Microsoft is getting closer to finalizing SQL Server 2016. On April 1, the company announced the availability of the database software's third release candidate (RC).
The software is "nearly feature complete," said Microsoft's SQL Server team in an April 1 blog post. "These include real-time operational analytics, rich visualizations on mobile devices, built-in advanced analytics, new advanced security technologies and new hybrid scenarios that allow you to securely stretch data to the cloud."
Last year, Microsoft acquired Revolution Analytics, the leading commercial backer of the open-source R statistical computing programming language. Popular among data scientists, R is often used to build models for predictive analytics. Since the buy, the software maker has been working to integrate Microsoft R Server functionality (formerly Revolution R Enterprise) with SQL Server.
Now, database administrators can test the latest version of the software, which contains a more seamless R Services setup process.
SQL Server 2016 RC2 eliminates the need to download and install Microsoft R Server or R Open if SQL Server is connected to the Internet, the company announced. R Services are now a unified part of the initial installation sequence, streamlining setup and configuration tasks for administrators.
The new installer offers the option of installing a stand-alone Microsoft R Server or SQL Server R Services as an in-database capability. After a service type is selected during the SQL Server setup, it installs the required R components automatically.
Also included is an updated SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) toolset. New features include improved theming support complete with an SSMS "light" theme and a quick-launch toolbar, courtesy of improvements to the Visual Studio 2015 shell.
SQL Server 2016 RC2 also supports mobile brand packages, a collection of files that act as templates for the SQL Server Reporting services, enabling businesses to create reports with a consistent look and feel that reflects their brands. Brand packages can now be download to the mobile report publisher from an RC2 server. It also supports basic mobile report content migration, Microsoft added.
Microsoft is banking on SQL Server's newfound analytics capabilities to help it meet the rising demand for advanced business intelligence and analytics solutions.
Last month, the company published a set of new machine-learning templates designed to help organizations get a head start on their R-based analytics projects. The batch includes templates for online fraud detection and customer churn prediction. The predictive maintenance template uses simulated data from Internet of things (IoT) sensors to predict when an aircraft engine component is likely to fail.
SQL Server is also poised to expand its reach beyond Windows IT shops.
On March 7, Microsoft surprised industry watchers by announcing the Redmond, Wash., tech heavyweight was bringing SQL Server to Linux by mid-2017. "This will enable SQL Server to deliver a consistent data platform across Windows Server and Linux, as well as on-premises and cloud," said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, in a statement at the time.