At the opening keynote for this week's PASS Summit, Microsoft Corporate VP Quentin Clark announced the second Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of SQL Server 2014, the upcoming version of the company's flagship relational database management system.
SQL Server 2014's headline new feature is its addition of the in-memory OLTP engine, formerly code-named "Hekaton." This engine allows for in-memory optimized tables within a conventional relational database. Furthermore, stored procedures that operate on memory-optimized tables, though written in Transact SQL, are in fact compiled to native machine code. The combination of in-memory data manipulation and native code execution makes for highly accelerated operations with certain workloads, and certain types of queries.
Another feature of SQL Server 2014 is the addition of updatable columnstore indexes to the product. Don't let the name "index" fool you -- this feature lets SQL Server Enterprise function as a full-fledged column store database while continuing to operate as the conventional row store database it has always been. While columnstore indexes were introduced in SQL Server 2012, they were not updatable, making it tricky to keep data warehouses tables using these indexes updated. With SQL Server 2014, that significant shortcoming is eliminated.
Make no mistake, with these two features, Microsoft is pushing a "one-stop-shop" approach to database management. SAP and other vendors offer separate, specialized products for in-memory operation, and may require the purchase of high-end appliances to take advantage of column store technology. Microsoft's take is that these capabilities can be offered in situ, in its flagship relational database.
With that in mind, Microsoft is also bringing interesting hybrid cloud capabilities to the SQL Server platform. Today the company is announcing the availability of compressed, encrypted backups of on-premise SQL Server databases to Windows Azure cloud storage for SQL Server 2005 and later. This should help companies maintain data privacy while also utilizing a backup regime that is based on off-site, replicated storage.