Today at TechEd North America we announced a wave of products and services that will help customers embrace the “enterprise cloud era.” The next version of our data platform – SQL Server 2014 – is a key part of the day’s news. Designed and developed with our cloud-first principles in mind, it delivers built-in in-memory capabilities, new hybrid cloud scenarios and enables even faster data insights.

The journey to SQL Server 2014

It’s been a mere 14 months since we shipped SQL Server 2012 and in that time we’ve advanced our data platform portfolio with a preview of Windows Azure HDInsight, customer successes on Windows Azure SQL Database and releases of PowerPivot and Power View for Office 2013, project codename “Data Explorer” in Excel, Parallel Data Warehouse 2.0 and so much more. It’s been an incredibly busy time building a modern data platform that empowers businesses to unlock real-time insights from big data.

The Evolution of SQL Server

Among all these enhancements, SQL Server 2014 has been special to me. It started a few years ago when a group of SQL Server database engineers from my team, collaborated with Microsoft Research on a project to explore how to take advantage of changes in database design. The power of modern chipsets, the availability and scale of memory and the advent of solid state drives are just a few of the underlying system architectural changes that challenged our assumptions about design. We nurtured this project, in parallel to our work developing in-memory analytics capabilities in Excel, SQL Server Analysis Services and the RDMBS in-memory column index, because we had an intuition that the need for real-time analytics in businesses was growing. We’d seen early success with StreamInsight and this new project, codenamed “Hekaton,” was focused on extreme scale and performance for online transaction processing (OLTP) – in short, managing business activity in real time.

In-memory in the box enables breakthrough performance

Today, we’re delivering Hekaton’s in-memory OLTP in the box with SQL Server 2014. For our customers, “in the box” means they don’t need to buy specialized hardware or software and can migrate existing applications to benefit from performance gains. Early adopters are already experiencing significant gains from being able to run their applications at the speed of business. Edgenet, for example, has a SaaS solution for large-scale retailers that can now manage inventory updates in near real time – not the daily batch model of the past. The move from “we need to check the stock on shelves to see if what the system shows is correct” to “yes, we have one in stock and we know it’s still there” improves the end customer experience – and helps their margins.

As you can see from the Edgenet scenario, SQL Server 2014 is helping businesses manage their data in nearly real-time. The ability to interact with your data and the system supporting business activities is truly transformative. SQL Server 2014 builds on the in-memory analytics and data warehousing features already in SQL Server 2012 to help customers experience real-time business value with a familiar platform and built-in technology.

Delivering mission critical capabilities through new hybrid scenarios

In this era of big data, applications and data are going to depend on one another like never before. As a result, mission-critical performance and scale has to be part of every application and solution, not just the select few.

SQL Server 2014 includes comprehensive, high-availability technologies that now extend seamlessly into Windows Azure to make the highest level of service level agreements possible for every application while also reducing CAPEX and OPEX for mission-critical applications. Simplified cloud backup, cloud disaster recovery and easy migration to Windows Azure Virtual Machines are empowering new, easy to use, out of the box hybrid capabilities.

We’ve also improved the AlwaysOn features of the RDBMS with support for new scenarios, scale of deployment and ease of adoption. We continue to make major investments in our in-memory columnstore for performance and now compression, and this is deeply married to our business intelligence servers and Excel tools for faster business insights.

Unlocking real-time insights

Our big data strategy to unlock real-time insights continues with SQL Server 2014. We are embracing the role of data – it dramatically changes how business happens. Real-time data integration, new and large data sets, data signals from outside LOB systems, evolving analytics techniques and more fluid visualization and collaboration experiences are significant components of that change. Another foundational component of this is embracing cloud computing: nearly infinite scale, dramatically lowered cost for compute and storage and data exchange between businesses. Data changes everything and across the data platform, we continue to democratize technology to bring new business value to our customers.

This is an exciting day for me – the SQL Server 2014 release will mean a lot to our customers and will bring new scenarios and possibilities to fruition. Our industry is evolving rapidly and together we will change how business works with real-time insights, powerful analytics and a complete data platform.

You can read more about our TechEd announcements here and the Windows Server and System Center blog. Visit this blog often or follow us on Twitter as we’ll be posting regular updates about SQL Server 2014.

Quentin Clark
Corporate Vice President
Data Platform Group