Microsoft has a few announcements and updates at TechEd of particular interest to SQL Server professionals. The highlights are:

  • Kilimanjaro is now officially SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Support for 64 logical processers
  • Self-service Business Intelligence (BI) in-memory analysis update
  • Utility Data Platform
  • Master Data Services announcement
  • Low Latency Complex Event Processing announcement
  • Cool SQL Server 2008 stats

SQL Server 2008 R2

Microsoft has decided on a product name for the next release, SQL Server 2008 R2, so it’s time to put aside the hard-to-spell but fun to say “Kilimanjaro” release. I chatted with Fausto Ibarra, the Microsoft director of product management for SQL Server, about what’s new for SQL Server 2008 R2. The plan, Ibarra says, is to ship the R2 release in 2010, to sync up with the release of Microsoft Office 2010. Community Technology Previews (CTPs) for SQL Server 2008 R2 will be available in the second half of 2009. Ibarra explained that SQL Server 2008 R2 “is an incremental release so we’re using it as an opportunity to deliver incremental technology on top of SQL Server 2008. On the business intelligence side, we’re aligning our release with Office 2010. On the DBA and developer side we always align with Windows Server and release every 24 to 36 months.”

Support for 64 Logical Processors

SQL Server support for more than 64 logical processors was announced at TechEd. Windows Server 2008 R2 will support more than 64 logical processors, up to 256. SQL Server 2008 R2 will run on top of WS08r2 and will also support that level of scalability according to Ibarra.

Self-Service BI In-Memory Analysis

“One of the big things we’re doing in SQL Server 2008 R2 is Self-Service BI, a joint solution that we offer though SQL Server, SharePoint, and Excel.” Ibarra noted. “Customers want solutions, not just individual products. Solutions enable employees to seek new business solutions and get better results out of what they have. Ultimately the goal is to allow all the employees in an organization to get the benefits of BI.”

I asked what effect self-service business intelligence (BI) would have on the relationship between the traditional BI professional and business knowledge workers or decision-makers. Ibarra’s take on this changing relationship is that “today you have a consultant or IT expert build a BI solution for employees. That is costly and takes time. Today many users don’t get access to BI tools and data sources. Self-service BI allows them to analyze all that data and create reports, charts, and dashboards and then share solutions and models with colleagues by publishing them through SharePoint.”

Ibarra remarked that the “biggest innovation in self service BI is in-memory analysis. With advanced compression technology that’s incorporated into the release you’ll have 10s or 100s of millions of data records inside of a laptop’s memory, available to slice and dice instantly to get better insights out of the data. IT Professionals provide the environment, know that data is secure, and know which data sets are being used more. They can refresh the data and apply the right policies. So it’s IT controlled but end users are empowered.”

Utility Data Platform

Ibarra described another major feature of SQL Server 2008 R2 that tackles the control issue: application and mulitiserver management, which was previewed at PASS last Fall. “When a dev builds an application he or she can specify policies for that application. As the app is deployed the DBA knows about the policies and can enforce them and then manage that application as it moves from server to server or as their data volumes grow to adapt to that. This is part of the vision of what we call the Utility Data Platform where you can provide incremental capacity to users and where you can move databases around servers and you can provide varying SLAs to customers.”

I asked about the Madison project, which had been announced along with Kilimanjaro at PASS last FALL. Ibarra had no further announcements on Madison at TechEd, but said Microsoft would talk about packaging and pricing later in the year.

Master Data Services

Another TechEd announcement is the inclusion of Master Data Services, a new capability, in SQL Server 2008 R2. Ibarra explained that that capability is for master data management: “Think about different entities that IT needs to deal with such as customers or partners or products. Multiple databases contain the information. A single entity can be in multiple databases, with multiple IDs. A business challenge has been reconciling all that data so they can make the right decisions about customers or products using the data. The goal of master data management is to bring all that data together so that you have a single version of the truth—A single authoritative source of data. You do that by synchronizing data across multiple data sources, understanding where there are exceptions, and managing those exceptions. What we’re doing with Master Data Services is building that capability as part of the data platform so when customers buy SQL Server 2008 R2 they get that functionality.”

Low Latency Complex Event Processing

Also announced at TechEd is that Microsoft is working on Low Latency Complex Event Processing. The software giant is developing this technology with the idea of building a more comprehensive data platform, according to Ibarra, who noted that there are business opportunities around being able to analyze streaming transient data, identify patterns, and then act on the findings. Ibarra said that algorithymic stock trading would be an example of this. “We’re building a platform to enable customers and partners to build complex event processing solutions. This will be released in 2010. We haven’t announced the packaging or pricing. There will be a CTP in 2009 and for now we’re calling it Low Latency Complex Event Processing.” It’s not clear yet if these CTPs will align with the other CTPs in the pipeline.

Cool SQL Server Facts

Ibarra rattled off some interesting SQL Server 2008 facts: There have had over three and a half million downloads of SQL Server 2008; companies in every country, every industry are looking at SQL Server 2008 today; there’s 160% ROI in deploying it just from savings associated with things like Resource Governor, Data Protection, Encryption, and Policy-based management.

Other TechEd Blogs

Check out some of our other blogs from TechEd:

SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP Announced

Microsoft Announces Updated Windows 7 Ship Date, Office 2010 Technical Preview