A new release of SQL Server is due out this year, and if you follow blogs or tweets or check Microsoft’s SQL Server website, you might have seen mention of the new version, code-named “Denali” (in keeping with the US National Park theme). Unofficial word is that this release will be called SQL Server 2011 when it’s launched.

Learn more at SQL Server 2012 and "Welcome to SQL Server 2012."

Many people are getting very excited about the new version, and at PASS Summit 2010 this past November, attendees were clamoring to get their hands on the early release, which is called a Community Technology Preview (CTP) instead of a beta. Although I dutifully accepted the installation DVD along with everyone else, I have yet to find the time to install it. In fact, I was just asked to give a session at a conference in May on new features in Denali, so I guess I better start looking at it.

It always surprises me how excited people get about the new version and how few people actually end up upgrading. Of course, there might be two completely different groups of people involved: those who are excited might be the people who write or teach about SQL Server or make recommendations, and those who are actually responsible for production systems are the people that don’t just jump all over each new release.

Why do you think people get so excited about new releases so early on? I can understand if there’s a specific new feature that you think you really need and you’ve been waiting years for it. For example, user-defined functions were finally added in SQL Server 2000 (Microsoft had been promising the feature since SQL Server 6.5), and there were many people who wanted to make sure they understood exactly how the feature worked as soon as possible. In SQL Server 2005, Microsoft introduced table and index partitioning, and designing and testing a complete partitioning solution was a long and involved process, so many people wanted to be able to get started on it early.

For the Denali release, it’s easier than ever for you to find out what the new features are that you might get really excited about. You can find out about the new features even if you don’t have access to the CTP (or the hardware to install it on) or you just choose not to install it. The documentation is available online and is updated regularly.

Probably one of the best places to start poking around is on the Books Online for SQL Server “Denali” page.  This page points you to the “What’s New” page for each of the product components, including the Database Engine, SQL Server Integration Services, SQL Server Analysis Services, and more.

The page for the new features in the Database Engine, where I’ll be spending most of my time, divides the new engine features into five categories:

  • Availability
  • Manageability
  • Programmability
  • Scalability and Performance
  • Security

Unfortunately, as of this writing, some of these topics, such as Scalability and Performance, are empty. However, the Programmability page notes that Denali will give us the ability to do ad-hoc query paging. What this means, according to the documentation, is that “You can specify a range of rows returned by a SELECT statement based on row offset and row count values that you provide.”

So if this is a capability that you’ve been waiting for, you just might want to get your hands on the Denali CTP to try it out immediately. I’ll admit that this is a very common feature request on the help forums, so it just might be a feature that users are excited about.

Are you excited about Denali? I’d love to hear your reasons why and how much you’re planning to use the Denali CTP releases.