Microsoft is announcing the release to manufacturing (RTM) of SQL Server 2008 R2 on April 21.
In fact, the product actually RTM'd a week ago, about a week ahead of schedule, said Tom Casey, General Manager of Microsoft Business Intelligence. But the team held off until today to make the public announcement.
SQL Server 2008 R2 is like Windows Server 2008 R2 in that it is a supposedly "minor" R2 version, but includes an awful lot of new features and functionality. In spite of that fact, SQL Server 2008 R2 doesn't include any upgrades to the core database itself, so it's still technically a minor R2 release, not a major one, Casey noted.
SQL Server 2008 R2 has been just over two years in the making. A select number of SQL Server customers were consulted for feedback from the earliest development stages to make sure Microsoft was addressing their pain points. And they gave it, said one of those customers, Ayad Shammout, Lead Technical DBA at CareGroup, who said he advocated for more user-friendly data-import and reporting tools.
While the R2 release offers a little something for everyone, "the thing that defined this release, from the beginning, was PowerPivot," Casey said.
PowerPivot is technology designed to enable the "self-service business intelligence" scenarios that MIcrosoft has been highlighting as major selling points for the newest versions of its SQL Server and SharePoint Server. The PowerPivot for Excel 2010 add-in for SQL Server 2008 R2, when used in conjunction with SharePoint, is designed to allow users to slice, dice and publish/share data more quickly and easily. (And gives the Softies another in for selling SharePoint to more customers.)
But there were lots of other features added to Microsoft's newest database release that weren't part of the original "Kilimanjaro" plan, Casey acknowledged. As a result, new SQL Server 2008 R2 features like Master Data Services and StreamInsight complex event processing, which were ready and able to take advantage of new hardware advances, yet weren't going to break backward compatibility, they made the cut, he said.
(Speaking of the Kilimanjaro codename, Casey admitted he is no codename fan, but gave in to popular team demand. SQL Server Partner Product Unit Manager Kamal Hathi, who proposed "Kilimanjaro" -- which was in keeping with the SQL Server team's "national parks" codename theme -- ended up climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and hoisting a homemade "SQL Server 2008 R2" banner to celebrate.)
The free, low-end SQL Server 2008 R2 Express release is available for download today. Most of the versions of SQL Server 2008 R2 will be made available in May. (The high-end Parallel Data Warehouse is the one exception.)
MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to download R2 Data Center, Enterprise, Standard, Workgroup and Developer (in English only) as of May 3. Volume licensing downloads will be available in 11 languages starting May 3. The trial bits are available as of April 21.
Microsoft is planning a "launch" for SQL Server 2008 R2, but officials still won't say when or where. I've been thinking it might launch on or around May 12, given that's the Office 2010/SharePoint 2010 launch date. But so far, mum's the word.
What's up next on the database front? SQL Server "Denali" (a k a SQL Server 2011/2012).