Seven SQL 2012 Wonders: Why the Switch to “Denali” is A Savvy Move

Making the move to a new version of a relational database management system is no small task. The migration effort can be downright daunting in its complexity. As with the installation of a new OS, organizations face a tremendous implementation, testing and validation effort. In many cases, custom code and stored procedures may have to be re-written, or applications updated, or other processes need to be modified in order to take full advantage of the new database platform.

In the face of all of that effort and investment, why migrate to SQL Server 2012? The Softchoice Navigator has compiled what we view as the seven wonders of SQL 2012 that make the move worthwhile for any organization.

1.)    AlwaysOn – High Availability and Disaster Recovery

Many applications and distributed systems rely on SQL Server databases in order to function. While you might be able to accept a downed server or two in an array of web servers, an outage in SQL Server is frequently the last thing your business can sustain. 

In SQL 2012, Microsoft introduces AlwaysOn to address the need for a highly available SQL Server infrastructure. AlwaysOn is a (high-availability (HA) and disaster-recovery (DR) ready-for-the-enterprise solution that provides a new option for DBAs who previously might have leveraged other options, such as database mirroring or Windows Server Clustering in their SQL environments.

There’s still a great deal for Developers, DBAs, and Systems Engineers to uncover about the AlwaysOn solution and how it will enable seamless failover but the buzz about this feature is considerable. If there’s a key benefit in SQL 2012 that is generating excitement, this is it.

2.)    Give Me Speed

SQL Server 2012 is going to be fast. New technologies like In-Memory Column Store are showing dramatic improvements in the ability to return a dataset from a query. Microsoft reports that in some cases, execution of queries has been up to one hundred times faster than in previous versions of SQL Server. In-Memory Column Store (codenamed “Apollo”)  is an underlying technology in PowerPivot, and is now a core technology in the SQL platform.

Existing features are faster too, including Full-Text Search, which has also been improved to provide faster query execution. Changes to the way that Full-Text Search uses memory, block in db operations, and other changes have resulted in dramatic improvements in its performance.

3.)    Better Data Quality Services

Data input to a SQL database table isn’t always going to be 100% correct, and sometimes it needs to be cleaned up before accurate reports can be produced. But what if there are millions of rows in a table with dozens of fields? A manual effort could take weeks, and probably introduce even more errors.

Data Quality Services (DQS) in SQL 2012 leverages an internal Knowledge Base about what data in specific fields should look like, and once that KB is populated with information about your data, DQS will be able to ensure high quality data and that your reports will be accurate. What’s best about the DQS feature is that it doesn’t take a highly skilled DBA to configure and use – end users can manage that process themselves.

4.)    Beefed Up BI Capabilities

SQL 2012 includes improved Business Intelligence capabilities, powered by a Project “Crescent”. Crescent is part of SQL Reporting Services, and allows users to visually represent data, enabling an interactive way to gain real business intelligence from the information at hand.

A further benefit of using AlwaysOn is that mirror servers can be used to create and run reports. Using Crescent, those reports, or ad-hoc queries, can be run against target servers that are part of a Database Availability Group, which allows real-time reporting without affecting production systems.

The Sematic Model within Denali enables business intelligence solutions to scale to very large organizations and includes one mode of use for all types of end users – users who create simple reports, or who are building customer BI applications.

5.)    Shiny New Developer Tools

SQL 2012 will include a new set of developer tools that are compatible with Microsoft’s Visual Studio suite, and that are also backward-compatible with previous versions of SQL Server. These tools are intended to make the lives of developers not only easier, but also more productive too.

Juneau is comprised of a set of tools to enable developers to build, test, debug, control revisions, and modify databases and associated applications for various platforms, such as downlevel SQL Server instances, or SQL Azure. Also included are query tools, which may make visits to the SQL Server Management Studio increasingly rare for developers and DBAs.

6.)    Server Core Support

SQL Server 2012 is now supported on Windows Server 2008 Core. No version of the Windows OS is completely free from the need to apply updates (ie: say “Patch Tuesday” and everyone knows what you mean), but by installing SQL Server 2012 on Windows Server Core, you’ve significantly reduced the number of OS components that need to be updated. That in turn can reduce the number of updates that require a restart of the OS. And both of those things can, again, translate into improved ability to meet your SLAs.

7.)    Cloud Capabilities

Even better news, SQL Server 2012 is cloud ready. This means:

  • flexible options for deploying SQL 2012 using the same version of SQL that you would use in a traditional deployment scenario
  • quickly deploying SQL and managing it with the same tools that you would use to manage a traditional implantation
  • integration with platforms such as SQL Azure, which will allow organizations to scale services out rapidly without needing to change platforms.

SQL Server 2012 CTP 3 is available for download today with the final version release date currently scheduled for Q1 of 2012.