SQL Server 2008 R2 has been released to manufacturing. Microsoft’s Ted Kummert, the senior vice president for the Business Platform Division, and Tom Casey, the general manager for Microsoft Business Intelligence, were excited to point out that this release comes only 20 months after SQL Server 2008 was released. However, SQL Server 2008 R2 won’t be generally available until May 13 (you can download it May 3 if you’re a MSDN or TechNet subscriber). In the meantime, you can download an evaluation version from the SQL Server 2008 R2 launch site.
SQL Server 2008 R2 builds on SQL Server 2008 and includes some really big, cool new features. The new BI functionality includes
PowerPivot for Excel enables information users to create reports in a familiar environment—Excel—without having to rely on their IT department. At the same time, IT pros can monitor the use of these business-critical applications and gain insight into how data is being used in their environment, Casey said. He also noted in a conversation this morning with SQL Server Magazine that the SQL Server team worked directly with the Office team to modify Excel 2010 so that slicers are now a part of Excel, rather than an add-in. And PowerPivot for SharePoint lets users collaborate and share data across their businesses.
PowerPivot for Excel will be available as a free web download. Application producers will need Office 2010 (Excel 2010, specifically) to use PowerPivot for Excel, and they’ll need SharePoint 2010 to use PowerPivot for SharePoint. However, information consumers can use Excel Services rather than Excel 2010.
SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) has been enhanced to support three new data sources: Microsoft SharePoint List, Microsoft SQL Azure, and Microsoft SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse. SQL Server 2008 R2 SSRS also includes Report Builder 3.0, which offers new capabilities including geospatial visualization support, edit sessions, and the Report Part Gallery, as well as support for new RDL features such as maps, sparklines, and data bars.
And let’s not forget about all of SQL Server 2008 R2’s new developer and database administration capabilities:
Master Data Services helps you standardize your business data (i.e., so that you have one version of the truth). You can use it to create, manage, and deploy master data models. It’s available in the Developer Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Datacenter Edition.
Application and Multiserver Management lets you seamlessly apply policies across multiple servers and see what’s changed as well. SQL Server 2008 R2 supports up to 256 processors on a single SQL Server system.
StreamInsight is a low latency event-processing platform that’s available in SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Datacenter Edition. It gives you the ability to process high volumes of data quickly for near real-time analysis.
Support for live migration and guest clustering are new to this version and give you more efficient ways to migrate your SQL Server instances to Hyper-V and cluster on virtual machines. Casey told SQL Server Magazine that the new guest clustering functionality lets people choose the matrix of physical and virtual machines that’s right for them.
Ron Van Zanten, the directing officer of BI at Premier Bank Card said that his company is using SQL Server 2008 R2 to manage more than 40TB of data and approximately 150 SQL Server instances. Ayad Shammout, the lead DBA at Care Group Healthcare System said his company is using SQL Server 3008 R2 with PowerPivot and SharePoint 2010 to balance information worker’s needs with the IT department’s needs. And according to Dave Jones, the lead DBA at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, SQL Server 2008 R2 is helping his company efficiently manage data and securely expose data to business users and the public.
Watch for more about SQL Server 2008 R2’s new capabilities in Michael Otey’s upcoming article “SQL Server 2008 R2 New Features.” For more information about SQL Server 2008 R2 and the future of BI, check out Sheila Molnar’s interview with Tom Casey: “Tom Casey on Microsoft’s BI Strategy.”