Microsoft on Wednesday announced the release to manufacturing of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. The new platform for managing, accessing and delivering information will roll out in early May in conjunction with 85 live launch events around the world.
Microsoft is throwing out some early numbers to prove support for SQL Server 2008: More than 2,000 independent software vendors plan to build solutions on the platform; the likes of SAP, Kronos and Epicor are supporting it; and 300,000 customers have downloaded the community technology previews.
According to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, customers have been waiting for R2 because it offers greater efficiency and better tuning between the hardware and software.
"As Intel and AMD have released these parts that have tons of cores and a significant amount of management capability," he said, "this is the version of SQL that now makes use of both the cores and the management capability."
Tapping the BI Trend
Microsoft is tapping into the demand for business intelligence (BI) with its latest iteration of SQL Server. Ted Kummert, senior vice president of the business platform division at Microsoft, noted that customers are continually receiving and creating greater amounts of data.
"Our goal is to help customers extract value and business insight from that information, whether it is stored locally on their PC, in a data center, or in the cloud," Kummert said. He sees the latest release as a major step forward.
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 offers several key enhancements, including managed self-service BI for reporting and analysis, -class scalability and greater IT efficiency, and platform integration spanning the data center to the cloud. It has new BI technology called PowerPivot that lets users bring data from virtually anywhere and manipulate large datasets with ease while still enabling IT to monitor and manage user-generated BI solutions.
"SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel aligns well with our strategic plan of making it easier to empower bank staff with pervasive business intelligence," said Ken Christie, CFO at the Bank of New Zealand. "Eventually we'll promote the new SQL Server BI capabilities, including PowerPivot for SharePoint Server 2010, to a much wider audience. The BI capabilities of SQL Server 2008 R2 are a big step forward, and we know that many departments can benefit from the insights gained by using the PowerPivot tools."
Pushing Into the Cloud
Microsoft said its latest release focuses on critical data-center needs to help businesses create a more secure, easier to manage, highly available infrastructure. Finally, SQL Server 2008 R2 represents a deeper Microsoft commitment to the cloud via Microsoft SQL Azure.
There are also two new components of Microsoft's information platform: SQL Server 2008 R2 Master Data Services and SQL Server 2008 R2 StreamInsight. Master Data Services helps customers drive better data consistency across heterogeneous systems, while SQL Server 2008 R2 StreamInsight supports high-scale complex event-stream processing.
"This is the best-tuned version of the product so far, but typically they say the second release is where you typically see a nice performance bump on the product, because now they are no longer patching bugs and fixing problems," Enderle said. "They are really focused on tuning the product, and that's what's allowed them to tie the hardware and software back together."