I'm looking for some insight into implementing replication with a SQL 2005 Standard database based on our needs as well as the fact that one major replication type is deprecated in SQL 2012 and forward. To start off with, let me briefly describe what our replication needs are and what replication method I think is best for that... and why we don't want to use it. I'll also state that I have never dealt with SQL replication, so I'm learning as I go here.
We have a single SQL database server that drives all of our production data for our company. We are wanting to setup a second read-only database server that we replicate to to help load balance for some specific applications that will be fairly intense with the database. This second SQL server is always online, on the same network and as mentioned will be read only--no sending data back to the primary server. Updates need to happen as data changes on the primary server.
It seems fairly obvious to me that based on the above that we should use updatable subscriptions for transactional replication. However, this feature is deprecated in SQL 2012. Our IT manager wants to use something that's future proof, so she said out with this method. When we'll ever upgrade our SQL 2005 Standard installation, who knows. It could be many years. The only other real method that seems viable is merge replication. That isn't deprecated in SQL 2012. Peer-to-peer is what Microsoft seems to says is the replacement for updatable subscriptions for transactional replication, but we're not going to upgrade to enterprise for this feature.
My question is: what are the downsides for using merge replication for a scenario like the above where clearly it seems updatable subscriptions for transactional replication is better. Can we effectively make Merge Replication work in a similar fashion to updatable subscriptions for transactional replication and avoid updates being pushed to the publisher? Are there any performance issues to consider? ...or other caveats for that matter?
Thanks for any insights on the matter.