Microsoft Launches SQL Server 2014 Preview 2

On Wednesday Microsoft announced the release of SQL Server 2014 Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP2).

SQL Server 2014 was announced a few months ago. It continues much of the technologies of SQL Server 2012, which was shipped about two years ago. However, Microsoft is stressing several new capabilities in SQL Server 2014 CTP2: The use of in-memory online transactional processing (OLTP) technology that formerly went by the code name "Hekaton," and the ability to use SQL Server 2014 with Windows Azure to enable scalability, as was as backup and disaster recovery support.

Microsoft is claiming performance gains when using in-memory OLTP in SQL Server 2014 of about 10 times to 30 times for "new and existing SQL Server apps," according to a datasheet (PDF). The in-memory technology uses memory-optimized tables and is different from standard disk-based table technology. Microsoft's switch to in-memory OLTP in SQL Server 2012 and SQL Server 2014 has to do with the cost of dynamic RAM prices dropping over the years, according to Microsoft's white paper (PDF) on the topic. The in-memory OLTP technology doesn't wait for disk writes or for locks on the data to clear, which partly accounts for the faster processing times.

Microsoft's scalability claims for SQL Server 2014 are associated with its "AlwaysOn" branding. AlwaysOn encompasses high-availability and disaster recovery technologies that are also available in SQL Server 2012, including failover clustering and the use of active secondaries for backup. This time, with SQL Server 2014 CTP2, it appears that Microsoft has improved the integration of those technologies with Windows Azure.

"We are delivering high availability and disaster recovery on Windows Azure built right into the database," stated Quentin Clark, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the Data Platform Group, in an announcement of SQL Server 2014 CTP2. "This enables customers to benefit from our global datacenters: AlwaysOn Availability Groups that span on-premises and Windows Azure Virtual Machines, database backups directly into Windows Azure storage, and even the ability to store and run database files directly in Windows Azure storage."

While SQL Server 2014 CTP2 has built-in Windows Azure backup support, Microsoft plans to extend that capability to other "supported" SQL Server versions with the new SQL Server Backup for Windows Azure Tool. This tool, which will be released at the SQL Server 2014 CTP2 Web site as a preview sometime this week, enables Windows Azure Storage backup support for older and still supported editions of SQL Server.

Microsoft is describing these integrated Windows Azure capabilities as "simplified disaster recovery" and "simplified backup" with encryption for on-premises and cloud backups, according to a blog post.

The CTP2 release of SQL Server 2014 is a test release or "evaluation edition" that will expire on March 31, 2014 and can be downloaded here. However, Clark described it in his announcement as "our public and production-ready release." Still, the release notes for CTP2 warn that it is not supported by Microsoft Customer Services and Support and should not be used in production environments. There's also no upgrade process from CTP1.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.