On-premises or in a cloud-hosted virtual machine, organizations can now take an early version of the company's next database for a spin.
Microsoft has released the first SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview, allowing database administrators to test out the software's new capabilities. The preview is available for download
now at the company's TechNet Evaluation Center.
"This public preview gives an early look into many of the capabilities in the release and allows early adopters to get engaged by testing the preview in their environments or via a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure," said Corporate Vice President T.K. "Ranga" Rengarajan in a May 27 announcement. "SQL Server 2016 provides breakthrough performance for mission critical applications and deeper insights on your data across on-premises and cloud."
The database, a follow-up to the company's analytics-friendly SQL Server 2014 release
, also keeps a tighter lid on sensitive information courtesy of a Microsoft Research technology called Always Encrypted, which protects data both at rest and in motion.
"With Always Encrypted, SQL Server can perform operations on encrypted data and best of all, the encryption key resides with the application in the customer's trusted environment," said Rengarajan. "Encryption and decryption of data happen transparently inside the application which minimizes the changes that have to be made to existing applications."
Also new to SQL Server 2016 is a feature called Stretch Database that enlists the company's Azure cloud to improve performance.
"As core transactional tables grow in size, you may need to archive historical data to lower cost and to maintain fast performance," explained
Rengarajan in an earlier preview of the new feature. "This unique technology allows you to dynamically stretch your warm and cold transactional data to Microsoft Azure, so your operational data is always at hand, no matter the size, and you benefit from the low cost of using Microsoft Azure." Combining Always Encrypted and Stretch Database allows customers to extend their "data in a more secure manner for greater peace of mind," he added.
In terms of data processing, SQL Server 2016 will incorporate some of the technologies from this year's Revolution Analytics acquisition.
Microsoft snapped up Mountain View, Calif.-based R language and big data analytics specialist in January for an undisclosed amount. "Revolution Analytics is the leading commercial provider of software and services for R, the world's most widely used programming language for statistical computing and predictive analytics," said Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Machine Learning at Microsoft, in a Jan. 23 statement.
Today, testers can preview some of the platform's in-database analytics with capabilities with R integration.
Data analytics is now available as an additional workload powered by Revolution Analytics technology. "We want to make advanced analytics more accessible and increase performance for your advanced analytic workloads by bringing R processing closer to the data and building advanced analytic capabilities right into SQL Server," Rengarajan said.