Microsoft finalises SQL Server 2008 R2

The flagship database product, which is set for release to manufacturing in May, promises to put powerful BI tools into the hands of end users
Written by Roger Howorth, Contributor

Microsoft has announced the release-to-manufacturing version of SQL Server 2008 R2, the upcoming update of its enterprise database and business intelligence platform.

The finalised version of the software will be made available to MSDN subscribers on 3 May and be delivered for general download on 13 May, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. The database product, which includes a set of business intelligence (BI) capabilities previously known as Kilimanjaro, is scheduled for full release in the first half of this year.

"Customers continue to receive and create increasing amounts of data, as information impacts their business and social lives. Our goal is to help customers extract value and business insight from that information, whether it is stored locally on their PC, in a datacentre or in the cloud," said Ted Kummert, senior vice-president of Microsoft's business platform division, in the statement.

According to Microsoft, there have been more than 300,000 downloads of the community technology preview, which was released to developers in August.

The release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version of SQL Server 2008 R2 includes several new features designed to lower the costs of running Microsoft SQL Server in enterprise environments. For example, a new centralised administration console lets database administrators manage multiple Microsoft SQL Server databases from a single console.

The software also includes much improved support for running in Microsoft Hyper-V 2008 R2 environments, including full support for Live Migration, according to the company.

A significant change is the addition of a managed self-service BI engine. This allows end-users to create and run their own reports without calling on database support staff.

"We've added a new storage mode that supports in-memory analytics. By working in-memory and applying a series of smart compression and compaction algorithms, we can take a huge amount of data — for example, 100 million rows of data — and fit it into 100MB of RAM," Tom Casey, general manager of Microsoft SQL Server Business Intelligence, told ZDNet UK.

Casey said this data compression allowed queries to run at bus speed.

"A second thing is that because we have not pre-aggregated the data, we haven't constrained the questions you can ask. The combination of responsiveness and flexibility helps users to get a solution very quickly. It lets you work without constraint and iterate very quickly," he added.

Users can develop new BI reports using Excel 2010, but customers will not need Office 2010 on every desktop to benefit from the BI engine. "Consumers can access the reports using a web browser and Excel Services and SharePoint," said Casey.

In addition to the new BI engine, the update has a range of new features meant to broaden its appeal. For example, scalability has been improved with new support for 64 logical CPUs in the Enterprise Edition, and 256 logical processors in the new Datacenter edition, Microsoft said.

New support for Hyper-V Live Migration enables IT staff to move databases without any downtime, the company said.

"You may want to move a database to a differently configured virtual machine (VM), or move from a physical server to VM, or move across servers or VMs," Casey said. "The new Live Migration support means you can now do that."

Prior to SQL Server 2008 R2, it was not possible to cluster Microsoft SQL Server running in virtual machines, but this is now possible, Casey added.

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