I’ve rewritten this blog post in the series to include other new features in SQL Server 2012 outside of high availability and disaster recovery. Ever since the product has been released, I’ve had a chance to look at features that will address performance challenges and business intelligence requirements.
While delivering a seminar to a group of IT professionals a few weeks ago, someone asked me why I’ve decided to become a database professional. My response has always been the same ever since I started digging my hands on a relational database: “Organizations have always accumulated data. They usually start small until growth hits them big time. I’ve had this theory that an organization’s growth is directly proportional to the amount of data they accumulate. That has proven to be true throughout the years. We all remember the 50MB-sized database in the late 80s. Now, they’re terrabyte-sized. And this is the best time to be a data professional.”
With the increase in data accumulated over time, new challenges surface – performance issues, high availability and disaster recovery (HA/DR) requirements, and the demand for business insights. These are more than enough reasons to evaluate the new features in SQL Server 2012. My previous blog post talked about support for Windows Server Core as a HA/DR feature. Here are a few more.
AlwaysOn – HA/DR
When SQL Server 2005 was released, a lot of customers started converting their high availability solutions to take advantage of database mirroring. From cost savings due to the feature being available even on Standard Edition to maximizing investments by using commodity hardware, database mirroring has redefined high availability solutions for SQL Server.
However, it’s not without limitations. The inability to read data from the mirror database caused a lot of customers to re-evaluate their investments. Plus, even with the automatic failover and failback capability on the database layer, several application vendors still don’t support database mirroring.
Enter SQL Server AlwaysOn. The new AlwaysOn Availability Groups feature took database mirroring to a new level. Leveraging Windows Failover Clustering minus the overtly complex and expensive hardware, AlwaysOn Availability Groups is like database mirroring on steroids. With this feature, we can now read data from any replicas as long as it is configured to allow read-only access, allowing organizations to maximize their IT investments on additional hardware required for high availability. The AlwaysOn Failover Clustering feature also takes the traditional failover clustering to a new level, allowing cluster nodes to span multiple subnets and geographical locations.
PowerView – Business Intelligence
PowerView is a SQL Server Reporting Services add-in for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. It allows for interactive data exploration and reporting experience similar to that of working with Excel workbooks – but for visualization purposes only. With more and more organizations leveraging SharePoint Server 2010 for collaboration, it has also become the platform of choice for business intelligence solutions running on the Microsoft technology stack. And since it runs on the browser, reports can be accessed anywhere. Now analysts and information workers can easily build reports and dashboards that they can use for presentation purposes without having to know the underlying data models.
Columnstore Indexes – Performance
As more data is accumulated, more processing resources are required to deliver acceptable response time to end users. This is especially true when retrieving data from a data warehouse that contains billions of rows. How everyone wishes that queries run faster even when the volume of data increases…
Columnstore index is a memory-optimized implementation of a new indexing strategy that stores data on the basis of columns instead of the traditional way of storing data by rows. This allows for efficient compression of data, hence fitting more on the storage. And since it stores data on the basis of columns, it only retrieves and aggregates data based on the columns you’ve defined in your queries. This reduces the amount of IO resources used to run queries that may affect billions of rows, thereby making queries run faster.
These are just some of the features that have been introduced in SQL Server 2012 that address the new demands in data management. If you think these features will make sense for your business requirements, try them out and download the evaluation copy of SQL Server 2012 at https://download.microsoft.com.