SQL 2014 Release Date

Microsoft have announced that SQL Server 2014 has been RTM’d (Released To Manufacturing) and will be generally available from April 1st.

SQL 2014 brings a host of new and improved features, particularly around Business Intelligence and Cloud computing.

  • In-memory transaction processing (In-Memory OLTP), speeds up an already very fast experience by delivering speed improvement of up to 30x.
  • Customers do not have to rewrite their application or deploy new servers. We approached in-memory columnstore the same way – it is built into SQL Server.
  • Customers can easily and securely backup and recover on-premises SQL Server databases using Windows Azure
  • SQL Server 2014’s AlwaysOn technology was not just improved for this release, it was built to enroll Windows Azure virtual machines running SQL Server into a customers’ disaster recovery solution.

You can read more about this release here:


Power BI General Availability

Business Intelligence is an ever growing area and I think it will continue to grow for quite some time. Taking note of the data you have, analysing it and making decisions based on it is becoming more and more prevalent – think what Billy Beane has been doing at the A’s for years, what Bill James does with the Red Sox, look at how Opta stats have become such a huge thing within premier league football…all these are examples of business intelligence.

The new way:


I’m amazed at some of the things that are being done with Power Bi, especially combined with Excel 2013! The opportunity for organizations to become so much smarter with how and what they’re doing is huge – the fact that it’s cloud based so allows access from anywhere is a big deal, especially with the Windows 8 & RT apps AND HTML5 support.

It’s available now so pricing is in the pricefiles – to see some of the things you can do with Power BI, head over to:


Microsoft SQL 2012 Licensing Changes

Microsoft have this week announced some relatively major changes to the SQL 2012 product line up and it’s licensing.


There are now 3 editions of SQL Server:

  • Standard
  • Enterprise
  • Business Intelligence


Here’s the big change – there’s no more Per CPU licensing…now it’s by Core.

This is a major, although not wholly unexpected, move by Microsoft. Other vendors such as Oracle have long charged by the core but Microsoft have always stayed with physical sockets as their measure…until now.

I’ve been expecting this for a while, especially as 6-core processors become more commonplace and Intel keep making them more powerful. What once took 2 processors can now be done with 1 and what once took 4 now needs just 2, so Microsoft must have been seeing a decline in their SQL revenue over the last 18 months or so.

To break down the licensing:

Standard = Per Core or Server + CAL

Enterprise = Per Core only

Business Intelligence = Server + CAL only

You’ll notice that the new Business Intelligence (BI) edition is Server+CAL only so what should you do if you have external/anonymous users and/or a huge number of people accessing the BI server/s? SQL Enterprise Edition 2012 contains ALL features of the BI edition so use that to license by core.

Let’s go a little deeper into the licensing and see what else there is for us Smile

It’s worth noting that “Core based licences will be sold in 2 core packs.” but a big clause is:

“To license a physical server properly, you must license all cores in the server with a minimum of 4 cores required for each physical processor in the server.”

This means if you’re running with dual core CPU’s you’re going to have to buy more cores than you have. <—This will be a big cause of outrage I’m sure however it does mean that as you upgrade your server hardware and get CPUs with higher core counts, there won’t be a big extra licensing cost.

Transition to new Licensing Models

Whenever Microsoft bring out new versions of software and change the licensing rules, the big question is always “What if I need to buy new licenses in the meantime?” and we, as partners, have to work to make sure that we help customers future proof any investments they make in the run up to the new product release.

What’s the deal with the run up to SQL 2012?

  • After 30/06/12, no Enterprise Edition Server licenses will be sold. (EA/EAP customers will have until their next renewal after 30/06/12 to purchase additional server licences for current projects.)
  • All existing SQL Enterprise Editions licensed via Server + CAL with SA (Software Assurance) can be upgraded to SQL 2012 and the SA can be maintained to provide access to future updates.
  • Here’s a point to take note of:
  • Newly purchased Enterprise Edition (EE) 2012 server licenses and/or those server licenses upgraded via SA will be limited to server deployments with 20 cores or less.
  • Customers with processor licenses under SA can upgrade to SQL 2012 at no additional cost.
  • At the end of the SA term, processor licences can be exchanged for core licenses and the SA can then be renewed.
  • SQL Std & Enterprise Processor licensed covered with SA will be exchanged for a minimum of 4 core licenses or the actual number of cores in use.
  • SQL DataCenter (a version of 2008 that’s disappearing in 2012) will swap out for a minimum of 8 cores or the actual number of processors in use.

There are some other rules and guides around the ability to add core licenses mid term to an EA/EAP etc but I don’t want to make this section TOO big!


Microsoft have released estimated pricing in dollars so let’s take a look at that and see how it stacks up to current 2008 R2 costs.


So you’re looking at $7172 at a minimum for a SQL Std server which stacks up pretty well against the current processor licensing costs. I’m sure people will find scenarios where this is more expensive but they’ll surely forget to take into account all the new features like Project Crescent & Juneau that have been integrated into the new editions, and so I don’t think that price should really be the big thing here.

Any other editions available?

SQL Datacenter, Workgroup & Standard for Small Business editions are all being retired with the 2012 release.

Web Edition will only be available to hosters via SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement).

Developer, Express & Compact editions will continue to be available in the same ways as right now.

SQL Server 2008 R2: Licensing Changes

SQL Server 2008 R2 has got a whole host of new features and now it’s got some new licensing too 🙂

The big move is that SQL’s licensing will follow the same path as Windows Server, both in editions and also virtual licence allowances:

  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard = 1 VM per licence
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise = 4 VM’s per licence
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard = Unlimited VM’s per licence

Here’s a Microsoft diagram that shows many of the main differences between the now 3 editions:


If you currently have SQL Server 2008 Enterprise and Software Assurance there is “a complete transition/migration path” but I don’t have any details yet…they will be available nearer launch on May 6th 2010.

For more info on SQL Server 2008 R2, see my other post here:

Read What’s New in SQL Server 2008 R2

Original post from MS here.

What’s New in SQL Server 2008 R2

SQL Server 2008 R2 aka Kilmajaro is due for release on May 6th, 2010 and is a much more Business Intelligence focused release. It has a bunch of new features as well as a number of improvements to existing features.

What’s New?

There are three main new features which we’ll take a look at here:

Master Data Services:

This is a “database, configuration tool, Web application, and Web service” that is used to “manage your organization’s master data and maintain an auditable record of that data as it changes over time”. This can then serve up the data for BI & Reporting tools such as Sharepoint, SSRS, SAP Crystal Reports etc for use around the business.

For information on architecture, deployment, security and more, see here. A great getting started guide can be found here

PowerPivot for Sharepoint

“Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for SharePoint extends SharePoint 2010 and Excel Services to add server-side processing, collaboration, and document management support for the PowerPivot workbooks that you publish to SharePoint”.

PowerPivot enables Excel workbooks to easily work with over 1,000,000 rows of data and still perform quick calculations…see my other post here.

3 tier diagram of client, middle, backend add-ins

.A great MSDN look at PowerPivot for Sharepoint can be found here.

Multi-Server Administration and Data-Tier Application:

This “forms a central repository for performance data and management policies that tailor the operation of instances of the Database Engine”. It also includes the ability to connect to a SQL Azure Database.

More info on the manageability side of SQL 2008 R2 is here.

What’s Enhanced?

SQL Server Reporting Services (SRSS) have been given a huge boost in SQL 2008 R2, to help bring them closer to dedicated Business Intelligence platforms such as SAP Business Objects Crystal Reports Servers and Business Object EDGE.

Sharepoint Integration: New features include:

  • Support for multiple Sharepoint Zones
  • New Data extension
  • Query designer for Sharepoint Lists as a data source
  • Right to Left text w/Arabic  & Hebrew

and more. You can now use data held in lists inside Sharepoint and include that in your reports, for more info head over to Getting Data from a SharePoint List Data Source Type (Report Builder 3.0).

Report Parts: This is a great feature which allows you store parts of reports on the server, to be re-used by you (or others) at a later date. This means if you’ve got someone who’s awesome at making charts, they can pre-create them and load them up on the server for the benefit of the rest of the team/business 🙂

Report Part Publishing LifeCycle:


You can publish the following report parts:

  • Charts
  • Gauges
  • Images and embedded images
  • Maps
  • Parameters
  • Rectangles
  • Tables
  • Matrices
  • Lists
  • This makes it quite similar to SAP Xcelsius but I don’t think it is as fully featured and also, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t seem anywhere near as end user friendly.

    MSDN have got more info on Report Part Publishing here.

    Wrap Up:

    I hope this has gone some way to explaining some of the new features of SQL Server 2008 R2 and that it helped show how these can help you and your business 🙂
    The full MSDN article with almost literally 100’s of how to’s, guides and FAQ’s is here:


    A deeper look @ PowerPivot

    PowerPivot for Excel

    PowerPivot for Excel supports self-service business intelligence in the following ways.

    • Current row-and-column limitations in Excel are removed so that you can import much more data. This goes far beyond 1,000,000 rows!
    • A data relationship layer lets you integrate data from different sources and work with all of the data holistically. You can enter data, copy data from other worksheets, or import data from corporate databases. You can build relationships among the data to analyze it as if it all originated from a single source.
    • Create portable, reusable data. Data stays inside the workbook. You do not need manage external data connections. If you publish, move, copy, or share a workbook, all the data goes with it.
    • PowerPivot data is fully and immediately available to the rest of the workbook. You can switch between Excel and PowerPivot windows to work on the data and its presentation in PivotTables or charts in an interactive fashion. Working on data or on its presentation are not separate tasks. You work on both together in the same Excel environment.

    PowerPivot lets users build relationships between completely different data sources and still have all the data held entirely within the workbook.

    Try it out:

    You can download PowerPivot for Excel here. Note: It requires Office 2010 beta.


    3 tier diagram of client, middle, backend add-ins


    PowerPivot for Sharepoint:

    “PowerPivot for SharePoint adds services and infrastructure for loading and unloading PowerPivot data”. The PowerPivot System Service tracks usage of PowerPivot workbooks across the app servers on the farm and deals with “setting up new connections to data that is already loaded in memory, and caching or unloading data if it is no longer used or when there is contention for system resources.” It then presents server health and usage data in reports, enabling admins to see how well the system is performing.

    Excel Services renders the Presentation layer of a Pivot workbook  while the Analysis Services instances detect, extract and process the Pivot data. Here’s a diagram showing how a query request is processed:

    Data processing request diagram

    You can see a full overview over on the MSDN site here.

    Try it out:

    You can download PowerPivot for Sharepoint here. Note: It requires the CTP of SQL 2008 R2  AND Sharepoint 2010 beta.

    Installing PowerPivot for Sharepoint

    There are a number of pre-requisites and steps to installing the product, and they can all be found here:


    Microsoft Project Madison

    Project Madison is a new Data Warehousing solution from Microsoft, born out of their purchase of DATAllegro in August 2008. It is a:

    “highly scalable data warehouse appliance that delivers performance at low cost through a massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture.”

    It’s official name is “Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse” (I’d have kept Madison myself) and it’s aim is to make Datacenters easily scalable from “Terabytes to Petabytes”.

    Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)

    Most traditional architectures are Symmetric Multi-Processing. This means that all the queries are processed in one physical instance of the database; so CPU, Memory & storage limitations of the box all limit the speed & scale of the implementation.

    Madison and it’s MPP approach get around that nicely as large tables are partitioned over multiple physical nodes. Each node has it’s own CPU, Storage and Memory and it’s own running instance of SQL Server…this is a patented approach known as “Ultra Shared Nothing” 🙂 Everything is mirrored as well for HA and redundancy.


    It’s use of Industry Standard hardware helps keep the costs down and gives a much lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) that current DW (Data Warehousing) offerings. If you need to scale you can simply buy some more server (HP DL380’s, IBM Xwhatever’s etc) and add them into the environment…no more needing to purchase a whole new appliance and write off the previous one. Definitely a good point for CFO’s and their kind 🙂


    Madison’s approach to data storage makes it quicker, more reliable & more responsive to the needs of a business; or even to the needs of individual dept’s within a business. If you have multiple separate but related companies under a single umbrella (or you’re a big enterprise that has internal departments the same size as a small company!) Madison is definitely something you should take a look at.


    Here, each Business Unit has it’s own Data Mart making it easier, quicker and cheaper for them to store and access their data, but a single “Golden” copy of data in the central reservoir resolves many issues. There is also great high availability here as Spokes or hubs can back each other up.


    This next image does a great job of showing the difference between Madison and current DW solutions:


    Much more flexible 🙂 It’s also going to be fast, one example I saw was:

    “625K rows returned in 11 seconds from 1 trillion row table”

    That’s amazing!


    You can see in the diagram below that it plugs into Office and also “BI Tools”, which surely is Sharepoint. This backs up what I’ve heard that Sharepoint Online will support Madison too!


    Learn more over at:


    Microsoft BPOS: Sharepoint Online 2010

    Sharepoint 2010 is due for release around April time 2010 and the Online version will become available through BPOS around September time I do believe.

    When the 2010 version of Sharepoint (and Exchange & OCS) hit online, they will be SO much more fully features than the current 2007 versions; they will in fact be almost the same! This will be especially notable with Sharepoint as their is a large disparity at the moment:

    Read Comparison of Sharepoint Server & Sharepoint Online

    Sharepoint Online 2010 will include all the Business Intelligence (BI) aspects such as:

    • Excel Services
    • Forms Server
    • Dashboards
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

    and more 🙂 As a BPOS Partner this is great news…the BI features are becoming more interesting to more people and not having these features can be quite a big barrier to Sharepoint Online adoption. That’ll all change next year which is great news 🙂


    Wave 14 will bring some changes to the BPOS licensing too…there will be Standard and Enterprise USLS…just as there are for the on-premise CALs.

    However, the split of features between the 2 will be decidedly different. The Enterprise CAL will include:

    FAST Enterprise Search

    There are also rumblings that it will include some part of, or ways of linking to, Microsoft’s Data Warehousing technology “Project Madison”. This would certainly fit with the BI capabilities inside Sharepoint…

    I’ll be doing a post dedicated to Madison soon so keep your eyes peeled for that 🙂

    This is all great news, for partners, customers and Redmond as, come H2 of 2010, Sharepoint Online will be a formidable challenger in the world of S+S/SAAS BI and should be pretty great. I, for one, am excited 🙂

    Props to W Cornwill for the Britney pic!

    A great example of Crystal Xcelsius

    Crystal Xcelsius is a fantastic product and some of the things that people do with are amazing…huge data visualizations laid out on maps with automatically refreshing data and various gauges, sliders, graphs and all sorts:


    Thanks to http://dashboardsbyexample.com/

    I’m pretty sure that the Wall Street Journal Election Calculator was created in Xcelsius-you can find it here.

    It does a great job of making boring, grey spreadsheets and reports much more engaging, interesting and effective. However, I’ve never found an example I can use on a regular basis…but now i have 🙂

    Web 2.0 Presentation Tools from SAP – this set of tools from SAP’s Timo Elliott is great. They use Crystal Xcelsius to integrate Twitter into your Powerpoint presentations-how great does that sound?!

    I had a little play around with it earlier and used it to show tweets about MS licensing, scrolling live across the bottom. Twitter keeps increasing in popularity as a way of interacting with presenters and of giving feedback during a talk, when it can still make a difference. These tools mean you don’t need to have separate apps running on your machine or even a separate machine used solely to receive & manage Twitter feedback.

    You can download the Powerpoint with guides and the tools to integrate it yourself here:


    I really like this. It’s very useful, current and a great advert for SAP’s Xcelsius technology.

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