SQL Server 2012 RTM: Big deal for Big Data?

Microsoft's SQL Server 2012 has released to manufacturing. This release of the 20+ year-old database has tie-ins to Hadoop and Big Data analytics in general.

SQL Server 2012 Logo

Full disclosure: I am a co-author of an upcoming book on SQL Server 2012, and I do a lot of work with Microsoft.

Why would a new version of SQL Server be a big deal for this blog? As a mainstream relational database, SQL Server would appear to be irrelevant in the Big Data landscape. As it turns out, SQL Server is important in the Big Data world, but not because of the core relational database engine. Microsoft’s data platform strategy involves selling SQL Server with a number of companion products in the same license. Reporting, ETL (Extract, Transform & Load), OLAP (OnLine Analytical Processing), Data Mining, MDM (Master Data Management), Data Quality, Data Visualization and CEP (Complex Event Processing) components are included “in the box” with SQL Server. So SQL Server is more than just an RDBMS (Relational Database Management System).

That’s a lot of acronyms and parentheses, but it’s still not Big Data, per se. So where is the relevancy? Ironically, it’s in Hadoop. Microsoft has recently partnered with Hadoop distro provider and contributor Hortonworks to implement Hadoop on Windows (including on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform).

That’s big, but what’s even bigger is that the team working on this is essentially part of the SQL Server product group at Microsoft. As such, there are a number of integration points between Hadoop and SQL Server’s reporting, analysis and data visualization components. Microsoft has also integrated Hadoop with SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse edition, the MPP (Massively Parallel Processing) version of SQL Server, as well as with Excel.

Hadoop on Windows is still pre-release technology, but it’s coming sometime between now and July 1st, and SQL Server 2012 is the first version whose Business Intelligence technologies will integrate tightly with it. In fact, as I understand it, the SQL Server-Hadoop integration will even work with Hadoop clusters running on Linux. This may seem unbelievable to many who are familiar with Microsoft’s overall strategy for Windows and SQL Server. But it demonstrates how important Big Data (with Hadoop as its proxy) has become in the market and how Microsoft has decided it is better to add value to a platform of consensus than to ignore or challenge it.

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