Microsoft releases first public preview of SQL Server 2016

The first public preview of Microsoft's SQL Server 2016 database is available, and testers can opt for faster, more frequent updates to it.

Microsoft is making available to anyone who wants to kick the tires a first public preview release of its coming SQL Server 2016 on-premises database.

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Testers can download what's called SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2 from Microsoft's web site, as of today, May 27. (The first preview is numbered 2 because there was a private preview that was designated CTP1, officials confirmed.) Testers also can opt to test the public CTP2 preview using a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft unveiled its plans for SQL Server 2016 during its Ignite conference in Chicago the first week of May 2015. At that time, Microsoft officials SQL Server 2016 would provide the following new features:

The first public preview also provides testers with access to these SQL Server 2016 features, according to Microsoft execs:

  • Polybase -- an engine that, to date, has been part of the SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse Appliance, for more easily managing relational and non-relational data
  • Row-level security, allowing users to control access to data based on characteristics of the user, without modifications to applications
  • Dynamic Data Masking -- supports real-time obfuscation of data to prevent access to unauthorized data
  • Temporal database support for tracking historical data changes
  • Query Data Store -- a "flight data recorder" for database administrators
  • Enhanced server management for Master Data Services
  • Enhanced hybrid backup to Azure and faster restores to SQL Server in Azure virtual machines

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As it is doing with other products across the company, Microsoft is committing to provide more frequent updates to their CTP previews. Users will be able to opt to download periodic updates to CTP2 so they can test new capabilities and features as soon as they are available, rather than waiting for Microsoft to release CTP3, according to a May 27 blog post.

Microsoft's SQL Server 2016 is expected to ship in 2016, but there's no official word on when exactly general availability will be.

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