Microsoft reveals launch date for next-generation SQL Server 2012

But it's not clear when the release will be generally available

Microsoft has announced a March 7 online event for the launch of SQL Server 2012, the next generation of its database product.

The event will feature keynote addresses from Microsoft corporate vice presidents Ted Kummert and Quentin Clark, who will respectively give attendees a look at Microsoft's "data evolution vision" and a general overview of SQL Server 2012's features.

It wasn't immediately clear whether March 7 is the actual general availability date for the release, but the event indicates that the release could be imminent.

"Let me throw out a dose of reality: if you are not on a [beta program] or otherwise going live with a private build or release candidate, you will not be installing and deploying SQL Server 2012 on March 7th. I promise," SQL Server expert Aaron Bertrand wrote in a blog post late Monday. "These launch events are marketing tools to get you excited about the product. Will you be able to download Express editions from the Microsoft web site, and other SKUs from MSDN or your volume licensing portal, shortly after that? Sure. The next day? Almost certainly not."

SQL Server 2012 is set to arrive in three main editions, including a new BI (business intelligence) version that adds features such as the Power View data-discovery tool and data quality services to the standard edition's features. Microsoft is also planning to offer an Enterprise Edition that includes advanced security, high-availability capabilities and a columnar data store on top of the BI edition's feature set.

Microsoft is enacting a new licensing plan for the 2012 release. Enterprise and Standard Edition will be available on a core-based model, with licenses sold in two-core packs. Standard Edition is also available on a server plus CAL (client access license) basis. BI edition is only available via server-plus-CAL licensing.

SQL Server "is an adequate product if you don't mind being locked into the Microsoft stack," said analyst Curt Monash of Monash Research. "For example, the ColumnStore feature is very partial, given that it can't be updated; but Oracle doesn't have columnar storage at all."

There's more lock-in with SQL Server than other platforms due to its reliance on Windows for an OS, Monash said.

IT shops using competing products such as Oracle could consider using SQL Server 2012 in a cohabitation scenario as a potential alternative to adding more Oracle licenses, but it would make sense only if they already have a strong investment in the Microsoft stack, Monash said.

"[IBM] DB2 works just as well to keep Oracle honest as SQL Server does, and without a major operating system commitment," he said.

In any event, no single database can serve all workloads equally well, so the best approach is to have a general-purpose product along with additional database platforms aimed at analytics and other areas, Monash added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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