Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m personally fairly tired of April Fools' Day or, at least, how it gets handled in the technical world. After getting burned a few times (years ago) by forgetting that it was April Fools' Day, I’m now to the point where I can’t hardly believe anything technical that’s published, released, tweeted, written, or even mentioned on April 1st.
Yet, make no mistake, SQL Server 2014 is now available—released on April 1, 2014.
While keeping tabs on blog posts covering some of the bigger and more important features and additions to each new version of SQL Server is something I always do (i.e., it’s commonly a lot easier to learn about new features and changes through someone else who’s figured it out and can then explain it than on my own), another key thing I do with each new version of SQL Server (from initial betas on up to the full RTM—or Release To Market) is check out Books Online. Each edition of SQL Server in Books Online has a "What’s New in SQL Server xxxx" documentation section. (And it’s almost always found in the ‘Getting Started’ section – or has been for roughly the past decade at least.)
Here, for example, is the link to the What’s New in SQL Server 2014 documentation. And if you check it out, you’ll quickly be able to see—at a glance—that there’s really nothing new in SSIS, SSRS, or Replication. Instead, the new features are consolidated in the Database Engine, in SSAS/BI and in installation.
From there you can quickly poke through and get a very quick, and high-level, overview of what’s new. Personally, I find that scanning (then reading) this documentation is one of the best ways to quickly come up to speed on MANY (but not all) of the new features, changes, and additions to SQL Server. For example, while plenty of blog posts, articles, presentations, and the likes have covered Memory Optimized Tables (i.e., Hekaton) or enhancements to AlwaysOn Availability Groups, Azure integration, or things like better control over index generation, not as many (at least to my knowledge) have really touched on some of the new DMVs or System Views. Yet, if you check out the What’s New in SQL Server 2014 documentation, and navigate into the Database Engine section, you’ll find a full-blown set of documentation covering a number of new enhancements and improvements—along with new DMVs—falling under the heading of System View Enhancements.
Microsoft’s TechNet Evaluation Center for SQL Server 2014 also provides a number of nice resources if you’re looking to take SQL Server 2014 for a test drive—including the option to download an Evaluation Version (if, for example, you don’t have an MSDN subscription). (You can also find evaluation options on Microsoft’s main SQL Server site as well.) Personally, I previously deployed one of the early SQL Server 2014 betas, did a bit of poking around with it (and not much else) but will probably be spinning up a couple of VMs with it deployed later this week or early next week as I’ve got about three different clients who are VERY eager to upgrade to SQL Server 2014. (Initial word on the street, too, is that SQL Server 2014 is/has been very stable so far—which, in turn, is quite probably why it went to release so quickly and bypassed what would typically have been another pre-release.)