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SQL Server Denali, R2, XP: What sizzles, what doesn’t this summer

With the latest SQL Server Denali CTP out, Microsoft exec Mark Kromer discusses updates and addresses blogosphere buzz about what Denali’s not running on.

Microsoft set loose the newest public community technology preview (CTP) of its upcoming version of SQL Server, code-named Denali, at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last month, and in it are numerous touchups and talked-about but unreleased features like the self-service business intelligence tool Project Crescent.

The release of Denali CTP3 -- CTP1 was out last November, and CTP2 was a limited release -- coincided with another WPC announcement: Support for Windows XP would shrivel up in less than three years. That triggered a lively debate about the operating systems that will support Denali; the nine-year-old XP isn’t one of them.

Denali, though, was forced to share the WPC stage. Microsoft also announced it was releasing Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2008 R2. In this edition of “SQL in Five,” Microsoft data platform specialist Mark Kromer discusses Redmond’s summer updates as well as what’s next for Denali.

Of the new capabilities in Denali CTP 3, what does Microsoft expect will spur the most interest?

Mark Kromer: Of course, CTP 3 was just released [a few] weeks ago, but based on my conversations with customers who had tried CTP 1 and were anticipating CTP 3 were really looking forward to these five features (this is not formal research, just my notes from different organizations):

  • Column-based indexes
  • Project Crescent
  • BISM [Business Intelligence Semantic Model]
  • Visual Studio 2010 integration
  • Data Quality Services

These are additional new features that customers wanted to try out beyond what they already experienced in CTP 1 such as AlwaysOn, Contained Databases, Sequence Objects and user-defined server roles.

Microsoft has not included Windows XP in the proposed list of operating systems that will be supported in Denali. This has sparked a vigorous exchange, with some saying it’s time to move on and others clamoring for support, saying the company is abandoning a giant user base. Is there any chance Microsoft will reconsider and support XP?

Kromer: Currently, on the [SQL Server] Books Online at the time of CTP 3, I don’t see Windows XP listed as a supported OS [operating system] for SQL Server Denali. I don’t know of anything that would say otherwise, although there is quite a bit of chatter and feedback from the SQL Server community around this. Mainly, it is around should Microsoft even support such an old version of Windows. We’ll have to wait and see on this one .

Along with the Denali CTP, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2008 R2, which includes features like the Data-tier Application Component (DAC) Framework for in-place upgrades and support for up to 15,000 partitions. What value do these features hold for companies?

Kromer: I just finished upgrading my 25 R2 instances to SP1. The updates to DAC are very nice, but the adoption of Data-tier Applications, at least in companies that I work with, has been slow such that I don’t think improvements in DACs will be compelling enough for them. But the 15K partitions is a very big feature. I know of several large data warehouse scenarios that I’ve seen where data warehouse and ETL [extract, transform and load] developers will want to partition by date and by hour of day. Nine-hundred ninety-nine was the previous partition limit. And it made it difficult to keep a lot of data online in partitions if you partitioned by the hour. Fifteen thousand partitions means that you can keep much more data online in your partitions in a data warehouse environment.

Will any of the Service Pack 1 features be included in the Denali release?

Kromer: We should see those flow through into Denali. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the current CTP of Denali has things like 15K partitions.

Can we expect to hear more Denali news at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) conference in October?

Kromer: Most definitely. I anticipate hearing a ton of information about Denali readiness, upgrades, migration, new features, et cetera. The PASS event this year should be a very big deal for Denali. Whereas last year was more of a teaser and interesting in that CTP1 was released. We will then be a full year into CTP and it will be very interesting to see what has been baked into the product during that time. Much more to come for news on PASS as we get closer. I will also look forward to announcements around the SQL Azure products as well as we start to release products like Azure Reporting Services, SQL Azure Import/Export with DAC and others that will be announced.

Mark Kromer has more than 16 years experience in IT and software engineering and is well-known in the business intelligence (BI), data warehouse and database communities. He is the Microsoft data platform technology specialist for the mid-Atlantic region. Check out his blog at MSSQLDUDE.

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