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SQL Server 2014: a review of the key new features

SQL Server 2014 CTP1 (Community Technology Preview) has been available for a couple of weeks now. Originally announced at TechEd in early June, it was made publicly available on June 25.

SQL Server 2014. A review of the key new features.

The first question many people ask when there is a new release of a product is: “What is new and cool?!” In this post I’ll simply review some of the key new features and allow you to determine whether or not they are cool, as what is cool to one person may not be so to another.

This version of SQL Server is primarily all about the database; performance, scalability and high availability, improved backup options – it is all there. From a business perspective, there aren’t any new features that demand an upgrade. From a technical perspective, depending on the issues you are encountering, there are a number of compelling reasons to upgrade.


Here are some of the notable new features in SQL Server 2014



Several new features have been introduced to improve database performance.

  • In-Memory OLTP. This is a new feature which can help resolve issues in high concurrency situations. There are some requirements to get it working but for those whose problem this solves, it is very cool.
  • Updatable ColumnStore Indexes. This provides the ability to load or delete data from existing ColumnStore indexes. Previously once a ColumnStore index was created you could not directly add, delete, or modify data in the table. In order to update table information the index needed to be dropped or disabled and then the index rebuilt.
  • Buffer Pool Extension to Solid State Drives (SSDs). This is new functionality providing the ability of each node to have its own SSD or SSD Array for buffering, and thus performance capabilities can be greatly increased.
  • Resource Management. Along with CPU and Memory management which were already available in SQL Server, SQL Server 2014 adds the ability to control the IO usage for a resource pool.
  • Improved Query Performance. Another new feature for performance improvement wherein query processing has been enhanced and split into a two-step process: decision making and execution.


Scalability & High Availability

  • AlwaysOn Secondaries. Provides for up-to eight secondaries (double the 2012 option).
  • More Reliable Secondaries. Previously several factors could result in secondaries being dropped offline. Those areas have been addressed.
  • Scale to the Cloud. SQL 2014 allows for Hybrid systems as you can now use Azure VMs as AlwaysOn AG replicas.


Improved Backup Options

  • Backup to Azure. With this new feature of backup to Azure, backups can be stored offsite (in the cloud) providing safe storage of backup data.
  • Smart Backup to Azure. Another new backup feature is Smart Backups. With Smart Backups SQL Server determines whether a full or incremental backup is needed and backs up accordingly to Azure.   


What about BI?

I am sure there are those out there, like me, who are wondering what is happening in regard to BI. Do not think it has been forgotten – Microsoft has just announced new integrated BI functionality for Office 365: Power BI for Office 365. Previous add-on options Data Explorer and Geoflow have been integrated into the BI Suite and have been renamed as Power Query (Data Explorer) and Power Map (Geoflow).

Power Query enables users to pull in information from the web or external sources and merge it with local data, providing for an easier method for enriching your internal data.

Power Map provides enhanced mapping capabilities and the ability to interact with any geographic data you may have.

You can read an overview of the new Power BI suite here.


In summary

Microsoft has upped the ante again in the database arena providing more features, scalability and capability. The improved features in 2014 combined with their other database offerings such as HD Insight (Hadoop) and the high-performance PDW make for an impressive array of data offerings for companies both large and small.

If you are interested in looking at 2014 CTP1, you can get an official Microsoft overview here and download it here.

Additionally, Microsoft is not sitting still on the BI front, continually striving to add and integrate new features into their suite of BI tools.

If you have any questions about your database or BI needs, give us a call. 

Posted by: Mark Worthen, Senior Consultant, Enterprise Applications | 10 July 2013

Tags: Cloud, Azure, SQL Server, SQL, BI, Power Query, SQL Server 2014

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