Microsoft launches flagship SQL Server 2022 database, unites on-premises and cloud services

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At the PASS Data Community Summit in Seattle today, Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) release of SQL Server 2022, the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship relational database platform. SQL Server 2022 Private Preview was announced about a year ago; The first version of SQL Server on Microsoft’s Windows Server operating system was released about 30 years ago. Despite the age of that platform, it has been continuously modernized and the product launch in 2022 is no exception.

VentureBeat spoke with Rohan Kumar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Azure Data, for the business perspective, and Asad Khan, vice president of Azure Data Engineering, for technology details. Kumar announced the GA news during his keynote at the PASS event this morning and spoke to VentureBeat about the commercial value of the launch; Khan talked about the details of the technology.

Hybrid cloud or versatile cloud?

On the business side, Microsoft sees this version of SQL Server as the one that leverages many components of Microsoft’s Intelligent Data Platform (IDP) and, despite being an on-premises product, the most cloud-oriented version of SQL Server released. until now. Both pillars are supported by integration with Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure SQL Database Managed Instance (MI), Azure Active Directory, and Microsoft Purview. The cloud story is further underpinned by support for S3-compatible object storage, though that matters on-premises as well.

Microsoft SQL Server 2022 Summary Diagram
(Right-click and open the image in a new browser tab to enlarge it.)

At a high level, though, Microsoft is looking at SQL 2022 as the release that brings cloud innovations back to customers who still need to run on-premises. Its high degree of compatibility with cloud versions of SQL Server, which includes many editions of Azure SQL Database, especially Azure SQL Database MI, means that on-premises customers can access the features of cloud versions. It also makes it easy for customers to move to the cloud when they are ready to do so. Y it enables Microsoft to work with those customers and better understand the factors that prevent their move to the cloud.

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SQL GA 2022 also parallels the maturing balance between analytical and operational data technology. Kumar explained that the days of releasing operational databases, business intelligence, analytics, and data governance to clients as fairly separate components are over. Instead, Microsoft is now working to tie all of these things together and strongly support hybrid cloud scenarios while doing so.

Microsoft has worked hard to achieve certifications and compliance in various government and industry regulatory frameworks. By doing that and making cloud and on-premises products more compatible and interchangeable, Microsoft wants to remove most, if not all, of the friction in moving workloads to the cloud. It’s even making it easier for you to return to the facility, if that ends up being a priority. Knowing that a move to the cloud is not irrevocable can make customers feel more confident about moving the bulk of their workloads there.

This is also not an Azure-specific premise. During our briefing, I asked Khan if disaster recovery scenarios could work not only between SQL Server and Azure SQL Database MI (as I’ll detail shortly), but also with Amazon RDS, once SQL Server 2022 is available on that platform. Khan not only said that he would do it, but said that this kind of thing is the very point of the launch, and not just a curious case.

Yes, many enterprise organizations run workloads on a hybrid mix of cloud and on-premises platforms, but perhaps what they really want is for the infrastructure to be fungible and interchangeable, so workloads can go anywhere and move to any other place. That ideal seems to be the foundation of the strategic direction of SQL Server 2022, at least rhetorically. It turns out that the essence of the statement also supports that strategy.

tech goodies

So what are the technical improvements that underlie these talking points and the strategic direction? For starters, a new link feature for managed instance means that SQL Server on-premises can now be paired and served almost interchangeably with Azure SQL MI. Using a simple wizard, database administrators (and probably non-DBAs as well) can configure a cloud-provisioned MI to function as a failover secondary node for an instance of SQL Server 2022 on the premises, or vice versa. In addition, the provisioned MI can be used as a readable replica for distributing workloads, in addition to its fault tolerance function.

Using a feature called Azure Synapse Link, SQL 2022 operational data can then be replicated, silently and in the background, to dedicated pools (data warehouse instances) in Azure Synapse Analytics. Transaction log/change feed-based replication can occur continuously or on a scheduled basis. This feature was already available for Azure SQL Database (the main cloud version of SQL Server) and is still in preview on the Synapse Analytics side as of this writing. It provides one of many options for SQL Server customers to find operational database and analytics workloads together.

Another such option is enhancing SQL Server PolyBase, a data virtualization and big data connectivity feature, to be compatible with Amazon S3 and all API-compliant object storage systems. Once again, the cloud/on-premises paradox arises when many storage platforms that support the S3 API, such as Minio, run on-premises. As a result, Microsoft is promoting the new PolyBase as providing access to any data lake. This technology also enables database backup to S3-compatible object storage.

Ironically, however, PolyBase will no longer support connectivity to on-premises Hadoop clusters. But as a result, PolyBase’s dependency has been removed from the Java runtime, raising the possibility that more customers may be able to install it. If so, it would probably be good for SQL Server integration with the modern open source data analytics stack, much of which it is in the clouds.

Thus, Synapse Link provides export connectivity to data warehouses, and PolyBase provides import connectivity to data lakes (and also exports, via the new CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE AS SELECT — KATS — command). But what if customers want to perform analysis on the same SQL Server? There are new capabilities here, too, in the form of enhancements to columnstore indexes, which are designed for operational analysis. The short version of the improvement is that it makes operational analysis faster. The longer version is that a new capability allows clustered columnstore indexes to be physically sorted, allowing for something called “segment removal”. Stripping allows SQL Server to skip entire batches of data that is not relevant to a query, instead of having to scan all that data and brute force it to determine its irrelevance.

SQL Server 2022 also includes improved support for JSON data, query intelligence for better performance, and a Ledger feature that enables blockchain-style tamper protection in the database. There’s also integration with Azure Active Directory for authentication, Microsoft Defender for security, and Microsoft Purview for access permissions, data classification, data cataloging, and data lineage.

I have used SQL Server since the early 1990s. This new 2022 version adds support for important new cloud, database, and analytics technologies, while maintaining consistency and fidelity to the classic platform that has a large community of professionals. trained. While Microsoft looks to newer platforms like its Azure Cosmos DB NoSQL platform and supports open source databases like PostgreSQL, it never seems to lose faith or abandon investment in SQL Server. The market seems to reward Microsoft for this policy. It will be interesting to see what the fourth decade of SQL Server can bring.

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