At this past Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in Seattle Microsoft announced its new Hekaton query acceleration technology. In his keynote, Ted Kummert, corporate vice president of the Data Platform group at Microsoft, presented SQL Server 2012 SP 1, then followed it with a demonstration of how the new Hekaton technology provided a 30 times performance increase by moving a single table and a stored procedure into memory. If you didn’t make it to PASS, here are some Hekaton FAQs to help you understand what it's all about. For more information, check out my interview with Doug Leland, general manager of product management, Business Platform Marketing Group for Microsoft where we talk about Hekaton and several other new SQL Server developments.

Q: I’ve never heard of Hekaton. What is it?

A: Hekaton is Microsoft’s upcoming in-memory technology for the SQL Server relational database engine. The Hekaton technology will enable you to move your hot database tables into RAM, making data access many times faster. Early Microsoft test customer results have shown 5 times to 50 times transactional throughput gains using queries with Hekaton running on the same hardware. In addition to moving tables into memory, Hekaton can also compile T-SQL stored procedures directly into machine code, which lets the stored procedure be executed at the speed of native code.

Q: Is Hekaton the same thing as xVelocity?

A: No. While Hekaton and xVelocity are both in-memory technology but aren't designed to provide the same types of services. xVelocity is the name of the SQL Server 2012 xVelocity columnstore and analytics features which, like PowerPivot, use the Vertipaq in-memory extreme data compression technology and is really a BI/reporting technology. Hekaton is a row-based technology designed for use with transactional database applications.

Q: Why the code name Hekaton? What does that stand for?

A: Hekaton is Greek and its literal meaning is one hundred. At PASS, Microsoft referred to it as “a factor of ten.” Presumably, it chose that name to represent the performance improvements you can get using the Hekaton technology.

Q: How is Hekaton different from the in-memory technologies already offered by Oracle and SAP?

A: The in-memory Hekaton technology that Microsoft is working on is a software-based technology, and it can be used on existing SQL Server implementations with no changes required in the hardware or application software. That’s not the case with either the Oracle Exalytics or the SAP HANA implementations. Both the Oracle and SAP implementation are delivered solely as appliances that require you to implement both new hardware and software into your infrastructure. In addition, they each use their programming model to access the data. Hekaton will be delivered as a part of SQL Server—not sold separately—and it will work with existing hardware. Existing applications can make use of Hekaton with no code changes and no need for personnel to learn any new programming languages.

Q: When is Hekaton supposed to be available?

A: Hekaton is currently being tested by a limited group of select customers. It's planned to be included as a part of the next major release of SQL Server.