Microsoft finalizes SQL Server 2012

Brian Bloom is a staff writer at ComputerWorld Canada. You can find him on Google+. He covers enterprise hardware and software, information architecture and security topics.

Microsoft Corp. says it has finished work on the new version of SQL Server, which includes new columnar and in-memory storage capabilities. 
The company said Tuesday it has released SQL Server 2012 for manufacturing and the database will be generally available on April 1. It marks the latest move made by the software giant in the big data game it is playing with rivals SAP AG, Teradata Corp. and Oracle Corp., each of which is racing to incorporate improved business intelligence tools into their database products. 
Solid-state storage and columnar compression capabilities are key to getting faster database queries. Forrester Research analyst James Kobielus says the release is part of an “ongoing trend to bring more of these in-memory and columnar technologies into the front-end to accelerate BI.”
“I think the columnar is the most important thing,” he says. “It makes Microsoft SQL Server a far more capable database, inherently, for the new generation of BI. Fast queries, fast BI. They’ve already got the scalability story nailed down with parallel data warehouse scaling to the petabytes.” 
The new SQL Server will perform functions “very similar to what SAP does in the HANA platform,” he adds.
Kobielus says the big database vendors are all essentially developing the same technologies to speed up business intelligence, just taking slightly different routes. Microsoft, Teradata and SAP, he says, “have columnar storage in the front-end data tier.” Meanwhile, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle have already integrated in-memory capability into their appliances, with Teradata hot on their heels.
“Now that Teradata’s gone columnar on Teradata 14,” he says, “I strongly expect they’ll have an in-memory appliance sometime, maybe by the end of this year, at least in beta, to match what their arch-competitors Oracle and SAP are doing.”
Even the vendors that don’t offer either capability in their software will probably have them soon, he says. “IBM: they don’t have a columnar database and they don’t yet have an in-memory database but I suspect they will this year.”
While Kobielus says it’s hard to speculate on which company will get the technological edge, he does note that Microsoft’s current offerings tend to be among the easiest on the pocketbook.
“In terms of pricing, Microsoft’s one of the least expensive providers of data warehousing appliances on the market, starting at around $11,000 USD per terabyte with their low-end Fast Track.”

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