SQL Server 2014 supercharged with in-memory tables, Azure connectivity

Microsoft’s updated flagship database promises high-speed operations, long-term path into Windows Azure. SQL Server 2014 that is billed as “Microsoft’s cloud first data platform,” is all set for the manufacturing release this week, with general availability scheduled for April 1, 2014.

SQL Server 2014’s biggest new feature is in-memory transaction processing, or in-memory OLTP, which Microsoft claims can make database operations as much as 30 times faster. In-memory database technology for SQL Server has long been in the works under the code name “Hekaton.”SYBASE-LOGO

Microsoft claims it’s made other speed improvements apart from the gains realized by keeping a table in memory. Stored procedures can also run in memory for more of a boost by having them compiled to native code. It also claims to have made changes to the table pinning function.

In-memory database technology is far from new, but until recently, it was only available in some fairly obscure or bespoke implementations (such as Sybase or IBM’s solidDB/BLU products). Now that in-memory processing is showing up in the feature roster of big-name commercial databases (Oracle), and open source products (VoltDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL), Microsoft SQL Server included the commercial offerings, where the technology shows the greatest advantage by dint of being that much more thoroughly integrated into the finished product. oracle-logo-red

Microsoft’s promise here is that relatively little work will need to be done to move a database to an in-memory incarnation, albeit at the cost of an upgrade to an entirely new edition of SQL Server. The company’s been positioning SQL Server more as an upmarket solution for big data, where features like in-memory tables and Hadoop integration would be welcomed with open arms, and less as the sort of generic database solution long since eclipsed by the likes of MySQL.

Cloud computing also figures prominently in SQL Server 2014, as it features a slew of what Microsoft described as “hybrid cloud enhancements that make it easy to extend your on-premises database environment to the cloud.” SQL Server 2014 instances can be backed up to Windows Azure storage, databases can be automatically deployed to Windows Azure VMs by way of a wizard, and a Windows Azure VM can be designated as a high-availability node for a SQL Server 2014 instance.

Clearly, Microsoft doesn’t want the idea of an “Azure-enabled” SQL Server to be one that connects to Azure for the sake of static storage, but rather one that allows SQL Server to be run more within Azure itself — and allows existing on-premises deployments to be migrated gradually into Azure as part of day-to-day operations, not as a nebulous future project.

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