We’ve made it to December, which means 2012 is just around the corner. With the coming of the new year also comes a new release of SQL Server. The SQL Server 2012 release adds a number of innovative features to the SQL Server platform. After working with early versions of this new release for over a year now, we at SCS are extremely excited about the capabilities coming down the pike.
To get Microsoft’s take on the SQL Server 2012 release, SCS took time to touch base with two important figures in its creation.
T.K. Anand is the Principal Group Program Manager responsible for Analysis Services and PowerPivot. He has been with Microsoft for 15 year, contributing to every major SQL Server release since SQL Server 7.0.
Thierry D’Hers is the Principal Group Program Manager responsible for Reporting Services. He is one of Microsoft’s main BI evangelists and has been with Microsoft since 1999.
We asked T.K. and Thierry a series of questions to discover their views on the business impact of the upcoming SQL Server release.
1. What new features of SQL Server 2012 offer the most opportunities, will have the greatest impact, and/or provide the greatest return for organizations?
Thierry: SQL Server 2012 is a very feature rich release for SQL Server. It provides many great new benefits for all personas.
T.K.: Some of the features that I expect will have huge impact on our customers and partners:
- SQL Server AlwaysOn is an integrated high availability and disaster recovery solution that will deliver uptime and data protection for the most mission critical OLTP applications.
- The ColumnStore index (based on the Vertipaq™ technology introduced in PowerPivot) can improve data warehouse query performance by orders of magnitude.
- Power View is a brand new data exploration, visualization and reporting experience that will enable end users to gain insights from their data and have fun while doing it.
- The BI Semantic Model represents the next generation of Analysis Services and is the BI platform that all end user experiences (including Power View) will be based upon.
- Master Data Services and Data Quality Services will enable enterprises to better manage the quality and consistency of their business data.
There are a lot more features in SQL Server 2012 than what I can possibly talk about in this blog post. I encourage readers to visit http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver to learn more.
2. We have heard it said that SQL Server 2012 democratizes business data (intelligence). Can you explain what that means and how SQL Server achieves that?
Thierry: Thank you for asking this question which allows me to talk about one of our great innovations in this release: Project Crescent, officially named Power View. Power View is an ad hoc reporting and visual exploration capability that enables any end users to answer business questions and gain insights from its data with two to three clicks to results.
T.K.: Since the introduction of Analysis Services and Reporting Services, SQL Server has been instrumental in democratizing BI by making it possible for Developers and IT Professionals to build and manage BI solutions with low TCO [Total Cost of Ownership]. SQL Server 2012 takes this to the next level with Power View by offering business users an immersive experience for exploring and visualizing their data to gain insights. Bringing Analysis Services and Reporting Services together with PowerPivot and Power View, SQL Server 2012 offers a compelling BI platform and experience for both IT and business users. I believe this will help increase the reach of BI to a much larger user population.
3. BI tools are often thought of as Enterprise Solutions (tools for big corporations). How has Microsoft designed BI for small and mid-size businesses?
Thierry: Microsoft has focused this release on making access to insights available to an even larger set of business users no matter what level of sophistication and “technical savvy-ness” they have. This means that it reduces the need for IT to design and build datamarts, or Data models and develop reports on behalf of its users. IT can focus its resources on managing the corporate data sets, making them available, curated, secured, cleaned which is very often a large cost center that is very painful on small and Mid-size businesses. But we are taking our focus on small and mid-size business even further, by taking our Reporting Services assets and making them available as SQL Azure services. This means that small and mid-Size businesses do not need to invest in on premise software deployment to get access to the same powerful and sophisticated Reporting Services infrastructure large enterprises use. They can simply subscribe to get access to this service in SQL Azure.
4. What feedback are you hearing from SQL Server 2012 early adopters?
T.K.: The feedback on SQL Server 2012 has been great. We released the last Community Technology Preview (CTP3) in July and the Release Candidate (RC0) a couple of weeks back. We’ve been working closely with a lot of early adopters (customers, partners, MVPs) who have been using SQL Server 2012 to build new applications or improve their existing applications. The overwhelming feedback is that SQL Server 2012 is a game changer with features like AlwaysOn and Power View.
Thierry: The BI Semantic model is a big hit as it extends the ease of use and power of PowerPivot to IT scenarios on the server. IT now feels they can also reap the benefits of the PowerPivot technology (Vertipaq), but in a real professional environment and leveraging powerful servers. But the most surprising feedback we hear is about Power View. I am very excited about the enthusiasm I hear from our early adopter customers about the fun, slick and extremely intuitive user experience Power View provides. A good place to read more about these is from our blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sqlrsteamblog/archive/2011/11/17/what-s-new-in-power-view.aspx.
5. How will organizations be better equipped to leverage the Cloud through SQL Server 2012?
T.K.: Microsoft offers a symmetric data platform for on-premises and cloud with SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure. This enables a lot of useful scenarios that will help customers move to the cloud. For example, you can use the SQL Server Data Tools and the Data-tier Application (DAC) Framework to develop apps once and deploy to SQL Server or SQL Azure. You can use SQL Server Management Studio to manage your SQL Servers as well as SQL Azure subscriptions. You can synchronize data between on-premises and cloud using SQL Azure DataSync. Business users can use PowerPivot and Power View to mash up and visualize data from SQL Server, SQL Azure and other sources.
Thierry: In this wave we are making Reporting services 2008 R2 functionality available as a service in the cloud with SQL Azure. But we are building the infrastructure in SQL 2012 to make SQL 2012 functionality available to the cloud within a few months of SQL 2012 RTM.
T.K.: Having these bridges between the cloud and on-premises is crucial for customers to take the leap and embrace the cloud.
6. Where do you see Microsoft SQL Server heading beyond the 2012 release?
Thierry: Data is becoming the new currency that determines which businesses succeed and prevail or fail. The demand for easy to use data exploration and presentation tools has never been stronger and everything suggests that it will keep increasing at an exponential rate. How do we allow a few hundred millions information workers to be able to gain insights from the data they have in order to optimize their business decision making in the same way they use simple productivity tools like Outlook, Excel or PowerPoint to send an email, manage a list of items or build a presentation? How do we enable IT to become more efficient at discovering and providing the much needed data their users need in an agile way, whether that data resides inside the corporate firewall or out in the cloud? These increasingly interesting questions are defining the constraints and expectations for the next generation of Business Insights experiences….
T.K.: As we put the wraps on SQL Server 2012, we’ll start planning for the next release wave. While it’s too early to comment on what will be in that release, a few things should be clear.
- Microsoft is making a huge bet on the cloud with Azure and Office 365 and that will strongly influence the direction of SQL Server. You can already see this with the updates to SQL Azure and upcoming release of SQL Azure Reporting.
- Customers are faced with ever increasing volumes of data and new types of data – real-time, unstructured, semi-structured, text, images, web logs, etc. The SQL Server data platform needs to evolve to meet these customer needs. The recent announcement of the SQL Server Hadoop Connector is an example of this.
- With the explosion of smartphones and tablets, more and more customers want their BI solutions delivered on mobile devices. At the PASS conference in October, we announced our Mobile BI roadmap. This is another area where you will see us making a lot of investment in.
We have a lot more up our sleeve, but you’ll have to wait to hear about them J.
T.K. and Thierry already have us looking forward to the next release of SQL Server. In the meantime, the variety of new tools and features available in SQL Server 2012 make this release extremely exciting -not only for us techies, but also for business users looking to harness their data for better decision making.
A big thank you to T.K. and Thierry for taking time out of their busy pre-release schedules to share their thoughts!