The public preview of Microsoft SQL Server 2014 will be available as a free download early this month, the company announced, while general availability is expected early next year.
With Microsoft's focus on hybrid deployment, the Windows Server 2012 R2 upgrade delivers software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities that let companies see on-premises and Azure-cloud-based resources as a single, virtual network. In addition, virtualization improvements make it easier to move virtual machines between on-premises data centers and the cloud, according to Microsoft.
Bringing technology proven on the Azure public cloud to its enterprise products, Microsoft said a Windows Azure Pack embedded in Windows Server 2012 R2 gives admins the same API and VM provisioning tools used on its public cloud. That reportedly makes it easier to provision virtual machines at scale, giving hosting companies, for example, the ability to support dense website deployments with many sites cost-effectively running on a single server node.
[ Want more on Microsoft's cloud plans? Read Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions. ]
In another important upgrade, Windows Server 2012 R2 delivers granular support for tiered storage. The feature lets admins assign hot and cold data to the appropriate storage option from the management console, whether that's RAM, flash, SSDs or slower spinning discs. (This is the underlying capability that enables SQL Server 2014 to assign database tables to specific tiers of storage.)
Microsoft server and tools executives are apparently wise to the fact that it's a hybrid world, as the key theme in System Center 2012 R2 is cross-platform device management. Where System Center is known for managing Windows, the R2 upgrade manages Windows, Apple iOS, Android and other devices from a single administrative interface and reporting infrastructure. The upgrade does not fill the niche of mobile-device-management systems, but it helps support bring-your-own-device scenarios by allowing administrators to publish, secure and monitor corporate applications across multiple operating systems.
The Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 public previews are available immediately, and the general releases are expected before the end of the year.
In a final bit of news from TechEd on Monday, Microsoft announced the debut of BizTalk services on Windows Azure. BizTalk supports application and business-to-business process integration. Supply chain data-exchange and transformation is a common use of BizTalk, so the availability of BizTalk services on Azure offers an option for meeting spikey, high-scale data-transformation workloads, according to Microsoft.
Summing it up, the biggest news is clearly the net-new in-memory and I/O control capabilities in Microsoft SQL Server 2014. The database is also being delivered much sooner than many expected, making it clear that Microsoft is intent on putting its in-memory stake in the ground before Hana gains too many converts and Oracle comes up with its answer to in-memory database performance.
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