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SQL Server 2016 Becomes Generally Available

Microsoft's next-generation database platform, SQL Server 2016, became generally available on Wednesday as scheduled.

SQL Server 2016, which has been available in various test versions throughout the past year, introduces huge improvements over its predecessor and adds new features to simplify the management of enterprise data, according to Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the data group at Microsoft, in a blog post announcing the release.

"SQL Server 2016 simplifies analytics in the way databases simplified enterprise data management, by moving analytics close to where the data is managed instead of the other way around," Sirosh wrote. "It introduces a new paradigm where all joins, aggregations and machine learning are performed securely within the database itself without moving the data out, thereby enabling analytics on real-time transactions with great speed and parallelism."

A key feature in SQL Server 2016 is the inclusion of the open source software R, which provides instant data mining analysis without the need to extract the data during analysis. This allows users to stick with the same SQL Server interface during the entire process.

Microsoft also strongly focused on security for this release with the inclusion of new safeguards, including Always Encrypted, which keeps data encrypted whether it's in transit or at rest; Transparent Data Encryption, which, according to Microsoft, provides a low-resource way to encrypt data at a page level; and Dynamic Data Masking and Row Level Security, which grants developers more control over apps that connect to the database.

While Wednesday marks the final release of SQL Server 2016, a large community of IT pros, developers and testers have been using the database platform in one form or another for over a year. SQL Server 2016 has effectively been feature-complete since mid-April, with the availability of Release Candidate 3.

"SQL Server 2016 features were first released in Microsoft Azure and stress-tested in real-world through over 1.7 million Azure SQL DB databases," wrote Sirosh. "It is battle-tested and dozens of our customers have already been running on-premises production workloads on SQL Server 2016 prior to its general availability, a strong testament to its maturity as a product."

Based on the scope and number of new features, Microsoft is touting SQL Server 2016 as one of its biggest product releases. Its availability comes as Microsoft aims to cut into Oracle's lead in the enterprise database space. According to Microsoft, the SQL Server 2016 Enterprise edition, which includes every add-on available out of the box, is 11.7 times less expensive than a comparable database package from Oracle. Microsoft is also giving free SQL Server licenses to those who make the switch from a competing database platform to SQL Server.

Microsoft listed the different versions of SQL Server 2016 last month. According to Microsoft's comprehensive pricing chart, the Enterprise version is available with a per-core licensing model or at an open no level estimated retailer price of $14,256.

The company is also offering a free evaluation version of its platform, called SQL Server 2016 Developer, which includes the full feature set and will allow for the creation and testing of apps in a non-production environment for Visual Studio and MSDN subscribers.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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