"SQL Server 2008 R2 showcases Microsoft's continued commitment to business intelligence and mission-critical workloads," stated Microsoft's announcement. "R2 will be listed on Microsoft's May price list, and will be available by May 2010."
The top draw of the R2 upgrade is undoubtedly in-memory analysis provided by two PowerPivot capabilities: PowerPivot for Excel and PowerPivot for SharePoint. The first is an add-in, in-memory BI engine for Excel that will enable desktop users to bring together millions of rows of data for rapid, multidimensional analysis. As the name suggests, PowerPivot for SharePoint lets users upload PowerPivot-driven analyses to SharePoint to ease collaboration. One drawback of these offerings is that they only work with Excel 2010 and SharePoint 2010, respectively, though PowerPivot analyses posted to SharePoint 2010 will be shareable with users who don't have the latest edition of Excel.
Microsoft has two developments in the works that will support high-scale database deployments: SQL Server Datacenter and SQL Server 2008 Parallel Data Warehouse. The Datacenter offering modernizes the SQL Server architecture to take advantage of up to 256 processors (four times the old limit of 64). The Datacenter edition will work hand-in-hand with upgraded R2 application- and multiserver-management capabilities that let administrators declare objects to be part of the data tier of an application. That improves IT efficiency because administrators can then manage, deploy, monitor and secure those assets as a single unit.
The Parallel Data Warehouse edition is based on the scale-out, massively parallel processing technology Microsoft acquired last year when it purchased DATAllegro. This is a separate product not included in the R2 CTP. It's scheduled for release in the first half of 2010.
R2 supports master data management (MDM) with services that ISVs and developers can use to create end-user applications. Services include hierarchy management, metadata resolution, data viewing and data stewardship capabilities. In contrast to most MDM products, R2 won't provide prebuilt, domain-specific apps for product data, customer data or other dimensions. Microsoft is leaving that to partners and customers.
As with MDM, new Stream Insight complex event processing (CEP) capabilities delivered in R2 are there for developers to exploit, but don't expect finished or customizable applications. Also known as stream processing and event processing, CEP is about analyzing high volumes of fast-moving data in real time so you can quickly detect and act on opportunities or threats. Uses include financial trading, RFID analysis, dynamic logistics planning and adaptive manufacturing systems. Microsoft executives say a future release will exploit Stream Insight for real-time updates of data warehouses, a move that would aid real-time decision support.
Microsoft customers on the the Software Assurance plan can upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2 at no additional cost. More information and R2 CTP downloads are available at this site.