SQL Server 2008 R2 Set to Analyze Mountains of Data, Coming in May

Microsoft announced today that SQL Server 2008 R2 is released to manufacturing just 20 months after SQL Server 2008, the platform on which it is built. SQL Server 2008 R2 (codenamed Kilimanjaro) introduces business intelligence features aimed at end users, through a dependency on Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. All three platforms are expected next month, with SQL Server 2008 R2 slated to become available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers on May 3 and worldwide on May 13.

SQL Server 2008 R2's self-service business intelligence capabilities are tied into Excel Services in a browser running in SharePoint. The new PowerPivot add-in for Excel 2010 is part of the SQL Server 2008 R2 release. It supports viewing and working with large scale data in Excel workbooks that can be published to SharePoint Server 2010, with PowerPivot for SharePoint. Microsoft has coined the phrase "managed" self-service business intelligence because IT departments have access to administrative governance of BI usage and reporting.

With SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft is continuing its push to support enterprise-level requirements. This release introduces multi-server management capabilities, and Datacenter and Parallel Data Warehouse editions. Scalability is ramped up in SQL Server 2008 R2 Datacenter edition, which can support up to 256 logical processors, when used in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2. "That is continuing to enhance our scale up and give our customers the ability to take advantage of the hardware innovations that are being provided by our hardware partners," said Ted Kummert, senior vice president of Microsoft's Business Platform Division, during a conference call announcing SQL Server 2008 R2's release to manufacturing. The Parallel Data Warehouse edition, an appliance that is currently in its second technical preview, "is going to take us to the hundreds of terabytes," he added. "Our customers now can really buy one solution…a consistent environment that now lets them have the large single version of the truth—a mission critical data warehouse at the center with the surrounding data marts all the way through the reporting tool that can be from one vendor."

For developers, SQL Server 2008 R2 introduces the concept of the data-tier application package or Data Tier Application Component (DAC). Developers with Visual Studio 2010, which has a DAC project template, can package the schemas, objects and physical database and log files in a data tier as single unit of deployment. Some data types (spatial) are not supported in the initial release. Wizards in SQL Server Management Studio can also be used to extract a data-tier app from an instance of SQL Server to create a DAC.

"With the introduction of something we call Application and Multi-Server Management in SQL Server 2008 R2, our customers can now centrally manage all instances of an application running on any number of servers in a very consistent manner," said Tom Casey, general manager of SQL Server Business Intelligence at Microsoft. "A developer can quickly group collections of application artifacts together like tables and views and stored procedures. And they can group them into one coherent unit of deployment. And then building on the policy-based administration features that we originally added in SQL Server 2008, those same customers can now seamlessly apply policy and procedures to govern the deployment of those application components through all phases of the application lifecycle, whether it is from development, staging and all the way to production."

If developers make changes to application artifacts, SQL Server 2008 R2 can help identify what has changed and then deploy new versions of the components. "This works not only from the desktop to the data center but in the cloud as well," said Casey. SQL Server 2008 R2 introduces the SQL Server Utility in SQL Server Management Studio, which offers a new way of managing virtual resources (instances and database applications) through a Utility Control Point.

For enterprise DBAs, SQL Server Management Studio for the first time offers multi-server management--standard dashboard functionality in other enterprise database platforms. When the product is released next month, this feature will support SQL Server 2008 R2 only, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. SQL Server 2008 support is expected in the first Service Pack, 90 days after RTM. SQL Server 2005/2000 are not supported by multi-server management.

SQL Server 2008 R2 also introduces the SQL Server Master Data Services based on the MDM technology acquired in June 2007 when the company bought Stratature; and complex events processing in SQL Server StreamInsight. An updated version of the authoring tool for creating SQL Server reports in Office ships with SQL Server 2008 R2. Report Builder 3.0 adds support for geospatial visualization, SharePoint lists, SQL Azure and SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse.

The SQL Server ecosystem is on board. According to Casey, more than 2,000 ISVs have "signed up" to support SQL Server 2008 R2 with products and services.

SQL Server 2008 R2 will be available in four editions: Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter and Parallel Data Warehouse. The Parallel Data Warehouse edition, which is based on Datallegro technology that Microsoft acquired in July 2008, is not part of the May release.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.