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High hopes for SQL Server 2016 launch on June 1st.

Earlier this month, Microsoft Corp. announced the next version of SQL Server, their flagship database product, will be launched for GA on June 1st 2016.

The hubbub in the data and analytics space already around the preview of SQL Server 2016 (versioned as Consumer Technology Preview (CTP) 2.0) seems to be on the whole, positive. Some say this release is different and stand-out to all the other cycles, as there are fundamental changes in the SQL Server 2016 code. Essentially it looks like behind the marketing spiel there are real changes in the way the development team operates and changes in the way features are designed. One of the other principal differences between this release and the others is that Microsoft first tested many of the new features of SQL Server 2016 in its Azure cloud.

What is also out of the ordinary, is SQL Server 2016 will be the first born-cloud first’ release. In a similar vein, some believe Microsoft Azure cloud is the optimum platform for SQL Server 2016, whilst others say there is a slight contrast to other recent releases of SQL Server, in that the 2016 version is not as directly focused on Azure features, mainly because it’s thought Microsoft is moving towards a common code base for both the on-premises version of SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, which will allow for changes to come into the product in a more Agile fashion.

Nonetheless, SQL Server 2016 clearly has a number of major new capabilities that can be leveraged either through on premise, in Azure or from a hybrid model.  The 2016 version is wholly expected to be a significant upgrade bringing capabilities including; advanced analytics, enriched visualisations on mobile devices, enhanced security, expanded support for in-memory database operation and the ability to take advantage of the increasing prevalence of cloud services in today's IT environment. All be it some high expectations have been slightly quashed around new support additions such as JSON data, to which Microsoft introduced support of in SQL Server 2016 and in Azure SQL Database however, some say it wasn’t as comprehensive as anticipated.

Running in parallel with the new product release tours and announcements around the 2016 release, Microsoft laid bare their strategy to entice Oracle customers over to SQL Server 2016, by offering ‘free licenses’.

“For every instance of Oracle you have, we’ll give you a free SQL Server license,” said Judson Althoff, president of Microsoft North America, according to Bloomberg, at an event in March 2016 to unveil SQL Server 2016 where he went on to say “We’ll help invest in migration costs, put engineers on the ground to help you migrate from Oracle.” Althoff himself being an ex-Oracle executive!

However, there appears to be a catch in amongst this smattering of irony - clients must be part of (pay for) the Microsoft Software Assurance scheme.

And then something else shook our SQL world.  At SQLBits Liverpool on Friday the 5th of May, one of the key notes Joseph Sirosh dressed as a Star Trek character, demonstrated to our very own SQL leading light Dominic Adamczyk and a few other hundred people, how it is possible to link SQL Server 2016 to a Linux server!

So where did that come from? Rather than resting on its database laurels, Microsoft decided in order to court big corporations and win market share from Oracle Corp, it would make its database software available for Linux in the middle of next year. Companies can currently sign up for private previews of the product on the Ubuntu version of Linux whilst Microsoft also works on versions for open source solution, Red Hat. These significant moves mark a decade of dramatic change in Microsoft’s relationship with Linux and open-source communities.

Ok let’s take it right back to the important point which is SQL Server 2016 is pretty cool! It’s the foundation of Microsoft’s data strategy, encompassing innovations that transform data into intelligent action. With this new release, Microsoft is delivering an end-to-end data management and business analytics solution with mission critical intelligence for your most demanding applications as well as insights on your data on any device.

But what is Microsoft the most excited about in the 2016 version? Its speed: Microsoft promises most queries should run an average of 25% faster than before, on the same hardware and recently Lenovo published a new #1 TPC-H 30 TB world record3 using SQL Server 2016 and Windows Server 2016 on Lenovo System x3950 X6. This, in addition to recent benchmarks by software and hardware partners, as well as key applications across variety of workloads, all adds up to prove that SQL Server 2016 is the fastest in-memory database for applications on the planet.