Microsoft issues first beta of ‘Denali’ SQL Server

Microsoft on Tuesday will unveil the first developer preview of “Denali,” the next major release of SQL Server, and will start shipping a data warehouse appliance stemming from its 2008 acquisition of DATAllegro.

Microsoft boasts that SQL Server has an install base of 11 million servers, largest in terms of unit share. But Microsoft is only in third place behind Oracle and IBM in terms of relational database revenue, according to Gartner.

Denali will be the successor to SQL Server 2008 R2, which was released to manufacturing earlier this year. The first Community Technology Preview (CTP) will be available for download at Microsoft’s SQL Server site. Microsoft isn’t yet saying whether a final release of Denali will be available at any point in 2011. The SQL Server team will issue as many betas as they believe necessary before a stable release comes out.

The DATAllegro announcement has Microsoft releasing SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse, a partnership with hardware vendors including HP that is targeted at customers with highly parallel applications. The warehousing appliance will be sold in racks of 11 or 22 nodes, with a per-processor software pricing of $38,255.

The HP version of the Data Warehouse Appliance will be available in mid-December with pricing starting at $900,000, but customers will have to purchase Microsoft software and support separately.

This is the first product resulting from the DATAllegro acquisition, and it integrates DATAllegro technology with SQL Server. HP is the first hardware partner to help Microsoft deliver products based on the technology, while the database vendor Bull is on board for future releases.

“The appliance is an emerging industry trend,” says Microsoft General Manager Eugene Saburi. “Consumers are looking for simplicity in the way they consume technologies. We’re trying to take some of that complexity out by shipping pre-configured and pre-optimized appliances.”

The Parallel Data Warehouse will compete against the likes of Oracle’s Exadata platform and IBM’s appliances. As IBM has data warehousing appliances of its own, Big Blue will not be partnering with Microsoft on this venture, according to Saburi.

Microsoft is pairing its new appliance with a Critical Advantage Program service plan that guarantees 30-minute response times and the proverbial “one-throat-to-choke,” so customers don’t have to call both Microsoft and HP every time they have a problem.

Microsoft announced the new technology and service at the PASS Summit in Seattle, a conference produced by the Professional Association for SQL Server.

Microsoft and HP promised that the Parallel Data Warehouse will be deeply integrated with Microsoft’s business intelligence software, and that the appliance will improve “data access with massive scalability and faster query times than traditional SQL Server databases.”

The developer preview of Denali, meanwhile, has four new features that Microsoft highlighted in a press release. They are as follows:

* SQL Server AlwaysOn, which Microsoft describes as “a Web-based support and analysis tool that pushes out best practices, helps troubleshoot configuration problems, resolves issues faster, reduces downtime and improves performance.”

* Apollo, “a new column-store database technology delivering significantly greater query performance.”

* Crescent, “a Web-based, highly interactive data visualization and presentation solution designed to enable business customers to quickly gain meaningful insights from data.”

* Juneau, “a single development portal for data and application developers.”

Column-store, as opposed to row-oriented systems, is “definitely where the future is,” but this is Microsoft’s first release with the technology, Saburi says. Using Denali, Saburi says Microsoft was able to cut the query time on some very large databases from eight minutes down to two seconds.

Microsoft’s packed SQL Server announcement includes two more bits of news. Customers can now sign up for a beta service code-named “Atlanta,” which will let IT pros access analytics that can help them avoid configuration problems and other issues.

Finally, Microsoft also says it will offer an updated Microsoft Certified Master certification program for SQL Server experts that will help these IT pros increase their visibility and “reinforce their value in the market.”

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