SQL Server 2016 is coming

Yesterday at the keynote for the Microsoft Ignite conference Satya Nadella announced the next version of SQL Server, which will be available next year and in public preview later this summer. Rather than hitting all the marketing jumbo that’s been repeated elsewhere, I’d like to focus on the three biggest enhancements for BI and why you should already start thinking about upgrading to the next version.

R Integration directly into SQL Server

Much like we’ve had the ability to write DMX queries against SSAS Multidimensional models, having the ability to write R code directly into SQL Server is going to open SQL Server up to a much broader user base, and empower more people to analyze their data in different ways.

Enhanced SSIS

A feature I myself overlooked the first time I read the data sheet yesterday, but the ability to select the specific version of SSIS you want to build to and support for Power Query is going to be some serious awesome-sauce. Chris Webb (b|t) is showing us some awesome stuff that M can do, and giving SSIS the ability to capitalize will make for some very efficient ETL, especially when it’s combined with the ability to pull data from cloud sources via Azure Data Factory. The ability to select what version of SSIS you want to build for is a feature that’s long overdue, and as a consultant I couldn’t be happier.

Polybase into SQL Server

This feature alone justifies the upgrade. As a consultant, I hear a lot of companies talking about Hadoop and what to do with their unstructured data. Should we invest in Hadoop? What are the big barriers to entry? One of the biggest has been cost, especially since to date Polybase has only been available in APS (Analytic Platform System), but by putting Polybase into SQL Server directly Microsoft is really going to be able to step ahead of the entire market. Imagine being able to run this query:

SELECT SUM(salesAmount), h.CustomerInfo

FROM MyFactTable

JOIN HDFS.dbo.Customers

No more heavy loading of needing to write MapReduce jobs and complicated logic to get unstructured data and structured data together for analysis. Now, it just works. This combined with Azure SQL Data Warehouse announced last week at Build has me extremely excited about the rest of the year and 2016!

The complete data sheet is available for download here.

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