At Microsoft, we have an important program in place to work closely with our customers to ensure high-quality, real-world testing of Microsoft SQL Server before it hits the market for general availability. Internally, we call this the Technology Adoption Program (TAP). It works like this: an exclusive list of customers are invited to collaborate with us very early in the development lifecycle, and together, we figure out which features they benefit the most from testing and which workload (or scenario) they will use. They test the upgrade process, and then exploit the new feature(s), as applicable. Many of these customers end up moving their test workloads into their production environments up to six months prior to the release of the final version. The program obviously benefits Microsoft because no matter how well we test the product, it is real customer workloads that determine release quality. Our select customers benefit because they are assured that their workloads work well on the upcoming release, and they have the opportunity to work closely with the SQL Server engineering team.

Microsoft SQL Server 2014 is now generally available, and we believe you will enjoy this release for its exciting features: In-Memory OLTP; Always-On enhancements, including new hybrid capabilities; Column Store enhancements; cardinality estimate improvements, and much more. I also believe you will be happy with my favorite feature of all, and that is “reliability.” For an overview on the new features in SQL Server 2014, see the general release announcement.

To give you a better feel for this pre-release customer validation program, I will describe a few examples of customer workloads tested against SQL Server 2014 prior to the release of the product for general availability.

The first customer example is the world’s largest regulated online gaming company. Hundreds of thousands of people visit this company’s website every day, placing more than a million bets on a range of sports, casino games, and poker. SQL Server 2014 enables this customer to scale its applications to 250k requests per second, a 16x increase from the 16k requests per second on a previous version of SQL Server, using the same hardware. In fact, due to performance gains, they were able to reduce the number of servers running SQL Server from eighteen to one, simplifying the overall data infrastructure significantly. The transaction workload is session state of the online user, which not only has to manage tens of thousands of customers, it needs to respond quickly and be available at all times to ensure high customer satisfaction. The session state, written in ASP.NET, uses heavily accessed SQL Server tables that are now defined as “memory-optimized,” which is part of one of the new exciting capabilities of SQL Server 2014, In-Memory OLTP. The performance gain significantly improves the user’s experience and enables a simpler data infrastructure. No application logic changes were required in order to get this significant performance bump. This customer’s experience with SQL Server 2014 performance and reliability was so good, they went into production more than a year before we released the product.

The second customer example is a leading global provider of financial trading services, exchange technology, and market insight. Every year, the customer adds more than 500 terabytes of uncompressed data to its archives and has to perform analytics against this high volume of data. As you can imagine, this high volume of data not only costs a lot to store on disk, it can take a long time to query and maintain. To give you a sense of scale of this customer’s data volume, let me give you a few examples: one of the financial systems processes up to a billion transactions in a single trading day; a different system can process up to a million transactions per second; the data currently collected is nearly two petabytes of historical data. The cost savings on storage of 500+ terabytes of data, now compressed by ~8x using SQL Server 2014 in-memory columnstore for data warehousing indexes, provides an easy justification to upgrade, especially now that the in-memory columnstore is updatable. Significantly faster query execution is achieved due to the reduction in IO, another benefit of the updatable columnstore indexes and compressed data. This customer deployed SQL Server 2014 in a production environment for several months prior to general availability of the product.

My third example is a customer that provides data services to manufacturing and retail companies; the data services enable such companies to better market and sell more product. The closer this data services company can get to providing real-time data services, the more customers their partners can reach and the better customer satisfaction their partners can provide, when using the service. Before SQL Server 2014, the data services company designed their application utilizing cache and other techniques to ensure data (e.g., a product catalog) was readily available for customers. In this scenario, processing speed is important, and even more important than speed is data quality or “freshness,” so if the database can provide faster access to data persisted in the database rather than a copy in a cache, this ensures the data is more accurate and relevant. SQL Server 2014 In-Memory OLTP technology enables them to eliminate the application-tier cache and to scale reads and writes within the database. Data load performance improved 7x–11x. The In-Memory OLTP technology, by eliminating locking/latching, removed any lock contention that they might have previously experienced on read/write options to the database. The performance gains were so compelling, this company went into production with SQL Server 2014 four months prior to general release.

The Technology Adoption Program (TAP) is a great way to help all of us ensure that the final product has a proven high-quality track record when released. These three customers—and as many as a hundred others—have partnered with the SQL Server engineering team to ensure that SQL Server 2014 is well tested and high quality—maybe you can sleep a little better at night knowing you are NOT the first.

We are excited by the release of SQL Server 2014; check it out here.


Mark Souza
General Manager
Microsoft Azure Customer Advisory Team