If you’re running older versions of Microsoft SQL Server on CentOS Linux 7 today, migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is the natural choice. Not only will you get improved manageability with Red Hat system roles and Red Hat Insights, you’ll also see better performance by running on a later release of RHEL and get full support from Red Hat and Microsoft. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of these improvements, then we’ll walk through some of the economic benefits. 

Improved manageability

First up are the management benefits. The latest Ansible collection for Microsoft SQL Server is provided in RHEL 8 and RHEL 9 as a RHEL system role.  By using either the separately available Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, or the Ansible Core package provided with RHEL, you can install and configure a SQL Server in minutes using a more consistent and supported mechanism that both installs the basic software and configures advanced functionality such as connection encryption, integration with Active Directory and even configuration of SQL Server’s popular Always On availability groups feature. There is also bundled support for performance monitoring of SQL Server included with RHEL. This is configured using the RHEL metrics system role.  

A Red Hat Insights Topic page provides you with recommendations on how to configure and manage your RHEL systems running Microsoft SQL Server

Even better, included with every RHEL subscription, Insights is a managed service that continuously analyzes your RHEL platforms and their applications, including SQL Server. Insights uses predictive analytics and deep domain expertise to help reduce complex operational tasks from hours to minutes, including identifying security and performance risks, tracking licenses and managing costs. It can even advise you on very specific application-level information, such as if your SQL Server databases have missed their scheduled backups, or if specific tables in your database might benefit from an index rebuild.

Increased performance

TPROC-C: 145,362 tpm (left) and TPROC-C: 239,868 tpm (right)

SQL Server 2022 on CentOS Linux 7 (left), SQL Server 2022 on RHEL 9 (right)

In addition to improved management, moving your SQL Server off of the older CentOS Linux 7 release and onto RHEL 8 or RHEL 9, yields several performance improvements. Red Hat and Microsoft had already been collaborating on SQL Server on Linux for the last 7 years, and those benefits really show.

On my own system, I tested SQL Server performance with SQL Server 2017 on CentOS Linux 7 and compared it to the beta release of SQL Server 2022 on RHEL 9 using the latest version of HammerDB.  I performed a simple TPROC-C benchmark simulating 20 virtual users working against 4 warehouses and I saw an over 50% jump in performance just by moving to SQL Server 2022 on RHEL 9.*  Of course performance results are going to vary, depending on the bottlenecks you’re contending with.

It’s not just a newer version of RHEL that’s going to improve performance. SQL Server 2022 itself has a number performance improvements, including new columnstore indexes that benefit from enhanced segment elimination by data type, concurrent updates to global allocation map pages to reduce page latch contention, TempDB performance enhancements for scalability, and in-memory OLTP enhancements.

Lower cost

The combined solution gives you tremendous potential to lower your hardware or cloud costs significantly with this kind of performance improvement. Get started by trying it out for yourself, by cutting back on the number of cores you’re using or moving to a less expensive tier of storage in your test environment. If your workload is similar to the one I simulated, you may be able to move from 4 cores down to 2 and still get better performance out of your VMs.  

Take advantage of full support from Microsoft

Lastly, if you’re using SQL Server on CentOS Linux 7, I want to point out the value of support from Microsoft. SQL Server on RHEL is fully supported by Microsoft. Being on a supported platform gives you access to the full range of MIcrosoft support capabilities. This can be a time saver because you avoid Microsoft’s requirements around having to reproduce issues on a supported platform. It can both speed up your ability to fix problems and allow you to focus on more important tasks.

Red Hat can help

On June 30th, 2024, CentOS 7 is going end-of-life. RHEL provides a great path forward with your SQL Server workloads. Red Hat is providing a wide range of options to help you make the move, from options to migrate in-place and extend support on RHEL 7, to no-cost subscriptions for developers. For additional reasons to consider migrating your workloads from CentOS Linux 7 to RHEL, check out this article written by my fellow Red Hatter, Eric Hendricks.   

Learn more

A webinar is available from Red Hat and Microsoft with more information on this topic. In the demo-packed video we show you how Microsoft SQL Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will help you:

  • Manage a successful migration from CentOS Linux workloads to Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Gain the greatest strategic advantage from an enterprise-ready database and operating system (OS) for running Microsoft SQL Server
  • Learn how to better manage both technologies for increased capabilities and operational efficiencies-to give you a better Microsoft SQL Server experience
  • Increase Microsoft SQL Server performance while lowering total cost of ownership 
  • Use the insight that Microsoft SQL Server on Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides to users for detecting compliance, security and performance issues with 1-click remediation

Register to attend the on-demand event here.

RHEL for Microsoft SQL Server promotional pricing

Promotional pricing for RHEL is available for customers moving their SQL Server workloads to RHEL. This special limited time offer is available for customers that wish to migrate to SQL Server on RHEL on-premises or in the public cloud of their choice.  Contact Red Hat to learn more here.

* Hammerdb TPROCC benchmark was run with 20 simulated users accessing 4 warehouses. Tests run on a Lenovo P1 gen 5 laptop in a RHEL Virtual Machine configured for 10 vCPUs and 16GiB of RAM. Performance results will vary with hardware components and workload.

About the author

Louis Imershein is a Product Manager at Red Hat focussed on Microsoft SQL Server and database workloads. He is responsible for working with Microsoft and Red Hat engineering to ensure that SQL Server performance, management, and security is optimized for Red Hat platforms. For more than 30 years, Louis has worked in technical support, engineering, software architecture, and product management on a wide range of OS, management, security, and storage software projects. Louis joined Red Hat as part of the acquisition of Permabit Technology Corporation, where he was VP of Product.

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