SQL Server 2014 overview part 2: Availability and scalability features

Robert Sheldon, Contributor

This is the second of two parts taking an overview of Microsoft SQL Server 2014, due out in late 2013 or early 2014. This part focuses on availability and scalability. The first part was on SQL Server 2014 in-memory and cloud features.

Microsoft has extended availability of its database product with SQL Server 2014. As noted in the first part of this overview, the number of supported secondary replicas has increased from four to eight. In addition, the secondary replicas permit read workloads to run even if the network should fail or the underlying Windows Server Failover Cluster service has lost the quorum, which was not the case in SQL Server 2012. In addition, SQL Server 2014 delivers enhanced diagnostic information, error messages have been simplified, and details are easier to find and correlate.

SQL Server 2014 also achieves greater availability by supporting Cluster Shared Volumes (CSVs). The Failover Cluster service uses CSV to let nodes within a cluster access a shared disk for read and write operations. As a result, multiple SQL Server cluster nodes can be connected to the same volume at the same time. If a SQL Server cluster node loses its storage connection, it can use a different node's connection. In addition, if you partition your tables, SQL Server 2014 now lets you rebuild a partition's indexes online. You can also specify lock priorities when switching partitions, which can lead to lower CPU, locking and memory overhead.

Along with greater availability, SQL Server 2014 can also achieve greater scalability through its integration with Windows Server 2012 R2. In a physical environment, you can scale up to 640 logical processors and 4 TB of memory. In a virtual machine (VM), you're limited to 64 virtual processors and 1 TB of memory, although that's still a significant amount of power. You can also take advantage of network virtualization, which abstracts the network layer and makes it easier to migrate SQL Server from one data center to the other. In addition, you can use storage virtualization to create pools of storage and storage tiers, which let you prioritize how data is stored.

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SQL Server 2014: Something for everyone

Certainly, SQL Server 2014 has made some promising strides when it comes to in-memory enhancements, cloud integration, availability and scalability. Yet the improvements don't stop there. In the area of security, you'll also find added features. For example, SQL Server 2014 now includes capabilities for creating roles and sub-roles in order to achieve greater separation of duties. With the right settings, a database administrator can manage data without being able to read that data, and an auditor can access data without needing to manage the server. In addition, SQL Server 2014 now provides a resource governor for I/O, has updated Sysprep at the cluster level, and has in general improved query performance. Plus, you'll find plenty of other new and enhanced features.

Indeed, SQL Server 2014 seems to offer something for everybody. But keep in mind that we still have only the CTP and a rumored release date to work with. Until we see the final product, we won't know for sure if Microsoft will be able to deliver all the new features they're promising -- or whether there will be additional features we've not yet heard about. Details about licensing are also still in flux, although it appears Microsoft plans to follow the same model it introduced in SQL Server 2012. So there's definitely more to come in the SQL Server 2014 story, but what we've seen so far is a good start, especially for those organizations that can most benefit from the in-memory enhancements, improved cloud integration, and enhanced availability and scalability.

About the author:
Robert Sheldon is a technical consultant and the author of numerous books, articles and training material related to Microsoft Windows, various relational database management systems, and business intelligence design and implementation. You can find more information at http://www.rhsheldon.com.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Eight key SQL Server 2014 features or view the full guide: SQL 2014: Investigating Microsoft's latest database release

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