This morning, during my keynote at the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS) Summit 2013, I discussed how customers are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for businesses today using the advanced technologies in our data platform. It was my pleasure to announce the second Community Technology Preview (CTP2) of SQL Server 2014 which features breakthrough performance with In-Memory OLTP and simplified backup and disaster recovery in Windows Azure.

Pushing the boundaries

We are pushing the boundaries of our data platform with breakthrough performance, cloud capabilities and the pace of delivery to our customers. Last year at PASS Summit, we announced our In-Memory OLTP project “Hekaton” and since then released SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse and public previews of Windows Azure HDInsight and Power BI for Office 365. Today we have SQL Server 2014 CTP2, our public and production-ready release shipping a mere 18 months after SQL Server 2012. 

Our drive to push the boundaries comes from recognizing that the world around data is changing.

  • Our customers are demanding more from their data – higher levels of availability as their businesses scale and globalize, major advancements in performance to align to the more real-time nature of business, and more flexibility to keep up with the pace of their innovation. So we provide in-memory, cloud-scale, and hybrid solutions. 
  • Our customers are storing and collecting more data – machine signals, devices, services and data from outside even their organizations. So we invest in scaling the database and a Hadoop-based solution. 
  • Our customers are seeking the value of new insights for their business. So we offer them self-service BI in Office 365 delivering powerful analytics through a ubiquitous product and empowering users with new, more accessible ways of gaining insights. 

In-memory in the box for breakthrough performance

A few weeks ago, one of our competitors announced plans to build an in-memory column store into their database product some day in the future. We shipped similar technology two years ago in SQL Server 2012, and have continued to advance that technology in SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse and now with SQL Server 2014. In addition to our in-memory columnar support in SQL Server 2014, we are also pushing the boundaries of performance with in-memory online transaction processing (OLTP). A year ago we announced project “Hekaton,” and today we have customers realizing performance gains of up to 30x. This work, combined with our early investments in Analysis Services and Excel, means Microsoft is delivering the most complete in-memory capabilities for all data workloads – analytics, data warehousing and OLTP. 

We do this to allow our customers to make breakthroughs for their businesses. SQL Server is enabling them to rethink how they can accelerate and exceed the speed of their business.

 Sven Lowry TPP

  • TPP is a clinical software provider managing more than 30 million patient records – half the patients in England – including 200,000 active registered users from the UK’s National Health Service.  Their systems handle 640 million transactions per day, peaking at 34,700 transactions per second. They tested a next-generation version of their software with the SQL Server 2014 in-memory capabilities, which has enabled their application to run seven times faster than before – all of this done and running in half a day. 
  • Ferranti provides solutions for the energy market worldwide, collecting massive amounts of data using smart metering. With our in-memory technology they can now process a continuous data flow up to 200 million measurement channels making the system fully capable of meeting the demands of smart meter technology.
  • SBI Liquidity Market in Japan provides online services for foreign currency trading. By adopting SQL Server 2014, the company has increased throughput from 35,000 to 200,000 transactions per second. They now have a trading platform that is ready to take on the global marketplace.

A closer look into In-memory OLTP

Previously, I wrote about the journey of the in-memory OLTP project Hekaton, where a group of SQL Server database engineers collaborated with Microsoft Research. Changes in the ratios between CPU performance, IO latencies and bandwidth, cache and memory sizes as well as innovations in networking and storage were changing assumptions and design for the next generation of data processing products. This gave us the opening to push the boundaries of what we could engineer without the constraints that existed when relational databases were first built many years ago. 

Challenging those assumptions, we engineered for dramatically changing latencies and throughput for so-called “hot” transactional tables in the database. Lock-free, row-versioning data structures and compiling T-SQL and queries into native code, combined with making the programming semantics consistent with SQL Server means our customers can apply the performance benefits of extreme transaction processing without application rewrites or the adoption of entirely new products. 

Transformational In-Memory Performance

The continuous data platform

Windows Azure fulfills new scenarios for our customers – transcending what is on-premises or in the cloud. Microsoft is providing a continuous platform from our traditional products that are run on-premises to our cloud offerings. 

With SQL Server 2014, we are bringing the cloud into the box. We are delivering high availability and disaster recovery on Windows Azure built right into the database. This enables customers to benefit from our global datacenters: AlwaysOn Availability Groups that span on-premises and Windows Azure Virtual Machines, database backups directly into Windows Azure storage, and even the ability to store and run database files directly in Windows Azure storage. That last scenario really does something interesting – now you can have an infinitely-sized hard drive with incredible disaster recovery properties with all the great local latency and performance of the on-premises database server. 

We’re not just providing easy backup in SQL Server 2014, today we announced backup to Windows Azure would be available for all our currently supported SQL Server releases. Together, the backup to Windows Azure capabilities in SQL Server 2014 and via the standalone tool offer customers a single, cost-effective backup strategy for secure off-site storage with encryption and compression across all supported versions of SQL Server.

By having a complete and continuous data platform we strive to empower billions of people to get value from their data. It’s why I am so excited to announce the availability of SQL Server 2014 CTP2, hot on the heels of the fastest-adopted release in SQL Server’s history, SQL Server 2012. Today, more businesses solve their data processing needs with SQL Server than any other database. It’s about empowering the world to push the boundaries.

Quentin Clark
Corporate Vice President
Data Platform Group