Microsoft Infuses SQL Server With Artificial Intelligence

SQL Server 2017 CTP 2.0 includes GPU-assisted artificial intelligence capabilities and new performance-enhancing features.

SQL Server

SQL Server 2017, which will run on both Windows and Linux, is inching closer to release with a set of artificial intelligence capabilities that will change the way enterprises derive value from their business data, according to Microsoft.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant on April 19 released SQL Server 2017 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2.0. Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Data Group, described the "production-quality" database software as "the first RDBMS [relational database management system] with built-in AI." Download links and instructions on installing the preview on Linux are available in this TechNet post from the SQL Server team at Microsoft.

It's no secret to anyone keeping tabs on Microsoft lately that the company is betting big on AI, progressively baking its machine learning and cognitive computing technologies into a wide array of the company's cloud services, business software offerings and consumer products. Now, it's SQL Server's turn.

"In this preview release, we are introducing in-database support for a rich library of machine learning functions, and now for the first time Python support (in addition to R)," stated Sirosh, in the April 19 announcement. "SQL Server can also leverage NVIDIA GPU-accelerated computing through the Python/R interface to power even the most intensive deep-learning jobs on images, text, and other unstructured data. Developers can implement NVIDIA GPU-accelerated analytics and very sophisticated AI directly in the database server as stored procedures and gain orders of magnitude higher throughput."

Gamers aren't the only ones flocking to Nvidia's graphics card technologies. Leading technology companies are turning to Nvidia's graphics processing units (GPUs) and their massively parallel computing architectures to boost their AI efforts.

On April 18, Facebook and Nvidia announced that they had partnered on a new deep learning framework called Caffe2.

Contributed to the open-source community by Facebook, Caffe2 enables large-scale, distributed AI training for researchers. Developers, meanwhile, can use the framework to build machine learning applications for network edge devices. Caffe2 employs Nvidia Deep Learning SDK (software development kit) libraries to provide multi-GPU accelerated performance of applications built using the framework.

GPU-enabled AI capabilities aside, SQL Server 2017 is poised to provide better performance overall. The database beat its predecessor, setting a new record in the TPC-H 1TB data warehousing workload benchmark on a Hewlett Packard Enterprise ProLiant server running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Microsoft claimed.

Other new features include the ability to resume online index rebuilds when the operation is paused, rather than restarting from the beginning. Adaptive Query Processing, a set of database performance tuning technologies in SQL Server 2017, gains a pair of new capabilities that improve responsiveness, interleaved execution and batch mode adaptive joins. The latter allows for a physical join algorithm to be put on hold until the query is executed, a tactic that optimizes performance based on the runtime conditions affecting the database.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...