Aaron Nelson (Blog|@SQLvariant) is hosting this months #TSQL2sDay with the theme of reporting. My post looks at some of things I have done in the past to offload reporting to another server to reduce the overhead of running reports against production OLTP databases.
A few years ago, back when I was implementing a HA solution in SQL Server 2000 utilising clustering to prevent against node failure and Log shipping to maintain an off-site, second copy of the database. The organisation wanted to implement a reporting and BI solution so that management information could be made available on demand for selected reports and also to load a data warehouse. Even though we copied the logs over to the standby server they were only restored once a day, so it was possible for the logged shipped DB to be a day behind. If we ever needed to recover the db in the event of a failover at most one days worth of logs would need to be applied before the database could be used and the day's latency was acceptable to the report writers and the load process.
The OLTP solution was a 24 hour service with roughly a 50-50 split between reads and writes and it was not easy to differentiate between peak and off peak time in this organisation, because of the nature of their business, for scheduling the load of the data mart or the running of resource intensive reports during off-peak times. So we went for the option of making the log shipped database read-only and allowing the read intensive report writers queries and the load process to read the data from the read-only log shipped copy thus not interfering with the clustered production database.
This worked well and definitely helped spread the load, in later versions of SQL Server I may well have made use of Database Mirroring to kill two birds with one stone, I would have still had a need to cluster the instance but I could have used Database mirroring and database snapshots to maintain a second up to date off-site copy of the database for reporting purposes but also to allow automatic failover should the entire cluster become available, setting that up is probably another post entirely though.
I guess the point I'm trying to make here, I have found if you have a database which has to satisfy the demands of multiple workloads and functions there can be some benefit in splitting the read intensive queries of reports and data loads to a different server.