New SQL Server In-Memory Capability Will Help Microsoft Sustain Growth

G00263387

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Summary

Microsoft's SQL Server 2014 release changes the in-memory DBMS landscape. Its new in-memory transaction capabilities will drive increased enterprise interest in HTAP and help Microsoft sustain its growth in the years ahead.

News Analysis

Event

On 15 April 2014, Microsoft held a launch event, led by new CEO Satya Nadella, to announce SQL Server 2014, the latest version of Microsoft's database management system (DBMS) with new in-memory capabilities for transaction processing.

Microsoft also enhanced its in-memory column store for analytics and announced the general availability of the Analytics Platform System (the latest release of SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse), which includes the ability to add a region for HDInsight featuring Apache Hadoop for Windows. It also includes Polybase for the integration of SQL Server, HDInsight and other data sources.

Analysis

Nadella and COO Kevin Turner personally introduced the launch event, signaling Microsoft’s belief in the market potential of the new release and the importance of SQL Server to the future of Microsoft. Until now, SAP Hana has been the only major DBMS with in-memory capability. The release alters the DBMS landscape as Microsoft becomes the second of the top four DBMS vendors by revenue to deliver in-memory transaction capabilities, and will drive increased interest in hybrid transaction/analytical processing (HTAP) in the market.

SQL Server 2014's high-performance messaging, a strong competitive thrust, is driven by memory exploitation — using the new in-memory transaction processing engine, code-named Hekaton during development. Performance gains can be substantial with no code changes and made greater by leveraging the new capability to compile stored procedures for “native” operation (claimed to be up to 30 times faster for transaction processing). SQL Server 2014 extends in-memory processing for analytic workloads by adding update capability to its in-memory column store (introduced with SQL Server 2012). Microsoft joins other leading vendors in adding support for using solid-state drives (SSDs) for its buffer pools. Beta customers at the launch event, including Nasdaq, cited substantial performance gains from the improvements, supporting Microsoft's claims.

The use of the in-memory capabilities has some restrictions, especially with respect to row-level locking. This will prevent the SQL Server 2014 in-memory feature from being certified for the SAP application suite, leaving only SAP Hana certified for in-memory transactions. Customers must test the in-memory capabilities to be sure the restrictions have no effect on their applications.

Security was another focus, with additional support for separation of duties and messaging around SQL Server’s rating as “least vulnerable database” for five successive years (according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology). Enhanced high-availability features (AlwaysOn) raise the maximum number of secondary replicas, increase the availability of readable replicas, simplify storage management and ease adding replicas in Windows Azure to on-premises deployments.

Microsoft continues its policy of adding new features to SQL Server without additional charges for new options. The new and enhanced features, including SQL Server integration with an updated and enhanced Windows Azure for hybrid cloud and on-premises deployment, reinforce SQL Server's market position and ability to support mission-critical enterprise applications.

Recommendations

Current and prospective Microsoft customers:

  • Put SQL Server’s in-memory capabilities to the test, with real workloads at scale with realistic concurrency scenarios, to evaluate its readiness for your critical workloads.

  • Consider cloud-based opportunities and profile and test both scale and concurrency of cloud deployment candidates.

  • Examine your availability and disaster recovery requirements and consider SQL Server, even for application scenarios where earlier versions of SQL Server might have fallen short.

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