During his keynote speech at Microsoft Ignite in Chicago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the public preview of SQL Server 2016 for this summer.
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SQL Server 2016 is the latest iteration of Microsoft's flagship database with new features, and also represents Microsoft's progress toward what Nadella called "mobile first, cloud first" IT. The slogan, he said, indicates a focus on the customer experience across multiple platforms, increased application agility and a solid back end in the cloud. "All of this technology is about business transformation," Nadella said.
New feature promises an 'infinite database'
New features of SQL Server 2016 include Stretch Database, which he described as enabling "an infinite database where you can take even a single table of SQL Server 2016 in your database and stretch it to Azure." In other words, a SQL Server 2016 database can start on-premises and be moved partly into the Microsoft Azure cloud without affecting applications or queries.
Lindsey Allen, Microsoft's principal group program manager for SQL Server core engines, described a scenario in which a business doesn't want to delete any of its old data, so its database keeps growing and growing. This situation makes backing up and restoring the database both difficult and very slow. So, Allen asked, "Why don't we stretch your data out in Azure?"
The result is that "it's as if you're archiving [the data], but still online," she said. This way, the company can keep all of its old data without slowing down SQL Server or having any data out of reach.
Suite offers central control of servers
Nadella also took time in his speech to discuss a new Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS) product and how it fits into the "cloud first, mobile first" strategy. OMS is designed to pull together management of SQL Server systems, other Windows servers and additional types of data center equipment in hybrid cloud environments, making operations data and controls easily accessible across a mix of on-premises and cloud systems. Nadella described it as "one constant control plane for all of your virtual machines, all of your servers, irrespective of what data center they are in." This central setup includes managing disaster recovery, data backup, log analytics, server health and availability and orchestration. "You can orchestrate your clouds using one control plane," Nadella said.
Tracy Daughertypartner group program manager, Microsoft
Other new features coming in SQL Server 2016 include a combination of the rapid online transaction processing capabilities supported by Microsoft's In-Memory OLTP engine with real-time operational analytics features. That will let users apply the in-memory technology to a wider range of applications, not just the transactional ones it currently can run in SQL Server 2014.
Torsten Grabs, a principal program manager lead at Microsoft, explained how the new pairing can help database administrators speed up the data analysis and reporting process. Currently, in order to keep latency low, DBAs replicate their data asynchronously elsewhere when they run analytics reports, he said. Because of the data replication, no matter how fast the reports run, the data is always slightly stale. However, with the combination of real-time analytics and In-Memory OLTP, Grabs said, "you can actually run your data warehouse in real-time with your transactional workload in the same database."
Security aspects focus on long-term threats
Nadella also stressed SQL Server 2016's new security features. The Advanced Threat Analytics on-premises platform is designed to guard against advanced persistent threats, a type of network attack in which an unauthorized person gets access to a network and then remains undetected for a significant period of time. The platform will make it "possible to for every organization to analyze behaviorally all of the threats within the server for these advanced persistent threats," Nadella said. The platform analyzes all incoming threats for behavior patterns that match those of an advanced persistent threat.
Always Encrypted is another new security feature for SQL Server 2016. Its description is simple: "Your data stays encrypted all of the time until you decrypt it," said Allen. Always Encrypted has already received a positive response from Microsoft's more conservative clients, such as banks and healthcare systems, she added.
The changes that are coming with SQL Server 2016 go beyond a set of features. According to Tracy Daugherty, partner group program manager for Microsoft, there is also a broader change in the way Microsoft is going to be thinking about SQL Server. He said, "Our big expansion this summer will be shifting from thinking about individual databases and instead thinking of groups of databases."
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