A 2016 future so bright you gotta wear shades?

by Feb 9, 2016

If you are a DBA or developer working around Microsoft SQL Server, you have heard lots about SQL Server 2016. (If not, you might be stuck in a cryogenic chamber). Microsoft has a powerful marketing machine and we all know that marketing teams tend to “lean forward” in hyping their products so I set out to separate hype from reality at a recent SQL Saturday event attended by several hundred DBAs and developers in Austin, Texas.

In my quest to learn what really gets database professionals excited, I decided to attend a 2-hour session on SQL Server 2016 presented by Conor Cunningham, software architect for Microsoft responsible for the core engine of SQL Server. Conor’s session was a great summary of the incredible technology advances present in SQL Server 2016. As a product management professional, I was just as if not more so interested in the audience’s reaction to the new features – I will get to that in a moment. But first, here are a few of my favorite points from the presentation.

Session Highlights

Functional equivalency – on premise or in the cloud

With the release of SQL Server 2016 and SQL Azure V12 Microsoft claims to have removed most of the technical barriers that existed previously in terms of migrating database workloads to the cloud. Might this be the tipping point that Microsoft has hoped for to greatly accelerate database PaaS with Azure?

Comparing 2016 with 2005 – yes this happened

Conor told the audience that SQL Server 2016 is probably the largest release Microsoft has delivered since SQL Server 2005. Now surely all the companies using 2005 will get off of it, right? Well not so fast – a poll in the room showed that greater than 10% of all database professionals still use SQL Server 2005.

Security is a big deal

SQL Server 2016 is filled with security enhancements. The most notable new features here are row level security, new dynamic data masking features, and the headliner – Always Encrypted database applications. All of these features are cool, but the standout is Always Encrypted which allows you to build applications that never store or transmit any sensitive data that is not encrypted. There is one major catch though – your applications must use the latest .NET Framework 4.6. By the way, if you are curious about your exposure with sensitive data, check out this free tool by IDERA – SQL Column Search.

The big reveal

Microsoft is not the only one getting excited about SQL Server 2016. As I mentioned above, no one is a better gauge for what is really going to take off as a key feature more so than actual database professionals that will use the new database platform. In two hours of discussion and Q&A, one feature created far more buzz than any other one discussed. Drum roll please … and that feature is – SQL Server Query Store!

The Query Store captures query plan performance information and stores it in your database where it remains available as different plans are selected. In layman’s terms (because I am definitely a layman), this allows DBAs and SQL developers to compare performance of their SQL using current and past plans, and easily force the SQL to use a previous plan for better performance. DBAs love it because it means less support calls wondering why applications are slow. Developers love it because DBAs are not going to keep blaming them for bad SQL (ok, maybe they will continue to do that, but less).

Companies like IDERA will look to enhance what you can do with Query Store, but for now this feature is a great sign that Microsoft is listening to their customers and helping them do their jobs better.