This June, instead of kicking back for the summer, I was ramped up about SQL Server 2008 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 1. (See last month's commentary, "SQL Server 2008 CTP1: BI Is Coming, We Promise," InstantDoc ID 96374.) And then, only six weeks after the CTP1 was released, and setting an aggressive pace for itself, Microsoft released CTP2. In the latest CTP, you'll find:

  • New features in Reporting Services, including a new Report Designer, configuration tool, and what Microsoft calls an "enterprise reporting engine," which is no longer dependent on Microsoft IIS. (Woo-hoo!) This reporting engine is said to be more scalable than it was earlier releases and now supports a half-breed report item called a Tablix (a table-matrix combination).
  • A new Data Mining (Analysis Services) time series-forecasting algorithm, which will result in "more stable, long-term predictions."
  • Reliable discovery of object dependencies (woo-hoo!) using a new catalog view and some dynamic management functions. This will be huge for DBAs and third-party tools alike.
  • A new framework, Performance Data Collection, which collects different types of health data from SQL Server and the OS, providing better visibility for routine maintenance as well as crisis performance troubleshooting.
  • A new "general event-handling system for server systems" called SQL Server Extended Events, which could help tie together events in SQL Server, the OS, and even your applications.
  • Database mirroring goes to "2.0," boasting several enhancements to make it a more reliable platform.
  • Improved ORDPATH for handling hierarchical data.
  • Support for large user-defined types--they're no longer bound by the 8KB limit.
  • New date and time data types permitting separation of date and time information with support for greater range and precision as well a very nifty time zone offset aware datetime type. These new data types will be very useful for relational data warehousing and online transaction processing (OLTP).
  • Improved XML support: support for the new date and time types as well as improved support surrounding unions.

Neither CTP is brimming with major new features, but their close release dates show that Microsoft is getting features out to the community as soon as they're available. Microsoft has a good interactive graphic available to help track what's new in each CTP at https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/content/content.aspx?ContentID=5470.

Microsoft also provides on-demand Webcasts about the new features in the CTP2 at https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/content/content.aspx?ContentID=6082. For CTP1 Webcasts, see "SQL Server 2008 LiveMeeting Schedule" at https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/content/content.aspx?ContentID=5553.