/week/VM
5 virtual machines x 1 hour/week x $75/hr x 4.3 weeks/month    $ 1,612/month

Cutting post-release Hot Fixes in half (note 2)           $ 5,000/month

The total net benefits sum to:                  $10,047/month

ROI is >20:1 ($10,047 in benefit with a Windocks cost of $399/month for a 25 container server


1) Assumes one environment is delivered and used per week.
2) 15 man hours were previously spent in post-release bug fixing. Most organizations value increased release quality at a higher rate than the $75/hour used in the above calculations.

Skeptical? Try it out for yourself!

Seeing is believing. You are invited to give SQL Server containers and clones a try. A free Windocks Community Edition is available for download here.

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