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Frequently Asked Questions: SQL Server 2008 R2

Not sure what to make of R2? Here you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions involving the latest database server release from Microsoft.

Do you have questions about SQL Server 2008 R2? You’re not the only one. Below you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions surrounding Microsoft’s latest database system, with links to more information on many of R2’s new features and capabilities.

I thought SQL Server 2010 was originally set for release this year. Is R2 the same thing?

Pretty much. SQL Server 2008 R2 has gone through a bit of an identity crisis. For a while it was known by the code name Kilimanjaro, with the expectation that it would be officially dubbed SQL Server 2010. Then, in mid-2009, Microsoft announced that the next release will in fact be called SQL Server 2008 R2.

Just like with Windows Server 2008 and other products, Microsoft has gotten into the habit of putting out “R2” versions of its major system releases. So while R2 builds on what was originally available with SQL Server 2008, no major changes have been made to the database engine itself.

Don’t be fooled though – R2 still comes with plenty of new features and functionality.

So, what is the biggest change from SQL Server 2008 to R2?

That really depends on whom you ask. One big change involves scalability. SQL Server 2008 R2 will have editions that support up to 256 logical processors, an increase from the maximum support of 64 logical processors with past releases. This could help answer some of the scalability questions that are often directed at SQL Server (and help ensure that it keeps pace with Oracle in the database server market).

Business intelligence enhancements are making some big noise with R2 as well. One major addition is the inclusion of new master data management functionality, which experts say fits very well alongside Microsoft’s existing business intelligence (BI) platform. The tool is called Master Data Services, and it comes from Microsoft’s 2007 acquisition of Stratature.

What else is new with business intelligence for R2?

The other biggie – as you’ve probably heard – is PowerPivot, which has been in development for a while. The technology provides managed self-service for enterprise business intelligence. Think of PowerPivot as SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) for users. In other words, while SSAS is Microsoft’s traditional tool for BI data analysis at an organizational level, PowerPivot is designed to meet the more focused BI needs of end users through integration with Microsoft Excel and SharePoint.(Note: This SQL Server blog post by Microsoft’s Ashvini Sharma provides a great explanation of how PowerPivot and SSAS differ and the ideal use cases for each.)

As for Microsoft’s other business intelligence tools, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) adds to previous geospatial data types by offering new visualization mapping capabilities for reports. You can check out some of these mapping features in action with Report Builder 3.0, which also includes loads of new data visualization enhancements for charts, gauges and matrix reports.

OK, enough about BI. What are some other new SQL Server 2008 R2 features?

You might have heard that R2 will include some new multi-server management capabilities. For example, Microsoft beefed up SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) dashboards to let DBAs monitor and manage multiple instances (and ideally their entire enterprise) from a single screen. Unfortunately, it sounds like this functionality is not extended to SQL Server Express instances, which is something to keep in mind.

What’s new for developers in R2?

SQL Server 2008 R2 brings with it data-tier applications, or DACs for short, to help simplify the process of deploying apps to a production server. While a DAC can be extracted by a DBA through SSMS, developers will need the recently released Visual Studio 2010 to create and edit data-tier applications. Incidentally, DAC support is among the latest enhancements made for Microsoft’s SQL Azure Database.

I heard there are two new editions of SQL Server 2008 R2. What should I know about them?

That’s correct. SQL Server 2008 R2 with be released as Datacenter and Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) editions in addition to the usual options. These are designed for SQL Server deployments in enterprises with large-scale – you guessed it – data centers and data warehouses.

One big thing to keep in mind is that the Datacenter edition of R2 will have unlimited instance rights to customers. This is important because with SQL Server 2008, it was the Enterprise edition that provided this – but not anymore. The Datacenter edition will also support up to 256 logical processors, as mentioned above.

Aside from that, the Parallel Data Warehouse edition of SQL Server 2008 R2 has really gotten most of the press between the two. Formerly code-named Madison, PDW comes from Microsoft’s acquisition of DATAllegro back in 2008. It’s designed to have more processing power for large organizations with, well, super-huge data warehouses, allowing them to be scaled over multiple physical SQL Servers.

All that extra power comes at a price, however, so the Parallel Data Warehouse edition will likely only be of interest to the big boys for now.

Hey, speaking of price, how much is an upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2 going to cost?

Licensing costs for SQL Server 2008 R2 vary depending on which edition you choose, so when you factor that into everything else, the bottom line will be unique for everyone. For those who have already migrated to SQL Server 2008 and have Microsoft Software Assurance, however, the update to R2 is free. Outside of that, you’ll have to put in some research to decide whether R2’s new features are worth the upgrade costs.

What is something I probably don’t know about SQL Server 2008 R2?

SQL Server 2008 R2 will be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s latest virtualization enhancements with Hyper-V R2, including Live Migration. As our friend Denny Cherry pointed out recently, though, it appears Live Migration support will not extend to any editions outside of R2’s Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter, such as SQL Server Express.

Finally, when is SQL Server 2008 R2 available?

The database server was released to manufacturing (RTM) in April 2010 with a full launch planned for early May. While this was originally expected to include all editions, Microsoft has announced that SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse edition will be pushed back until the second half of 2010. A final technology preview of PDW has already been made available.

I still have lots of questions about SQL Server 2008 R2. Where can I find the answers?

We have plenty of articles and resources on SQL Server 2008 R2 at SearchSQLServer.com. Of course, you can also visit the Microsoft website to get more details on the new features and functionality included.

If you still can't find the answers you are looking for, post your questions to our IT Knowledge Exchange forum for fast responses from your peers and industry experts.

This was last published in April 2010

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