I recently got my first look at SQL Server 2012. I'm quite
impressed with Microsoft's newest enterprise database solution. Three new
features that really impressed me are Availability Groups, PowerView, and Column-store
indexing. These three features deal with high availability, business
intelligence, and performance, respectively.

The first thing that struck me with Always On Availability Groups
is the ease of implementation. In seconds, with the help of Server 2012's
management console, you're able to have a replica up and running. It seems to
me with the new Server products Microsoft has done a much better job of removing
the complexity for implementation. This feature has made configuring high
availability of your mission critical DBs that much faster and easier in SQL
Server 2012.

PowerView is a game changer as big data is only getting
bigger. Here is a tool that allows you to actually get useful/actionable
information from your data. Built specifically for providing users with a tool
to visualize the data in your SQL Server 2012 databases, PowerView has the
easily navigated ribbon toolbars like Microsoft Office. With easy filtering,
sorting, and design functionality, you’re able to create reports on your data
in real time. To prevent impacting performance on your database, PowerView only
collects the data needed for displayed reports.

A small but effective feature I really like is Column-store
Indexes. In today’s world the need to analyze data quicker is no longer an
option, but vital in most implementations. Column-store Indexes help by taking
a new approach to sorting data to improve the databases’ performance. Databases
are traditionally indexed at the row level and in most cases each row in a
database contains different field types. When indexing is done at the column
level each column only had one field type making compression greater. With
greater compression there are fewer bits to be read during a query and there is
a greater ability to keep the column index in RAM providing a nice performance
boost. Additionally, instead of having to read every single row when queried, Column-store
indexes only need to be referenced when relevant.

Overall SQL Server 2012 is an all-around improvement from
past versions. There are features throughout making SQL Server more reliable,
quicker, and easier to use. You can test out these new features with
Microsoft’s SQL Server Virtual Labs http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/en/us/learning-center/virtual-labs.aspx

By Gary Eimerman, Director of Product Development,
TrainSignal