Microsoft preps preview of new version of its Azure SQL database-as-a-service

Microsoft is preparing to release a preview of a new version of its Azure SQL database before year-end which is aimed at simplifying the move of database applications to the cloud.

Microsoft is readying a preview of a new version of its Azure SQL database-as-a-service for release later this calendar year.

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The coming version will include new SQL Server capabilities that will simplify extending and migrating database applications to the cloud, according to company officials who made the announcement at Microsoft's PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) Summit 2014 on November 5.

The new Azure SQL release also will add support for larger databases with online indexing and parallel queries; improved T-SQL support with common language runtime and XML index; and monitoring and troubleshooting with extended events, officials said in a blog post about today's announcement.

"The preview will unlock our in-memory columnstore, which will deliver greater performance for data marts and continue our journey of bringing in-memory technologies to the cloud," the blog post said. "We will offer these new preview capabilities as part of the service tiers introduced earlier this year , which deliver 99.99% availability, larger database sizes, restore and geo-replication capabilities, and predictable performance."

Microsoft released earlier this year its most recent on-premises SQL Server release, known as SQL Server 2014, which features in-memory online-transaction processing (codenamed "Hekaton") and columnstore technologies. Microsoft officials said there have been more than 1.2 million downloads of SQL Server 2014 to date. They also said 30 percent of Azure SQL Server virtual machinese are currently running SQL Server 2014, as opposed to earlier versions.

Microsoft officials also announced at PASS today that Azure Machine Learning is now available to test free of charge without a subscription or credit card. Customers can just use their Microsoft account ID to try out Azure ML.

Microsoft made available its public preview of Azure ML in July 2014 .

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