Review: SQL Server 2016 boosts speed, analytics

SQL Server 2016 shines with stretch database to Azure, queries against Hadoop, internal R, better security, and higher performance

Review: SQL Server 2016 boosts speed, analytics

Microsoft calls SQL Server 2016 the “biggest leap forward” in the 27-year evolution of the SQL Server database. As we’ll see, despite the excess of hype, the SQL Server 2016 database offers enterprises a number of attractive new capabilities, including built-in R analytics, querying of external Hadoop and Azure data stores, and neat management and data security features.

Further, SQL Server 2016 improves the in-memory OLTP engine, in-memory columnstore, and Azure cloud integrations introduced in SQL Server 2014. It also offers a reasonable staged upgrade for existing SQL Server installations. Whether all of these improvements -- and Microsoft’s offer of free database licenses to current Oracle Database users -- are sufficient to tempt these users to migrate to SQL Server is another question entirely.

Before I go over the new and improved features in more detail, I should mention there are a number of good ways to get your hands dirty with SQL Server 2016: Download and install a free Developer or Evaluation copy, or spin up a preconfigured Azure VM, and try out the various TechNet Virtual Labs.

Installation and upgrades

Installation of SQL Server 2016 locally requires some planning, along with a suitably updated copy of Windows 8, Windows 10, or Windows Server 2012. Even a completely current copy of Windows 10 needs to have a Visual Studio runtime update installed before SQL Server 2016, and if you want to use PolyBase (to run queries on data residing in Hadoop or Azure Blob storage) you must also install Oracle Java 7 or later. While a Linux version of SQL Server 2016 has been announced and both Red Hat and Canonical have pledged support, the Linux version is still in private preview.

sql server 2016 setup

SQL Server 2016 setup is very similar to the setup for previous versions. It has a few extra configuration steps and options -- for example, to set up Microsoft R and the PolyBase Query Service, which are new features.

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