As we've come to expect from new SQL Server releases, SQL Server 2012 has so many new features that it's impossible even to mention them all. Nearly everyone is well served, from the BI-hungry users of Reporting Services to the IT folks who oversee query performance and uptime. SQL Server 2012 brings improvements across the board, with only a few disappointing exceptions.
With Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft begins to fully realize its vision of SQL Server as an information platform and not "just" a database. Hence the main theme for this release - at least according to Microsoft - is self-service BI. The PowerPivot plug-ins for Excel 2010 and SharePoint 2010 are easily going to make the biggest splash of all the new features, not least because they're the most complete. But then, SQL Server 2008 R2 isn't strictly necessary for PowerPivot for Excel, which works with plenty of other data sources.
The noisiest new feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 promises to be live virtual machine migration, as Microsoft seizes the chance to show that Hyper-V is closing the gap with VMware Infrastructure. But there are many reasons beyond server virtualization to take a close look at Windows Server 2008 R2. Important enhancements are spread across the board, ranging from IIS to networking to Terminal Services. There's even a story to be told about R2 and the upcoming Windows 7, which gains better virtual desktop integration and even secure remote access without requiring a VPN -- though the latter feature, called DirectAccess, requires the use of IPv6.
SQL Server 2008, aka "Katmai," gives SQL Server shops plenty of reasons to get excited. The best SQL Server release to date, it sports more nice new features than you can count, and the improvements extend to both performance and manageability. In a few cases, such as the Resource Governor, you'll wish Microsoft had taken the functionality a little further. But whether you manage an OLTP environment, or an OLAP environment, or both, you will most likely find Katmai compelling. It easily passes my own five-point test for upgrades.
Katmai, the code name for Microsoft's imminent SQL Server 2008 release, comes from an Alaskan territory know for volcanoes, which may not be the best symbol for a database. So far, however, Katmai hasn't blown up on me. And the lower-profile Katmai seems like a good follow-on to Yukon, the code name for the gigantic SQL Server 2005 release.
I like to define a five-point touch system for my database upgrades. If the new version doesn't change my life in five ways, then it's not a significant upgrade. I'll typically quantify my need by approximating how many hours I spend each week performing certain tasks, and then estimate how much time the upgrade will save me. If I spend five hours every week dealing with resource usage and the new release will do it automatically, then I figure the upgrade will save me five hours a week. Now all I have to do is quantify four other features the same way, and I can sell it to management.
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