Following the release of SQL Server 2008 R2, the topic of what’s next for SQL Server has been frequently discussed. When SQL Server Magazine spoke with Ted Kummert, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Business Platform Division, last summer, he offered insight into SQL Server 2008 R2 and a high-level look at the future of SQL Server. I got the chance to talk with Kummert in early November specifically about the two product announcements that Microsoft would make at PASS Summit 2010, as well as the cloud announcements that were made at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC). He filled me in on Microsoft’s cloud initiative, the key functionality that the CTP of the next version of SQL Server (code-named “Denali”) offers, and the latest SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse Edition news.

Denali CTP Now Available

The CTP of the next version of SQL Server was made available to PASS attendees and MSDN and TechNet subscribers during PASS, and it’s now available for download from the Microsoft website. The following are the new features and enhancements that Kummert highlighted during our discussion of Denali:

  • High availability and disaster recovery made easy—SQL Server currently offers solutions for mirroring, clustering, and log shipping. In Denali, “One of the things we’re doing is delivering one infrastructure built on Windows clustering that delivers the characteristics of all three,” said Kummert. “We’ve really focused as well on the manageability of that—making best-in-class HA and really focusing on trying to make it simpler for our customers.” (Quentin Clark, general manager of Microsoft’s Database Systems Group, expanded on these simplified features in his keynote at PASS. With the new SQL Server AlwaysOn feature, you can group databases and fail them over together, have up to four secondaries, select Read mode in secondaries, enable/disable backups for reads, and more.)
  • VertiPac available behind SSAS and data warehousing—Underneath PowerPivot is a very powerful column-oriented, in-memory storage engine called VertiPac. In Denali, VertiPac will be available to other workloads in SQL Server. “It’s going to provide for very high scale and compression in terms of storage, and it’s going to provide for amazing performance; that’s in Analysis Services and that’s also in data warehousing,” said Kummert.
  • Enabling pervasive insight with business intelligence—There are two big areas of BI investment in Denali’s infrastructure: bringing data together and integrating it, and ensuring that it’s quality data. “A lot of that work lands in SQL Server Integration Services,” said Kummert. “This is the biggest release of SQL Server Integration Services since SQL Server 2005. We’ve invested in a server environment for SQL Server Integration Services. This is going to make it easier to deploy and manage those applications. We’ve invested in services to cleanse and provide for quality data. We’ve got Master Data Services today; we’re adding Data Quality Services, this unique knowledge-based approach, which runs within SSIS and also runs standalone. And we’re also delivering some capabilities toward what’s called ‘impact analysis and lineage.’” Impact analysis shows you what depends on your data downstream, and lineage shows you where the data came from and what all the systems are behind it.
  • Project Crescent—Denali offers a set of capabilities and interactive, web-based visualizations to help you build and project a story about your data to your end users. “Data has a story to tell you about your business,” said Kummert.
  • Investment in tools for developers—Denali will provide a toolset (code-named Juneau) that provides features from the Visual Studio Professional Developer environment into SQL Server so that no matter what you’re building (e.g., business intelligence projects, database projects) it’s all the same experience.

Parallel Data Warehouse Edition Available to Customers in December

At PASS, Microsoft announced that its new Massively Parallel Processor (MPP) data warehousing appliance, SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse Edition, had been released to manufacturing. “We have appliances available from Hewlett Packard that will be available to customers in December, a very exciting milestone for us,” Kummert said.

According to Kummert, “This is a product that’s unique in terms of us delivering it as an integrated hardware and software solution optimized with our partners. There’s an opportunity to deliver a much different value proposition to customers and we think we’re going to hit that in this space.”

SQL Azure Announcements from PDC

At PDC in October, several announcements were made regarding SQL Azure. “We’ve been over time fulfilling the promise of bringing all the capabilities of SQL Server to SQL Azure,” Kummert said. Kummert highlighted the following three SQL Azure announcements:

  • SQL Azure Reporting—This service lets you develop and deploy reports to the cloud. According to Kummert, a CTP of SQL Server Reporting Services in SQL Azure will be available by the end of the year.
  • SQL Azure Data Sync—Data Sync CTP1 lets you synchronize databases between SQL Azure instances, even if they’re in multiple data centers. A future CTP will offer you the ability to synchronize data between SQL Azure instances and on-premises SQL Server instances. “That’s a great example of providing a higher-level platform service,” Kummert said. “You sign up for the service and you can just start configuring which tables you want to be available up in your cloud database.”
  • Windows Azure Marketplace—Formerly code-named “Dallas,” the Windows Azure Marketplace gives you access to data sets from commercial data providers and public data sources. “What we’re trying to do is bring the friction out of people being able to get access to the data they want to use, and a lot of that data is commercial and public reference data,” Kummert said. “The Marketplace is the place where you go find that.”

To see what Ted had to say earlier this year about the future of SQL Server, see “The Future of SQL Server: Ted Kummert Looks Ahead.”