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A first look at Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2

Get details on the new features and improvements that are expected to be apart of Microsoft's upcoming SQL Server release, set to launch in early 2010.

At TechEd North American 2009, Microsoft announced that its next release of SQL Server - codenamed Kilimanjaro - will now be dubbed SQL Server 2008 R2.

Although IT professionals and the general public are used to seeing R2 at the end of Microsoft product releases, many of them still want clarification on what it means for SQL Server.

Typically, Microsoft follows a cycle of alternating between major and minor releases of its products. Therefore, major product releases, like SQL Server, Windows and Exchange Server, usually don't undergo major changes for at least four years. Minor updates however, like with the R2 product line, are usually introduced every two years or so.

This article will provide an overview of the benefits, new features and improvements to expect with SQL Server 2008 R2.

Improved scalability
By leveraging the new hardware enhancements associated with the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008 R2 will be able to support up to 56 logical processors and 2 TB of RAM. These enhancements will allow organizations to handle significantly larger workloads as well as increase the number of servers, instances and databases that can be consolidated on a single platform.

Consolidation tools

SQL Server 2008 R2 will [offer] a new set of tools designed to simplify the information gathering process and thereby decrease turnaround time when consolidating instances and databases.

Consolidation is a great way to reduce total cost of ownership associated with a SQL Server 2008 infrastructure. Unfortunately, the analysis that is affiliated with gathering existing data – including performance metrics - is rather time consuming and in many cases can cause a halt in the consolidation initiative.

SQL Server 2008 R2 will address this anomaly by offering a new set of tools designed to simplify the information gathering process and thereby decrease turnaround time when consolidating instances and databases.

Stronger management for multiple instances and databases
Another challenge DBAs are faced with when consolidating numerous instances on a single host with SQL Server 2008 is the need for a robust toolset to manage workloads between all instances within that host.

For example, although IT professionals can leverage the Resource Governor within an instance, it cannot manage workloads across multiple instances. By implementing new centralized management servers with SQL Server 2008 R2, IT professionals can rapidly add databases into a centralized server, view elements holistically through a centralized dashboard, and extend policies from the centralized server to manage workloads, databases and instances across the SQL Server infrastructure.

This new feature is sure to be met with excitement from DBAs.

Pervasive insight with business intelligence
Self-service analysis with project Gemini should allow for tight integration with SQL Server 2008 R2 and the upcoming release of Office Excel 2010. Through Excel 2010, end users can not only generate and integrate reports from multiple sources, but they can also perform various types of analysis including calculations on millions of records at expeditious speeds.

IT professional will also see a tight integration with SharePoint 2010, where reports are published for centralized viewing while various levels of security and versioning are applied.

The buzz behind self-service is heightened by the understanding that organizations will no longer require expensive consultants to manufacture BI reports as the knowledgeable worker should be able to leverage SQL Server, Excel and SharePoint to complete most tasks. Thus far, it seems that there will be many cost saving benefits with SQL Server 2008 R2.

Master Data Services
Most organizations have multiple copies of data or databases throughout their enterprises. For example, an organization's sales department may be using a customer database that is completely different than the one used by the marketing department.

The inaccuracies and inconsistencies of different databases can lead to wasted time, incorrect decisions, and, in some cases, revenue loss. By integrating Master Data Services with SQL Server 2008 R2, organizations can achieve data continuity and consistency throughout their enterprises by centralizing master data and, if necessary, tracking down versions of master data to a specific point in time.

Reporting server enhancements
One of the biggest additions to SQL Server 2008 was the ability to extend location based data through spatial data. SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services goes even further by extending the capability of geospatial visualization through maps, routing and custom shapes. Moreover, reporting gets a facelift by providing developers and end users with powerful new tools to author, centralize and implement reports in a centralized manner.

SQL Server 2008 R2 is currently in development and is tentatively scheduled for release in the first half of 2010. Because of the tight integration with SharePoint 2010 and Office Excel 2010, the release date will be in conjunction with the next Office 2010 product release.

A Community Technology Preview (CTP) will most likely be offered this summer, and you can register for a SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP notification via Microsoft's website. Finally be aware that this article was written based on public information on SQL Server 2008 R2. Since the product is in beta, the features and functionality discussed are subject to change.


Ross Mistry is a principal consultant at Convergent Computing, a best-selling author and a SQL Server MVP. He installs SQL Server, Active Directory, SharePoint and Exchange Server software within Fortune 500 organizations in the Silicon Valley. His SQL Server and SharePoint specialties include high availability, security, migrations and virtualization. You can follow him on Twitter @RossMistry. 

Shirmattie Seenarine is an independent technical writer with more than 10 years of experience. She has contributed to many books, including Windows Server 2008 Unleashed, Exchange Server 2007 Unleashed, SharePoint Server 2007 Unleashed and SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration

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