Microsoft has announced availability of the next SQL Server 2016 Technology Preview, CTP 3.0, which finally includes a few hotly anticipated features that they have been talking about at various conferences and summit’s throughout the year, as well their brand new Azure Data Lake offering which will allow exabyte-scale data processing for developers and data scientists.
While there are a number of new features coming in SQL Server 2016, the most significant is the Always Encrypted option, what Microsoft is calling an industry-first. Microsoft describes this as:
Using Always Encrypted, SQL Server can perform operations on encrypted data and – best of all – the encryption key resides with the application in the customers’ trusted environment.
This means that SQL Server 2016 will be able to perform some database operations on application data without decrypting the data.. This will allow customers who store sensitive data in SQL Server to perform queries against that data, store it there and retrieve it without the risk of somebody capturing it during database operations or getting a copy of the server and decrypting the data, since the key is not stored anywhere on the database server, only in the application that accesses it.
SQL Server 2016 is also gaining the ability to use In-Memory OLTP with many more applications. In-Memory OLTP is the SQL Server technology introduced in SQL Server 2014 that allows frequently accessed data to be stored and operated on in memory, and improves performance by leaps and bounds. SQL Server 2016 will also be able run in a Hybrid cloud scenario with the Stretch Database option, allowing both Azure SQL and on-premise SQL servers to operate a single database. This will reduce the cost and stress of doing cutover migrations into the cloud, and will be transparent to applications accessing the database. Stretch Databases can be used in conjunction with Always Encrypted to make CIOs less nervous about trusting confidential data to Microsoft’s cloud.
Azure Data Lake Store and Analytics Service is also entering preview today, allowing large developers and data scientists a single repository where they can capture data of any size, type or at any speed. It is built on Apache YARN and uses the U-SQL query language for scalable, distributed queries. Users will be able to craft single queries that efficiently analyze data in Azure Data Lake, SQL servers in Azure, Azure SQL, and Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Along with the Big Data solution, the blog post also announces that In-Memory OLTP is now available as a preview for Azure SQL Database users, which should allow developers to accelerate their applications in Azure to a similar, or greater, degree as the technology allows on-premise.
These new versions of SQL Server, both local and in the cloud, show how dedicated Microsoft is to not losing its edge in the enterprise, while simultaneously attracting the consumer market. SQL Server may not be the flashiest suite that Microsoft sells, but it’s certainly one of the most critical and these changes will work to keep it very competitive.