SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP is Feature-Complete

First release of Microsoft's flagship database in two years offers substantial scalability gains.

The feature-complete preview of SQL Server 2008 R2, the first major upgrade of Microsoft's flagship database platform in nearly two years, is now available for partners to test.

It's on pace to ship in the first half of next year, Microsoft officials said at last month's annual Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) Summit in Seattle.

Dubbed the November CTP of SQL Server 2008 R2, it introduces new self-service business intelligence (BI) capabilities. Microsoft said it's also adding two new SKUs, one edition called Datacenter and one named Parallel Data Warehouse. The two represent the most scalable database servers offered by Microsoft to date.

Viable Alternative
The new releases provide a stronger case for partners looking to offer SQL Server as a viable alternative for enterprise applications over database offerings from Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. Microsoft remains the No. 3 database supplier in terms of share in the relational database server market, according to figures from analysts at Gartner Inc. for 2008. Although Microsoft's growth remained flat that year, growth for Oracle and IBM slipped a bit, says Gartner analyst Mark Beyer.

"Microsoft seems to be the one that's picking up those crumbs around the edges and growing their market share," Beyer says. "That's because it's low-cost and very simple and [has a] straightforward interface for managing data access."

Central Management
The November CTP of SQL Server 2008 R2 offers the first preview of Microsoft's new PowerPivot technology (formerly code-named "Project Gemini") and allows BI data collected from it to be shared to the company's SharePoint Server.

PowerPivot is designed to let business users create their own BI solutions in Excel with a new in-memory analysis engine that Microsoft says will work on millions of rows of data. "Users can manipulate the data in new ways to create BI solutions and then publish them to SharePoint to collaborate with other users," explains Fausto Ibarra, Microsoft's director of SQL Server product management.

Also in the CTP, partners will be able to test a new feature that makes it possible to centrally manage groups of SQL Server databases to monitor performance problems and move databases from one server to another.

The CTP also supports Hyper-V virtualization in Windows Server. "Specifically, we will be supporting live migrations to enable users who have virtual database workloads to seamlessly migrate them to other servers without any perceived downtime for their users," Ibarra says.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.