SQL Server 2016 RC2

The SQL Server Team notes that Release Candidate 2 is now available:

In SQL Server 2016 RC 2, enhancements include:

  • R Services setup – the setup process for R Services is much more integrated into SQL Server setup. There is no longer a need to manually download and install Microsoft R open and R Server if the SQL Server is connected to the Internet; it becomes part of the SQL Server install sequence.

  • SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) – This release of SSMS features an update to the Visual Studio 2015 shell bringing enhancements such as the quick launch toolbar and improved theming support.

  • Mobile reports – Brand Packages will now be downloaded to the mobile report publisher from a server running RC2 and available for use in report creation.  Basic mobile report content migration between servers is now supported.

These look like wrap-up tasks.  It’s good to see R being integrated a little bit better; that installation series seemed a bit hacky, whereas this sounds a lot more polished.

Developer Edition Now Free

Microsoft is making SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition free for Visual Studio Dev Essentials members:

Exciting news! Starting today, SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition is now a free download for Visual Studio Dev Essentials members. We are making this change so that all developers can leverage the capabilities that SQL Server 2014 has to offer for their data solution, and this is another step in making SQL Server more accessible. SQL Server Developer Edition is for development and testing only, and not for production environments or for use with production data.

Visual Studio Dev Essentials is Microsoft’s most comprehensive free developer program ever, with everything you need to build and deploy your app on any platform, including state-of-the-art tools, the power of the cloud, training, and support.

SQL Server 2016 will also be covered under this plan.  Granted, Developer Edition would not break the bank anyhow, but it does lower (ever so slightly) those barriers to entry, and I think it’ll be a driving point for SQL Server on Linux.

Finding Changes

Aaron Bertrand  shows different ways of looking for metadata changes in different versions of SQL Server:

Back in December, I published a post entitled, “How I spot not-yet-documented features in SQL Server CTPs.” In that post, I revealed a few of the ways that I get an early jump on what’s changed between CTP and/or RC builds of SQL Server. You can do those same things if you want to see what new objects or columns have been created, or which system modules have changed, between – say – SQL Server 2014 and SQL Server 2016. This will likely be a bigger list than any of the individual sets of items I’ve posted about in our SQL Server 2016 builds post, but the same concepts apply – create a linked server to the older instance, optionally create some synonyms for easy adaptation, and go to town.

There are a few other things I check as we get closer to the final release, and they can be quite revealing about what features have made it into the product. We can also get some insight into things they tried to get in but couldn’t (for example, there are error messages and Intellisense verbiage for STRING_AGG(), which does not seem to be in the cards for RTM). I’m going to point out a few, but I’m not going to iterate through all of the things I’ve learned – this is more to serve as as a starting point so you can experiment on your own.

If you’re interested in this kind of spelunking, you can learn a lot without having to reverse engineer binaries.

SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.3 Available

CTP 3.3 is now generally available:

In SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.3, available for download or in an Azure VM today, some of the key improvements include:

  • Continued enhancement of Stretch Database: Stretch Database allows you to stretch operational tables in a secure manner into Azure for cost-effective historic data availability. CTP 3.3 includes multiple improvements to Stretch Database, including Azure Stretch database edition preview with support for up to 60TB, Point-in-time restore and geo-failover support.

  • Enhancements to In-Memory OLTP: In-Memory OLTP, which dramatically improves transaction processing performance, has added support in CTP 3.3.

  • Enhancements to Analysis Services DirectQuery models: Analysis Services Tabular Models running in DirectQuery mode now also allows us of DAX filters when defining roles and creation of calculated columns.

  • Enhancements to the new Reporting Services web portal: An updated preview of the new web portal now enables you to add the KPIs and reports you use to your Favorites, to create and edit shared data sources for your KPIs and reports, and to perform other management tasks.

Admittedly, none of those strikes me as compelling “must-download” reasons but the technical overview does have some more details.

Feature Spelunking

Aaron Bertrand shows us how to find hidden features in CTPs:

In honesty, I’m just meticulous about installing each new build and immediately digging into the metadata. It would be hard to take a look at sys.all_objects and identify what’s new by sight; even columns like create_date and modify_date are not as accurate as you might expect. (For example, in CTP 3.1, sp_helpindex has a create_date of 2015-11-21 18:03:15.267.)

So instead of relying on photographic memory or hoping that something new will jump out at me while scanning the new catalog, I always install the new CTP side-by-side with the previous CTP (or, in the case of the very first CTP, side-by-side with the previous version). Then I can just perform various types of anti-semi-joins across a linked server to see objects and columns that have been added, removed, or changed.

Very interesting.

SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1

Manoj Pandey tells us that SQL Server 2016 CTP 3.1 is now available:

–> Following are enhancements in some areas:

1. New In-Memory OLTP improvements, including Unique indexes, LOB data types, and Indexes with NULLable key columns.

2. The COMPRESS and DECOMPRESS functions convert values into and out of the GZIP algorithm.

The list goes on, but item #1 is intriguing.

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