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Microsoft previews new SQL Server in-memory database features

Mark Fontecchio

SEATTLE -- Microsoft on Wednesday previewed "Hekaton," a new SQL Server in-memory database capability for transactional applications, at the opening of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit.

Hekaton, along with new in-memory capabilities in SQL Server's existing xVelocity ColumnStore,

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will become available with the next major release of SQL Server. A spokesman for Microsoft would not say when the next SQL Server major release will come out. But based on previous release patterns, end users shouldn't expect the new software until at least 2014.

The in-memory features, according to Microsoft, are crucial in today's age of big data, when IT departments are expected to process large volumes of various information types and provide business intelligence as quickly as possible.

Ted Kummert, Microsoft vice president, called Hekaton a "full in-memory transactional engine." In an on-stage demonstration, a Microsoft official walked through the Hekaton tool, which can convert tables and stored procedures into memory without changing the application or the underlying hardware. The demos showed 10x performance increases for tables and 30x for stored procedures.

Rick Kutschera, IT solution engineer at Gibraltar-based Bwin, described the challenges his online gaming and betting company has in terms of meeting user requests. Currently the company can only handle about 15,000 requests per second, a number that sounds pretty good already, Kutschera acknowledged. But with online gaming, the requests come fast and furious, and lag is unacceptable.

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Bwin has been testing out Hekaton and handling 10 times as many requests. The system topped out at 250,000 requests per second.

"Hekaton integrates seamlessly into the SQL Server engine, so if you know SQL Server, you know Hekaton as well," Kutschera said.

The next major release of SQL Server will also include two improvements to xVelocity ColumnStore. For one, users will have the ability to configure the system so that SQL Server can continuously load data.  And secondly, the software will offer support for clusters.

Microsoft's other announcements

Microsoft also revealed that a new version of Parallel Data Warehouse will come out in the first half of next year, and that SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 is available now.

Kummert said the next version of PDW will boast up to 50x performance improvements.  It includes a feature called PolyBase, which is specifically designed to handle big data and is integrated with Hadoop. As a result, SQL Server database administrators will be able to query information housed in Hadoop, even if they have only cursory knowledge of how the open source distributed file system works.