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SQL Server 2012: A new way to host databases in the Cloud

Deep in the heart of Alaska stands a mountain known to some Native Americans as ‘Denali’; its peak the highest in North America.

It is unknown whether Microsoft chose it as the inspiration behind their codename for the latest release of their widely-used database platform, SQL Server 2012, however one thing is for sure –they certainly aimed for a very high summit.

SQL Server 2012 is attempting to set itself up as the new gold standard in database manipulation and management; loaded with a great many features previously unavailable in its predecessors and vastly increased performance, aimed mainly at mission critical business applications for global-reaching companies.

Just a few of these features include ‘AlwaysOn’ feature set, Windows Server Core Support with PowerShell 2.0, In-Memory Column Store, Data Quality Services , greater compatibility with other programming platforms such as PHP and Java, and much more. Building on the growing successes of the previous versions of SQL Server, 2012 has the most functionality to date.

The new set of tools for SQL Server are aimed directly at high availability redundancy and failover for databases powering mission critical applications, that even just a few minutes of downtime can end up as thousands of dollars if not more in revenue, is the AlwaysOn disaster recovery system. Meant for use within a datacenter and across datacenters to help enable fast application failover during planned and unplanned downtime, AlwaysOn includes features like Availability Groups, Failover Cluster Instances, Active Secondary’s, Connection Director, and AutoStat.

After the release of Windows Server 2008 and the introduction of Windows Server Core, SQL Server had follow suit and ensure the next offering came with the ability to integrate with a command line environment, and 2012 meets the challenge. The ability to run SQL Server via CLI immensely reduces both the time taken for installing OS and patches and the subsequent reboots, not to mention better utilization of system resources. 2012 also picks up where 2008 left off and includes support for PowerShell 2.0, ensuring that DBAs can make the most out of their cmdlets.

SQL Server 2012 is the very first of the major general-purpose database engines to have a true column store. Codenamed ‘Apollo’, the In-Memory Column Store combines VertiPaq technology which was developed in Analysis Services, and a new query execution paradigm called batch processing, which brings a great deal more speed to running data warehouse queries. Also improving the speed of the 2012 system is a complete overhaul of the Full-Text Search functionality table partitioning of up to 15,000.

One of the best improvements to SQL Server is the inoperability it brings with support for PHP and Java, including a lightweight local database system. With SQL 2012 came the release of the Microsoft SQL Server driver for PHP and SQL Server Express LocalDB Runtime, which allows web developers to work via command line in a database environment, which takes about five minutes to install, fully compatible and streamlined to work with PHP applications running in the Windows Server environment.

These are but just a few faces of the mountain which makes up SQL Server 2012, and it looks to be an amazing climb for database administrators, web developers and project managers alike.

Whether or not Microsoft reaches the summit, they have certainly aimed for it.

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