If you are a Student, Teacher or anyone on a budget, don’t feel pushed to use Open Source databases like MySQL just because they have an entry level offering for free. You may be one of many who expressed concern for its quality & design which suffered when SUN purchased MySQL. Who knows what will happen now that Oracle are trying to buy SUN. Take the time to compare it feature for feature to SQL Server you will find it is missing a lot.
Microsoft makes a lot of its software available for free to anyone. In addition, many groups like Primary, High & Unit Students, Teachers, Start-Up Business’s & Microsoft technology partners can qualify for even more free stuff (for some groups we give them every product we produce). See my blog post How do I get FREE stuff from Microsoft?
So, it is possible for anyone to get the SQL Server 2008 database for FREE. This includes the Spatial capability, some Replication, Integration, Auditing & Management capability.
It is also possible for anyone to get SQL 2008’s Reporting Services for FREE too. (either as part of SQL Express, or using the Report Viewer Control that ships with Visual Studio).
You can do this by downloading any one of the SQL 2008 Express packaging below. For more details on what Express has, see SQL Server 2008 Express
If you have SQL Workgroup thru to SQL Enterprise don’t use the Express Service pack 1 (below). See this post SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1 instead.
As part of the recent April 2009 releases mentioned in my blog: SQL Server 2008: April 09 Updates – Handy Links SQL Server 2008 Express was also updated.
Where do I get it? (Available FREE to Everyone)
SQL Server 2008 Express, is a very powerful, full featured database engine. It is compiled from the same source code tree as the Enterprise edition. Any applications that you develop for it will also run exactly the same on any of the other editions; Workgroup, Standard, Enterprise, Developer or Web. ie: “bug for bug compatibility”
The Express edition has been limited in some areas. To compare it to the more fully featured editions see SQL 2008 Compare Edition Features (NB: Remember to expand the “Plus Signs”). But in summary: It will only use 1 physical processor (could be a quad proc, so not a big limitation). It’s databases are limited to 4Gb. This is actually a lot of data, especially when you consider you can have 1,000’s of databases per instance & 16 Instances per server. So 4TB * 16 Instances. But clearly spraying ove so many database; your CPU, backup strategies &/or distributed schema would become an issue.
If you find that constraining, the upgrade path is to detach the database & attach it to SQL 2008 Workgroup. It costs ~$1,000, limited to 2 Physical CPU’s (Quad Core = 8 CPU’s) & 50GB databases. Or just go straight to Standard or Enterprise editions.
Update to any release of SQL 2008 Express
This is a definite download if you aren’t able to get your hands on the Management tools that ship with SQL Developer/Enterprise/Standard Editions.
SQL Server Express that includes a graphical management tool, and powerful features for reporting (Reporting Services) and advanced text-based searches.
Free SQL Server Express that includes graphical management tools. Same database, just smaller install package, with no Reporting to install.
You can also get SQL Server Compact v3.5 (aka SQL Mobile Edition) this is highly optimised for a single user, with a focus on minimising its memory & disk footprint. Great for distributed solutions. The TSQL you write for it, also works on the other SQL 2008 editions. But be aware it is a subset of the language features of the SQL 2008 Editions.
Service Pack for SQL on Mobile Phones, PDA’s & Laptops (if you want)