SQL Server 2016 is set to be generally available on the 1st June 2016, this latest instalment of the software being the first in 2 years. This latest version is packed full with new features that its predecessors didn’t have, and comes in four editions: Enterprise, Standard, Developer and Express with the latter two being free, similar to the 2014 version.
A new Stretch Database function allows users to store some of their data in a database on premises and send infrequently used data to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. A user connected to the database that is using this feature can still see all the data from different sources whether it be in the datacentre, in their private cloud or on Azure. With this new functionality it allows providers such as VooServers, who specialise in tailored managed service solutions, to offer a variety of hybrid infrastructure designs between our own servers, Microsoft Azure and traditional on-premise SQL servers to achieve a fully customised, flexible and cost effective enterprise database.
A feature implemented in the 2014 version was the concept of in memory tables, this was introduced for high-speed loading of data with no locking issues or high volume session state issues. This was always a great idea but was never executed very well in the 2014 version with many limitations and constraints. In the latest version this feature has been truly upgraded, giving support of foreign keys, checks and unique constraints and parallelism. In addition, the tables have had their max storage size upgraded from 256GB to 2TB.
The 2016 version also comes with an always encrypted function, allowing users to encrypt their data at the column level both at rest and memory. This feature gives clients the ability to encrypt sensitive data inside client applications and never reveal the encryption keys to the Database Engine. This provides a separation between the people who own the data and those who manage the data.
In addition, this latest version comes with Query Store. A problem that many organisations faced when updating from one version of SQL to the next is changes in the query optimiser negatively impacting the performance. What the Query Store does is maintain a history of query execution plans with their performance data, it quickly identifies queries that have become slower, letting the administrators or developer force the use of an older and faster query.
One announcement that has left many people surprised, is the future SQL Server compatibility with Linux, which is not solely Windows based. Unfortunately, SQL Server for Linux isn’t due to come out till mid 2017 and won’t be released with the full array of features like its windows counterpart. When it is released it is set to have a version of SQL Server with relational database support, leaving out the business intelligence side of the software for a later date.
With Microsoft releasing SQL Server to Linux it gives them the capability to now compete with other server applications such as Oracle, it could also be an indication that Microsoft are planning on releasing more of its server applications to Linux in the future. To tide over the Linux audience, Microsoft are offering free migrations from Oracle to SQL Server with free licenses, making it pretty clear where they are targeting SQL for Linux. Microsoft publicly proclaimed its love for Linux in late 2014 saying that 20% of Azure Clouds run on Linux and now they are releasing SQL Server for Linux. This could be where Microsoft sees itself in the future of the datacentre, with them predominantly having cloud based services.