The Vision of SQL Server 2008 - SQL Server 2008

SQL Server 2008 is driven by a vision consisting of four key pillars: enterprise data platform, beyond relational, dynamic development, and pervasive insight. Although some might think of these catchy names as merely marketing hype, they actually meant something to the product development team. Microsoft changed the way SQL Server is designed and developed. Specific user scenarios were derived from these core themes, and in the end, actual improvements to the product were made relating to those scenarios. The result is a high-quality release that focuses on the key pain points and industry trends. Here, we’ll take a look at each of the pillars and discuss some key features within them. These features, as well as many others, are discussed in more detail in the subsequent chapters of this book.

Enterprise Data Platform

To be classified as an enterprise-ready database means much more than being able to formulate query results really fast. An enterprise database must meet the strict service level agreements established by the organizations using SQL Server. SQL Server 2008 has made improvements in supporting high service level agreements, like the ability to hot-add CPUs. Administrators will also find installing and managing the setup of cluster nodes to be much easier.

Being an enterprise data platform also means the data that is stored inside the database is secure. SQL Server 2008 continually builds upon its security features. For example, it enables database files to be automatically encrypted with transparent data encryption. The importance of encryption is prominent with Microsoft, opening the door for Hardware Security Module (HSM) and Enterprise Key Management (EKM) vendors to integrate natively with the encryption support in SQL Server 2008. Encrypting data with SQL Server and storing the encrypted keys within the database provide security, but a more secure solution is to store the encryption keys separately from the actual data, and that is where HSM and EKM solutions add value.

Performance has always been a key attribute of an enterprise-ready database. The Data Collector is a feature within SQL Server that gives database administrators (DBAs) the ability to collect performance-related data and store it within a database. This data can be practically anything, such as Performance Monitor counters, results from database management views, and specific queries. Having performance data reside in a database allows for easy data mining and reporting, and that is the key benefit of the Data Collector. SQL Server 2008 has many new features that validate SQL

Beyond Relational

Data managed within a data platform is more than just relational data. As data growth increases, the types of data stored are no longer the traditional integer, character, and binary values we know and love. New data structures that are important to users are movie files, audio files, and medical images, to name a few. And we not only need to store these new types of data, but we also want to be able to perform useful operations on them, such as indexing and metadata searches.

With SQL Server 2008, investments were made in a feature called filestream, which allows files of arbitrary size to be stored in the file system and managed from the database. This capability enables database applications to exceed the 2GB limit. We can essentially place volume-sized binaries directly into SQL Server and obtain the same seek performance we would if we were querying the file system directly, instead of through Transact-SQL (T-SQL).

SQL Server 2008 also includes support for spatial datatypes. The support conforms to the OpenGIS standards and allows for easy management of global positioning system (GPS) and geographic information system (GIS) data. Having native spatial support also makes it easy and fun to work with spatial applications like Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.

Dynamic Development

Without developer support, platform products such as SQL Server would have died off a long time ago. Microsoft has always made developer productivity a high priority in all of its products. SQL Server 2008 is no exception.

SQL Server 2008 contains improvements in the T-SQL language, as well as new date and time datatypes to fill the void that the existing ones created. SQL Server has also integrated itself with the LINQ effort within Microsoft. LINQ provides a higher level of data abstraction, making it really easy to code against disparate data sources.

Pervasive Insight

Since the inception of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) services in SQL Server 7.0, Microsoft has continually strived for a self-service business intelligence model. The idea is to allow the average employee to easily ask a business intelligence question and get the results, without needing to go through various layers of DBAs and report developers. Gradually, throughout the releases of SQL Server, we have seen more tools and features that promote this behavior.

At the core of business intelligence is SQL Server Analysis Services. New in Analysis Services are enhanced cube, dimension, and attribute designers. These designers, as well as core improvements related to the monitoring, analysis, and performance tuning of Analysis Services, continually push Microsoft’s business intelligence engine further into the leader category of various industry analysts’ charts.

In order for Analysis Services to effectively mine data, it needs a great Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) tool. Investments with SQL Server Integration Services (the replacement for Data Transformation Services in SQL Server 2000) have continued, with the addition of capabilities such as caching transformations, enhanced lookup transformations, data profiling, and a set of expanded data sources.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has acquired a few companies in the reporting market. Some of these acquisitions, like Dundas and its graphical reporting controls, have shown up in Reporting Services in SQL Server 2008. The Reporting Services engine has also been upgraded to release its dependency on Internet Information Server (IIS), among other well-anticipated features.


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