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SQL Server 2008 R2 Hits RTM, Release in May

Microsoft today announced that SQL Server 2008 R2 has achieved release-to-manufacturing status and will be released in May worldwide.

Subscribers to Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN professional services will be able to download SQL Server 2008 R2 on May 3. Microsoft plans to release the product globally on May 13.

The announcement came via a conference call with Ted Kummert, senior vice president of the Microsoft Business Platform Division and Tom Casey, general manager of SQL Server business intelligence. Microsoft also included testimonials from three customers who had deployed the R2 version, which represents an incremental release over SQL Server 2008.

Kummert, in his talk and his blog post, emphasized the need for organizations to deal with volumes of data and glean better information across various platforms, including mobile formats. He depicted SQL Server 2008 R2 as enabling mission-critical operations while automating tasks for IT pros and providing dev tools through Visual Studio 2010.

However, the main theme of Kummert and others on the conference call was self-service business intelligence (BI), allowing "pervasive insight" into an organization's data. To achieve that, organizations are going to need SQL Server 2008 R2 along with other products in the Microsoft software stack, such as Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

According to Microsoft's concept, IT pros will be freed from having to run as many reports and queries for end users because of self-service BI capabilities enabled by the 2010 product stack. BI can be generated using familiar tools, such as Microsoft Excel. Office 2010 will include a PowerPivot feature in Excel that facilitates BI and data sharing through SharePoint. A number of reporting services improvements for end users will be facilitated through the R2 release, as described in this blog.

Other improvements in the R2 release are standardization of data use in an organization via master data services, a complex event processing (CEP) capability called "StreamInsight," and application and multiserver management support. The various management tools for IT pros in the R2 release are described in this MSDN Library article. A complete matrix showing the various features per edition of SQL Server 2008 R2 can be accessed here.

According to James Kobielus, senior analyst at Forrester Research, the CEP and BI improvements provide a differentiation point for Microsoft compared with database management system (DBMS) competitors like Oracle.

"What's most notable is the integration of CEP into the DBMS, and into Microsoft's BI stack as a whole," Kobielus said via e-mail. "Oracle doesn't offer that level of CEP integration with its DBMS."

Microsoft is saying that SQL Server 2008 R2 can scale up to 256 logical processors and that it has shown good results on Transaction Performance Council benchmarks measuring performance-to-cost data.

Microsoft is promising users scalability through leveraging SQL Azure, which is part of Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud computing platform. On Friday, Microsoft announced in a blog that it had improved SQL Azure features, including enabling application and multiserver management tools for data-tier applications. According to that blog, this improvement "further streamlines application design and enables deployments of database applications directly from SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 to SQL Azure for database deployment flexibility."

One caveat is that upgrades to data-tier applications in SQL Azure currently aren't supported, according to this Microsoft blog post. Instead, users have to migrate the data.

Noel Yuhanna, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that SQL Azure uses the same TDS protocol as SQL Server, making it easier to move applications between the cloud and on-premises installations. It also simplifies the learning curve by enabling the use of common tools. However, SQL Azure's scale is limited for now.

"[SQL Azure] only supports 10 GB database size, but Microsoft is likely to increase this limit gradually over the years," Yuhanna said via e-mail. "Today, you cannot run a large app on SQL Azure, but it will be possible in the coming years. Any DBMS such as Oracle, IBM DB2 or Sybase can run on the cloud, but Microsoft SQL Azure is the only cloud database that's multitenant-supported on the public cloud."

In May, Microsoft plans to release the Standard and Enterprise editions, as well as the Datacenter edition, of SQL Server 2008 R2. The Parallel Data Warehouse version, formerly code-named "Madison," won't be part of this May release. Microsoft plans to talk more about Parallel Data Warehouse, which is currently undergoing tests, sometime this summer.

Users can upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2 from as far back as SQL Server 2000, according to this Microsoft blog post. However, those organizations without the Software Assurance (SA) licensing option or whose SA coverage falls outside of the R2 release will face a price increase of as much as 25 percent per processor on the Standard edition. Users also get fewer virtualization rights under the R2 release compared with SQL Server 2008, unless they pay for Datacenter edition licensing.

Microsoft provides a "digital tour" of SQL Server 2008 R2 here and has scheduled a launch event coinciding with the PASS European Conference event in Nuess, Germany on April 21.

About the Author

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

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