Microsoft Dishes Up New Flavor of SQL Server 2008

Microsoft announced a new revision of its SQL server software Wednesday, a version that the software maker is hailing as the “most complete information platform for managing, accessing and delivering information” in the corporate environment.

“It’s definitely a complete platform because it gets them to the scale that they wanted to get to in terms of managing data,” Rushabh Mehta, president of theProfessional Association for SQL Server, told TechNewsWorld.

“It gets them to one place that they were missing and the one place that customers wanted to see them at,” he added.

The latest version of the software, SQL Server 2008 R2, which is expected to be available to users in early May, increases its scalability support. Now it can support up to 256 logical processors, compared to 64 in prior editions.

Improved scalability in SQL server is a welcome addition for PTC, a maker of product lifecycle management software. “Our product data sets are huge,” PTC Senior Vice President for Corporate Development Ian Michel explained to TechNewsWorld. “Our data sets are so large, we need to have a scalable database that can grow with the data sets that our customers use, so scalability is big for us.”

Not Quite a Platform

Calling SQL Server an “information platform” may be an overstatement, according to Brent Ozar, a SQL Server MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional) with Quest Software. “Calling SQL Server an ‘information platform’ is a little misleading,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s a very, very big box with a lot of software stuffed into it.”

For example, the R2 release of the program has two disparate features, StreamInsight and PowerPivot. One feature is designed for developers, he explained, the other for data junkies.

“The fact that they’re both enabled by SQL Server 2008 R2 is awesome, but calling it an information platform is a little bit of a stretch,” he maintained.

“I have to hand it to Microsoft, though,” he added, “nobody else is enabling so much information transfer in one box, let alone at that price.”

Retail pricing for the new software varies. For example, a processor license for an enterprise edition of the program is US$24,999. On the other hand, a server license for a workgroup version of the software is $730.

Deep and Lasting Impact

With R2, Microsoft has improved SQL Server’s self-service business intelligence features, Mehta asserted. “There’s more of a focus on the information worker and how they have to interact with the data,” he explained.

One example of that is the introduction of PowerPivot. “It allows them to take data into Excel from a number of distant data sources and analyze data very easily,” he observed. “From an information worker’s capabilities, that’s a huge leap forward.”

PowerPivot received praise from Quest’s Ozar, as well. “[I]t’s going to have a deep and lasting impact on the way people interact with SQL Server,” he declared.

“PowerPivot plays to one of Microsoft’s best strengths: its absolute dominance of the enterprise desktop,” he continued. “Everybody uses Office, and PowerPivot brings the power of SQL Server to the Office users.

“In the past,” he added, “we’ve been able to query SQL Server from Excel, but it’s been painful at best. PowerPivot makes it easy for power users to do the kinds of analysis they’ve wanted to do for years.”

Better Insight Into Information

In introducing this latest incarnation of SQL server, Microsoft said its aim is to help customers cope with their growing information burdens.

“Our goal is to help customers extract value and business insight from that information, whether it is stored locally on their PC, in a data center or in the cloud,” Microsoft Business Platform Division Senior Vice President Ted Kummert.

“Today’s release of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2,” he added, “is a big step forward in transforming how the IT department, the software developers, and end users interact and gain insight from data.”

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