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Microsoft gives tour of new release of SQL Server

Microsoft gave PASS Summit 2010 attendees a walk-through of its Denali SQL Server release, demoing its AlwaysOn, FileTable and expanded SQL Server Integration Services features.

SEATTLE – With all of the high-profile announcements at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) event here over the past few days, one might think interest among attendees would level off – especially after Tuesday’s sneak preview of Microsoft’s next SQL Server release code-named Denali and a string of demonstrations that left the audience buzzing with excitement.

Yet while anticipation of Tuesday’s announcement was enough to fill the auditorium at the Washington State Convention Center, Wednesday's walk-through of the next-generation technology – with Microsoft promising to hand out CDs of the Community Technology Preview release – was similarly standing room only.

Quentin Clark, general manager of Microsoft's Database Systems Group, was the tour guide for a deeply technical trek through this particular Denali. The next SQL Server release is designed for high availability and scalability, and adds development tools and business intelligence (BI) capabilities.

It all started, Clark said, with the changing expectations of SQL Server users.

“We hear from customers,” he said. “They want incredible availability options. They want greater flexibility. They want it to be easier. They want it to be available to more apps."

To deliver those features, Clark said, Microsoft has enhanced its mission-critical platform with new tools, including AlwaysOn, functionality designed for the promised increased availability. In an on-stage demonstration, Gopal Ashok, of SQL Server product management, showed how database administrators can use the feature to easily configure replicated databases. A user can set the software for automatic failover or for manual failover combined with synchronous replication.

The AlwaysOn feature also comes with a dashboard that a DBA can unlock and move around. “It allows you to get a very visual view of the configuration,” Ashok said.

Another new feature is FileTable, a tool based on Microsoft's Filestream technology that manages and stores files directly in SQL Server.

What Denali offers compared with what is available in SQL Server 2008 R2 struck a chord with audience members, some of whom couldn’t wait to get the word out.

“I was just tweeting about this earlier,” said Bryan Smith, a senior database developer with the Washington State Digital Archives in Cheney. “I commented, ‘It’s not just something for everybody, it’s a whole lot for everybody.' "

One feature that impressed Smith kept with Denali’s Alaskan theme: Project Juneau, an enhanced SQL Server tool that integrates Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio.

“To have it on Visual Studio is really, really nice,” he said. “It’s back in one house.”

Other features, like AlwaysOn, generated interest, but some users found them lacking.

“It’s not quite what I had hoped,” said Joe McWilliams, a DBA with Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. “It’s not a scale-out technology as much as a failover technology.”

He compared it with SQL Server competitor Oracle’s Real Application Clusters technology. “That’s the thing to beat,” he said. “Technologically, it’s not a match.”

Another feature detailed by Microsoft was improved SQL Server Integration Services, which adds Data Quality Services to clean up data, and an “undo” option, which drew reaction from the crowd.

The latter option earned kudos from Roy Sleight, a BI analyst with BYU-Idaho. “That’s huge, just adding that feature,” he said.

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