Daniel Hutmacher shows a couple things you can change with near-zero downtime using partition switching:
Look, I’m not saying that you’re the type that would make a change in production while users are working.
But suppose that you would want to add an identity column to dbo.Demo, and change the clustered index to include that identity column, and make the index unique? Because it’s the table’s clustered index, you’re effectively talking about rebuilding the table (remember, the clustered index is the table), which involves reorganizing all of the rows into a new b-tree structure. While SQL Server is busy doing that, nobody will be able to read the contents of the table.
Daniel mentions a read-only table, though you could also do this with a read-write table as long as you have triggers to keep the two tables in sync until go time. That adds to the complexity, but it is an option if you need it.