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SQL Server 2008 R2: April Launch Brings May Release

The way Microsoft sees it, a launch tour is not the same thing as a product launch. The April "SQL Server 2008 R2 Launch" promo described here will be an event celebrating the impending product release. It will be held in Nuess, Germany in conjunction with the PASS European Conference meeting of SQL Server pros.

Sometimes a launch event and an actual product launch coincide, as noted by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley with regard to Office 2010 launching on May 12. SharePoint 2010's launch is also associated with that May 12 event.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the May product launch for SQL Server 2008 R2.

"As we announced in January 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2 is still on target for availability by May and will be on the May price list," the spokesperson explained by e-mail. "There will be dozens of events and webcasts worldwide starting about that timeframe."

The current release of SQL Server 2008 R2 is at the community technology preview (CTP) stage, although it's considered "feature complete," as Microsoft announced in January. Microsoft typically rolls out betas, release candidates and release-to-manufacturing versions before a product is released into general availability (GA), but maybe not this time.

"I think it's quite likely that SQL Server 2008 R2 will release to manufacturing in April and be available to customers by May at the latest," said Robert Helm, a director of research at the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, in an e-mail.

The R2 nomenclature signals that Microsoft considers this version of SQL Server to have incremental improvements. Highlighted features include a self-service business intelligence capability using PowerPivot (formerly code-named "Project Gemini") and complex event processing support using a feature called StreamInsight. Two new product offerings also will be rolled out: a Datacenter SKU and a Parallel Data Warehouse SKU ("Project Madison").

"Business intelligence features are the most compelling thing about R2 and will probably drive most upgrades," Helm said. "The business intelligence features address both ends of the spectrum. PowerPivot will enable departments to set up smaller-scale BI systems for expert Excel users, while Madison will enable SQL Server to tackle the highest-end data warehouses."

Microsoft has also been putting out the word that SQL Server 2008 R2 will entail a price increase for customers who lack Software Assurance (SA). SA is a licensing option that lets users upgrade to the next product iteration at no extra cost over the SA contract's time span -- if a new product is released within that time span.

"The price per processor license for 2008 R2 Standard Edition will increase 25 percent," explained Lesley Rubin, a Microsoft partner marketing manager for the U.S. Central Region. "For the R2 Enterprise Edition, the price per processor will increase 15 percent. For both editions, server CAL licensing will remain flat. This price increase will take effect upon General Availability of R2 this May."

SQL Server 2008 R2 will offer fewer virtualization rights than SQL Server 2008. Currently, SQL Server 2008 users have unlimited virtualization rights, according to Microsoft's pricing and licensing guide (Word doc download). However, to get "maximum virtualization" rights with SQL Server 2008 R2, customers will have to pay for the more expensive Datacenter product license, per Microsoft's overview document (PDF download).

Helm confirmed that prices are going up for the Standard and Enterprise versions of SQL Server 2008 R2, adding that the Datacenter edition will have "the most interesting new features in the core database engine."

"R2 is clearly a push to keep customers on Software Assurance, and they will be the ones who have the strongest case for moving to the new database engine," Helm added.

SA customers still might have to pay to get the R2 version if their SA contract expires before the GA release.

"Customers with Software Assurance can deploy and run SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard and Enterprise editions with no price increase until they hit the first renewal after GA," Rubin explained in the blog.

The current release of SQL Server 2008 R2, known as the "November CTP," currently can be downloaded for free at this Microsoft site.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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