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Network World - SQL Server 2008 R2, which ships this month, allows end users to tap into the powerful business intelligence features of SQL Server via tight integration with popular Microsoft applications like Excel.
The downside, of course, is that to reap the full functionality of SQL Server 2008 R2 you also need to be running all the latest versions of Microsoft's product lines – Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Office 2010, and SharePoint 2010.
Compared with its predecessor, SQL Server 2008, the new version is more powerful, with support for up to 256 logical CPUs. And a new Unicode compression scheme, USC-2, can save up to 50% of storage requirements with Unicode data.
SQL Server 2008 R2 boasts a number of new services, including PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint, Master Data Services, StreamInsight, ReportBuilder 3.0, Reporting Services Add-in for SharePoint, a Data-tier function in Visual Studio that enables packaging of tiered databases as part of an application, and a SQL Server
Utility that manages multiple SQL Servers.
-- PowerPivot allows end users to import, manipulate, analyze and export data, as well as create reports, all using the familiar Excel interface and language.
-- Master Data Services is a new and powerful feature designed to help an organization create a structure and hierarchy for data, so that data collected and used across multiple departments, silos and databases is standardized and aligned. This ensures that different databases are interoperable.
-- StreamInsight is a new platform integrated with .Net and SQL Server for processing streams of data in parallel, allowing for many simultaneous queries running on live data.
-- The data-tier functionality in Visual Studio is designed to make it simple to create n-tier applications that use databases on the back end, and package the entire application including the database as a single unit.
-- The SQL Server Utility allows for a single management dashboard across multiple servers and databases.
Installing SQL Server 2008 R2 is much easier than previous versions. The installer takes care of all prerequisites, configuring and downloading a whole bunch of stuff from Microsoft. Once the prerequisite installer runs, deploying SharePoint 2010 is straightforward, a matter of running the installer, entering a key, choosing the default install and applying updates. Finally, you run the installer for SQL Server 2008 R2. It runs through a lengthy but well-integrated process. The only thing that can't be accomplished from within the installer is creating the service accounts.
A reboot completes the overall process. Afterwards, there are a large number of new applications available, including Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, the SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio, the Analysis Services Deployment Wizard, the Master Data Services Configuration Manager, the Report Builder 3.0 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008.