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What’s New in SQL Server 2012 RC0

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Microsoft has released SQL Server 2012 Release Candidate 0. There are many new features, including: AlwaysOn, better performance management, more reporting and visualization tools, Columnstore index, and FileTables. The product will come in 3 main editions: Standard, Business Intelligence and Enterprise.

Microsoft has made available a release candidate of SQL Server 2012, considering it “production ready” and providing several migration tools: Upgrade Advisor, Distributed Replay and SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA). This release includes features and fixes requested by some of the over 100k users who have downloaded and used the CTP versions of the server.

There are many new features in this release throughout all components, including the Database Engine, the Analysis, Integration, Reporting and Master Data Services, but the SQL Server Team Blog has outlined 5 of them considered as most important:

  • Greater availability. Deliver the required 9s and data protection with AlwaysOn, delivering added functionality over CTP3 that allows customers to experience multiple, readable secondaries for distributed scale of reporting and backup workloads and support for FileTable and FILESTREAM which brings first-class HA to complex data types.
  • Blazing-fast performance. More effectively govern performance in multi-tenancy environments like private cloud. Resource Governor enhancements include support for 64 resource pools, greater CPU usage control, and resource pool affinity for partitioning of physical resources and predictable resource allocation.
  • Rapid data exploration. Empower end users with new insights through rapid data exploration and visualization. Discover new insights at the speed of thought with more feature/functionality in Power View, the highly interactive, familiar browser-based data exploration, visualization, and presentation experience for end users.
  • Credible, consistent data. In addition to CTP3 functionality delivered for Data Quality Services and Master Data Services, customers can better support heterogeneous data within Data Warehouses through new Change Data Capture (CDC) support for Oracle.
  • Optimized productivity. Optimize IT and developer productivity across server and cloud with the new SQL Server Data Tools, a unified development experience for database and business intelligence projects, and cloud-ready capabilities within SQL Server Management Studio for snapshot backups to the Windows Azure Platform. Additionally, SQL Server 2012 offers a new version of Express – LocalDB. SQL Express LocalDB is a lightweight version of Express with all its programmability features, yet runs in user mode with a fast, zero-configuration installation and short list of pre-requisites. For more information and to try it out, go here.

Other significant improvements include:

  • Columnstore index which improves data warehouse query performance by “hundreds to thousands of times in some cases” if it is combined with enhanced query processing.
  • Programmability enhancements include: FileTables, enabling the storage of files including documents that can be accessed from Windows applications, statistical semantic search, property-scoped full-text search and customizable proximity search, ad-hoc query paging, circular arc segment support for spatial types, support for sequence objects, and default support for 15,000 partitions.
  • Reporting enhancements include: integration with SharePoint as a SharePoint 2010 share service, the SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) add-in for Visual Studio 2010 to work with and upgrade SQL Server 2005 and 2008 reports, the Reporting Services Excel/Word rendering extension to generate reports for earlier versions of Excel/Word.
  • The SQL Server Installation page provides important information on what is changed or new for RC0 regarding installation. For example, the Datacenter edition is no longer available, while Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 require SP1.

There are three main editions planned for SQL Server 2012: Standard, Business Intelligence (new) and Enterprise. Business Intelligence adds better reporting via PowerView, PowerPivot for SharePoint Server, Data Quality Services, Master Data Services, and an In-Memory Tabular BI Semantic Model. The Enterprise edition adds more security through advanced auditing and transparent data encryption, and data warehousing with ColumnStore, compression, and partitioning. All editions have the new AlwaysOn feature enabled, but Standard and Business Intelligence are limited to two-nodes failover clustering. There will also be the free Express evaluation and LocalDB development versions.

The Release Notes contain advice on installing and running SQL Server 2012 along with description of many known issues, and some of them will be probably fixed before the production version is released.

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