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SQL Server 2016 is now available. Key considerations before you migrate.

Microsoft | Posted on October 13, 2016 by Tobin Dalrymple

On June 1, 2016, Microsoft officially announced the general availability of SQL Server 2016.

While a few enterprises have already made the upgrade, many IT leaders have just begun asking questions about the new database solution, trying to define its place on their roadmap.

We saw this first-hand when nearly 70 IT leaders from across North America joined us for a live video meet up, hosted by Softchoice and Spiceworks

In this expert-led meetup, we discussed performance, new licensing and latest security features of SQL Server 2016.

Here you will find the biggest takeaways:

SQL Server 2016 Security

No surprise, security was one of the top points of interest on the meetup.

  • Dynamic Data Masking: New to SQL 2016, DDM limits sensitive data exposure by masking it to non-privileged users. It is used to simplify the design and coding of security in your application.
  • Always Encrypted: This allows you to encrypt sensitive data (e.g. credit card numbers) at the client application level. While, never revealing the encryption keys to the Database Engine. This means you will more securely keep those who own the data (and can view it) separate from those who manage it (but shouldn’t see it).
  • Encrypted + Compressed Backups: Backup Compression and Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) have been popular features in SQL Server since v2008. However, they very little co-existence until now. Starting with SQL Server 2016, you can now get the benefits of backup compression for TDE-enabled databases.

SQL Server 2016 Performance

The only thing about to SQL upgrades more exciting than security is performance. As the backbone of Big Data-driven businesses, more power is not just nice to have, but crucial.

  • In Memory Loading: Several improvements have been made to In Memory Loading optimization in SQL Server 2016. These are making it far easier to do, as well as improving the speed and performance behind it. You can see a detailed demo by the guys over at Data Exposed, here:
  • Stretch Data Base: Another new addition, one that underscores Microsoft’s commitment to the cloud. When you need to run a query that might access active and historical information in a “stretched” database, the database engine can now seamlessly query both the On-Premise database as well as Azure SQL database — maximizing performance on those active On-Premise queries. Read more
  • System Requirements: With each new version, performance usually increases thanks to fixes and optimizations. But it’s also worth noting that system requirements also rise in tandem. While they haven’t changed much since 2012, Enterprise edition now boasts a maximum size database of 524 petabytes.
  • High-Availability: Always On Availability Groups was introduced in 2012 – and today, with version 2016, it’s been “turbocharged” says Microsoft. Server 2016 now provides high availability for the most demanding workloads on the latest hardware with minimal impact and scalable for the future.

SQL Server 2016 Upgrade Path:

For anyone running SQL Server 2005 SP4 and onward, you have the ability to migrate directly to SQL Server 2016. Other versions might require a middle step, depending on your service pack. It’s also key to note you have two basic approaches available to you: In Place and Side by Side migrations.

In Place is a full out, immediate swap for businesses who just want to get it over with and start playing. Because of the potential for unanticipated blocking issues and errors, demanding much more upfront care, we prefer Side By side as the go-to approach. This allows you to keep critical, production data safe on older working versions. This happens while you set up a new environment at the same time as and QA.

SQL Server 2016 Licensing: Core, Software Assurance and Editions

This is not a new addition because core-based licensing has been the norm since v2012 in enterprise editions. This is still the case. The Standard Edition is designed for less critical apps so you can choose between Core, or Server Plus CAL model. Only choose the latter if counting your users is easy and predictable.

Speaking of editions, one has been removed. The Business Intelligence edition is now gone. If you purchased it and have Software Assurance, you can now transfer up to the Enterprise product.

Say hello to Linux

SQL Server 2016 also backs up Microsoft’s new push toward open technologies. Whereas in the past Linux might have been seen as a competitor, today it is a collaborator. You can now run the SQL database engine on Linux servers.

What is next?

While the conversations here are useful, you need specific advice on your unique needs and environment. You can find more information on SQL Server 2016 licensing and migration in our free guide here.

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