SQL Server 2016: a review of the latest features & improvements

Posted in: Business Insights, Technical Track

It has been two years since the last major release of Microsoft SQL Server, and now SQL Server 2016 is generally available to customers. In this release, Microsoft has incorporated some practical features under the themes of security, performance and cloud integration. As the first major release of the database since Azure was first heavily promoted, Microsoft has been making parallel investments in their cloud and on premises deployments of SQL Server.  And by providing both cloud services and the database that runs on it, Microsoft can offer tight integration which will continue to evolve – this is great news if your strategy includes SQL Server, whether you are in the process of moving to the cloud or intend to do so some time in the future.

Microsoft has continued its focus on performance with new features related to in-memory, columnar storage and availability groups. These are a few in a long list of optimizations that result in a faster running product. Under the theme of data protection, security capabilities are improved with the introduction of data masking on tables, new encryption capabilities and row level security. Microsoft has also improved its data analysis capabilities through integration of the R language, easier interaction with Hadoop through Polybase and a full face-lift for SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) with support for multi-platform (browser, iOS, Android) tablet and mobile reports.

When comparing cloud and on premises deployments, you can think of SQL Server 2016 as a key component in a larger Microsoft ecosystem which includes SQL Server, Azure SQL Database (SQL Server on Azure) and Azure SQL Data Warehouse. With these choices, you can weigh the pros and cons of the target location, such as storage limitations, in helping you decide, and arrive at, the best possible solution for your application.

Overall, this is a good time to consider Microsoft SQL Server 2016, especially if you are planning to use the database for a new deployment or application. With respect to upgrade, it’s not uncommon for IT departments to wait until an update to a new release is available in an effort to get the most stable version. In this case, SQL Server 2016 has been developed on the existing code base making it stable and compatible, and allowing customers to take advantage of new features easily. Upgrading becomes more critical if you are on an old version such as SQL Server 2005, as you will no longer be able to obtain product fixes for this version. Pythian can help you with the upgrade process while testing data quality, application compatibility and performance and ensuring the smallest amount of downtime.

For a more indepth review on the latest features and the importance of upgrading, check out this 30 minute video where our SQL Server experts provide their thoughts on SQL Server 2016:

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About the Author

Lynda Partner is a self-professed data addict and experiences the power of data every day as Pythian’s Vice President of Analytics-as-a-Service. The author of Pythian’s Love Your Data mantra, Lynda understands very well how data can transform companies into competitive winners and she was the driving force in adding an analytics practice to Pythian’s database focus. Lynda works with companies around the world and across industries to turn data into insights, predictions and products, and is the co-author of Designing Cloud Platforms.

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