In addition to introducing new self-service business intelligence (BI) capabilities, Microsoft said the new release of SQL Server will come in two new packages: a Data Center Edition and what's called Parallel Data Warehouse, representing the most scalable database servers offered by Microsoft to date.
The release comes as Oracle and IBM continue to add new BI and data warehousing features to their respective database offerings. Microsoft remains the No. 3 database supplier in terms of share growth in the relational database server market, according to Gartner. Though Microsoft's share remains flat, the market is growing faster than Oracle and IBM, said Gartner analyst Mark Beyer.
"Microsoft seems to be the one that's picking up those crumbs around the edges and growing their market share," Beyer said. "That's because it's low-cost and very simple and [has a] straightforward interface for managing data access."
The November CTP of SQL Server 2008 R2 will provide a first preview of Microsoft's new PowerPivot technology (formerly code-named Project Gemini) and allow BI data collected from it to be shared to the company's SharePoint Server.
PowerPivot is designed to let business users create their own BI solutions in Excel with a new in-memory analysis engine that Microsoft says will work on millions of rows of data. "Users can manipulate the data in new ways to create BI solutions and then publish them to SharePoint to collaborate with other users," said Fausto Ibarra, Microsoft's director of SQL Server product management.
Gartner's Beyer said the PowerPivot technology will help Microsoft bring BI to end users while helping them clean up much of the information silos that are in Excel cubes today. "You kind of have to clean up your own house when you make such a powerful and easy-to-use tool as Excel, and I think this is a step toward cleaning up the BI chaos," Beyer said.
Also in the new CTP, developers and administrators will be able to centrally manage groups of SQL Server databases to monitor performance problems and move databases from one server to another.
"This is the new capability that we call application and multi-server management and will really enable IT to manage their infrastructure much more effectively, reduce cost and work on server consolidation projects," Ibarra said.
The CTP also supports Hyper-V virtualization in Windows Server. "Specifically, we will be supporting live migrations to enable users who have virtual database workloads to seamlessly migrate them to other servers without any perceived downtime for their users," Ibarra said.
Also, a new component of the SQL Server Information platform, as previously announced, will include Stream Insight, a complex event processing platform that allows users to build new types of solutions like algorithmic trading, Web analytics or industrial process controls, where an organization might have hundreds or thousands of events happening in real time. This would allow a customer to act on those events, Ibarra said.
Data Center edition will scale to 256 logical processors or cores, a fourfold increase from the limit of the current edition of SQL Server. Parallel Data Warehouse (formerly known as Project Madison) will be Microsoft's highest-end implementation to date. Based on the technology it acquired from DATAllegro, the systems will be sold as appliances by IBM, HP, Bull and Dell, among others.
The four new packages and pricing for SQL Server 2008 R2 are as follows:
Standard edtion: for small and departmental organizations. Per processor pricing will be $7,500, or $1,000 per server plus $162 per client access license (CAL).
Enterprise Edition consits of support for application and multi-server management for up to 25 instances. Priced at $28,800 per processor of $9,900 per server plus $162 per CAL.
Datacenter Edition and Parallel Data Warehouse costs: $57,500 per processor. It is not offered via with a server and CAL combo.
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