Are you excited to get started with the new business intelligence (BI) and data management features in SQL Server 2008 R2? Well, the wait is almost over—Microsoft announced on Tuesday that SQL Server 2008 R2 will be released by May. In addition, the new release will be included on Microsoft's May price list.

SQL Server 2008 R2 will include PowerPivot for Excel, Master Data Services, enhanced support for virtualization, and support for up to 256 logical processors. PowerPivot for Excel, a managed self-service BI add-in for SQL Server 2008 R2, is the biggest feature in this release.  PowerPivot for Excel lets users perform data analysis and create and collaborate on Excel 2010 workbook applications without needing assistance from IT, but gives DBAs and IT pros the ability to manage those applications.

The other big feature new to this release is Master Data Services. According to SQL Server Magazine Technical Director Michael Otey in his article SQL Server 2008 R2: 5 Cool New Features, "SQL Server 2008 R2’s new Master Data Services (MDS) feature provides a central portal from which administrators can create and update master data members and hierarchies, with the goal of ensuring data consistency across the enterprise."

If you haven’t had a chance to try out SQL Server 2008 R2 yet, it’s not too late—you can still download the SQL Server 2008 R2 November CTP. You can also check out these articles to see what our experts have to say about the latest version of SQL Server: