SQL Server 2008 R2 will be a BI-refresh (“Madison Overview”/”Gemini Overview”) and comes out as a Minor-Release (SQL Server Version 10.50). But there are several interesting features and topics which are interesting for DBAs. In this post I’ll list some options you can already test out in the actual August CTP. Additional enhancements will ship with the next CTP which will be available somewhere around middle of November 2009.

SQL Server Stand-Alone “SysPrep”

The „SysPrep“-feature will also be available for standalone installations, where you can pre deploy your binaries and finish the configuration after the rollout. The „Advanced” Tab on the Setup Landing Page gives you the opportunity to prepare an Image of a SQL Server instance. Instance-ID, Root-Directory, and Features can be selected and pre deployed, but it is also possible to add or remove features by completing the setup. The services and their configuration settings (Security Settings, Paths) will be also configured within the completing procedure. You’ll find additional information on

How To Install SQL Server 2008 R2 Using SysPrep

SQL Server SysPrep is supported for Database Engine and Reporting Services in a Stand-Alone installation for all editions. Management Tools and Shared Services like Browser Service or SQL Server Writer will be automatically deployed during the initial setup. Failover Cluster can be prepared and configured with “Advanced Cluster Preparation/Completion” as it was with SQL Server 2008.

Unicode Compression

SQL Server 2008 R2 has the ability to compress Unicode datatypes like NCHAR and NVARCHAR and brings you huge space savings for a large number of application databases which work with Unicode datatypes. The Simple Compression Scheme for Unicode Data (SCSU, Standard Compression Scheme http://unicode.org/reports/tr6/ ) has a compression ratio of 50% for English and the most European Languages! Unicode Compression will be enabled as part of ROW or PAGE compression. If you already use the data-compression-feature, it is necessary to rebuild the indexes of the compressed table. But if you add new datasets or change an existing the Unicode compression will be enabled automatically.

There are some interesting information regarding Unicode compression and SAP in the blog post of Juergen Thomas: http://blogs.msdn.com/saponsqlserver/archive/2009/09/16/sql-server-2008-r2-ucs2-compression-what-is-it-impact-on-sap-systems.aspx

In Books online you’ll also find additional information on Unicode Compression Implementation.

SQL Server Utility – Application- and Multiservermanagement

SQL Server 2008 R2 introduces new management tools to help improve IT efficiency and productivity. Investments in application and multi-server management will help organizations proactively manage database environments efficiently at scale through centralized visibility into resource utilization. Such investments can help streamline consolidation and upgrade initiatives across the application lifecycle—all with tools that make it fast and easy. The Application- and Multiservermanagement Whitepaper explains the new terms and the configuration. The basic idea is to give DBAs the opportunity to deploy databases (data-tier applications) in a standardized way. The next CTP will bring more advantages in this topic. This blog keeps you updated.

There are no advantages or changes planned in the area of High-Availability and Datatypes.

Before you test SQL Server 2008 R2, please be prepared that the physical database version number will be updated (SQL Server 2008 RTM/SP1 655). This means, that it’s not possible to restore a SQL Server 2008 R2 database back to a SQL Server 2008 RTM/SP1 instance (backup/restore or detach/attach). Compatibility level remains “100”, whereas “90” for SQL 2005 and “80” for SQL 2000 are still supported.

You can get your database version number with following query:

SELECT
DATABASEPROPERTY ('YourDBName','Version')
GO

Get the SQL Server 2008 R2 CTP from http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/R2.aspx.