DH2i Blog Article

DxOperator by DH2i: Jumping the Hurdles to SQL Server Containers so You Don’t Have To

Josh Achtemeier
June 19, 2024

A perfectly scalable, streamlined paradise is on the horizon for your organization’s SQL Server environment if you’re pursuing containerization. This innovative technology promises unparalleled flexibility, portability, and never-before-achieved levels of resource/server utilization. While there are a lot of organizations diving head over heels into SQL Server containers, thousands of other organizations hold some serious reservations surrounding the idea.

So, why the hesitation to adopt technology that has proven itself an unambiguously positive enhancement to IT environments globally? 

It’s less a hesitation, and more so a realistic look at the hurdles that stand between your organization and the end goal of stateful SQL Server containers in production. It can be a long and seemingly insurmountable list. 

The Obstacles 

Many different barriers stand in the way of a successful container adoption initiative like: 

Skill Gap

Learning your way around container orchestration technologies like Kubernetes can be an incredibly foreign and complexity-riddled experience for even the most season IT pros, especially in organizations that have never delved into containerization before. 

Legacy Systems

SQL Server often powers complex and powerful applications that make up the backbone of your business, business tools that have been built from the ground up with all their unique dependencies, custom configurations, and compatibility issues. 

Stateful Nature

Containerizing stateful applications comes with the inherent complications of ensuring data persistence and having safe and efficient backup/recovery solutions in place. 

Stringent Performance Requirements

Databases require incredibly consistent performance, and the introduction of container orchestration technology can have an unfavorable impact on performance if not done with great care and attention to detail.

Licensing Costs

If not managed closely, SQL Server licensing can be incredibly convoluted when you introduce containers into the typical physical or virtual core licensing framework and lead to unexpected costs. 

Security Concerns

Database workloads necessitate an intense commitment to security as they often house sensitive information. Ensuring proper isolation and access controls with containerized SQL Server can be challenging. 

DH2i’s Path to Enablement 

Ever since Microsoft’s first dive into Linux and containers with SQL Server 2017, DH2i’s DxEnterprise Smart High Availability Clustering software has remained at the forefront of this technology providing all the high availability capabilities that organizations needed to integrate containers into their SQL Server environments such as: 

  • Fully automatic failover for SQL Server AGs in K8s to ensure minimum downtime 
  • The ability to create mixed SQL Server clusters containing instances and containers 
  • Infrastructure agnostic ZTNA tunnels to securely connect any native or containerized workloads 

Cluster SQL Server instances and containers side by side in the same Availability Group.

DH2i DxEnterprise allows organizations to unify all of their SQL Server on Windows, Linux, and Kubernetes side-by-side in the same highly available cluster.

However, after identifying the slew of hurdles preventing organizations from making the move to SQL Server container modernization, it became abundantly clear that DH2i’s efforts also needed to be directed to streamlining/enabling the adoption of container technology, not just optimizing the high availability and management experience. 

The release of DxOperator by DH2i entirely changed the game in February of 2024. This technology is an included feature of DxEnterprise software and has earned the title of Microsoft’s preferred SQL Server Operator for Kubernetes (check out this MS tutorial for AKS deployment). When paired with other technologies like Rancher Prime by SUSE, this solution stack has unequivocally paved the most straightforward and efficient path to SQL Server Availability Group deployments in Kubernetes, helping mitigate many of the obstacles listed above.  

Overcoming Deployment Obstacles 

Skill Gap 

DxOperator by DH2i and Rancher Prime by SUSE work together seamlessly to create a drastically simplified deployment and management experience for IT pros without previous Kubernetes experience. 

Rancher Prime is a comprehensive management platform that provides an intuitive point and click UI that makes it easy to view custom parameter descriptions and make modifications, rather than having to learn the ins and outs of a totally foreign Kubernetes command-line and make manipulations directly. Rancher Prime also provides unified policy, security, and user management to simplify the orchestration of increasingly complex clusters. 

DxOperator by DH2i is deployable straight from the Rancher Application Catalog and totally automates the deployment of your SQL Server AG in Kubernetes. Deployment becomes as simple as specifying your desired cluster characteristic (# of replicas, async or sync, built-in load-balancer, etc.) and executing a short, minutes-long deployment. 

Legacy Systems  

DH2i DxEnterprise software makes migrating from legacy SQL Server systems to new systems as easy and quick as a failover.  DxEnterprise is able to do this because it is the only “Smart” HA clustering solution that can support mixed clusters containing Windows, Linux and containers, independent of the infrastructure those systems are running on. 

Stateful Nature  

DH2i software integrates containerized SQL Server workloads into the DxEnterprise HA clustering framework which supports any storage that is SCSI-3 Persistent Reservation compliant. From there, ensuring data persistence is a simple task, and DxEnterprise clusters can be easily stretch to provide dependable disaster recovery automation across different availability zones, subnets, and regions. 

Stringent Performance Requirements 

DH2i’s DxEnterprise doesn’t just function as an HA solution to failover workloads when their host server goes down. Users of the software can easily set specific performance thresholds at the workload level to ensure applications are always running in their best execution venues. If another host OS provides a better option to keep the workload performant and meet SLAs, the instance or container can be easily failed over in seconds at the speed of an application stop-start. 

Licensing Costs 

DH2i’s high availability clustering framework allows organizations to safely and sustainably stack multiple containerized SQL Server instances and containers on servers to maximize resource utilization. DH2i customers have often been able to save up to 60% in licensing costs (inclusive of DxEnterprise cost) and reduce OS counts by 8-15x through consolidation initiatives. In-turn, the reduction in server overhead contributes to additional savings in the form of maintenance/management costs.  

Security Concerns 

Rancher Prime’s built-in security functionality is further bolstered by integration with other infrastructure agnostic software solutions like NeuVector Prime for full container lifecycle security. Combined with the application-level zero trust network access tunnels of DH2i, containerized deployments can be protected with the same mission-critical attention to security afforded in traditional SQL Server deployments. 

Using zero trust network access tunnels, users can securely connect any server, anywhere.

DH2i’s built in software-defined perimeter capability allows users to securely connect any server, anywhere, with application-level ZTNA tunnels.


DH2i has supported SQL Server containers in Linux for years at this point—providing all the necessary capabilities to ensure nearest-to-zero downtime and facilitate high availability management once you’ve deployed SQL Server containers within your organization. 

The release of DxOperator by DH2i represents an added focus to enabling organizations to actually adopt SQL Server containers in the first place. This SQL Server Operator for Kubernetes from DH2i, along with powerful integrations with solutions like Rancher Prime by SUSE, have combined to systematically overcome the challenges of stateful container deployment at your organization. Incredibly easy, UI-based management and advanced automation have paved the easiest path ever into container deployment, and DH2i’s clustering framework ensures the industry’s lowest possible downtime for SQL Server containers. 

Want to try it out yourself? Just fill out this form to receive a free software license and head to the DxOperator Quick Start Guide 

If you’re interested in learning more about DH2i’s approach to smart high availability technology, get signed up for a one-on-one demo today.

The author
Josh Achtemeier

Native. Containerized. Anywhere in Between.

DH2i gets you closer to zero downtime.