Having completed a week of training on SQL Server 2016, PowerBI, Cortana Analytics at HQ and spending time with the product team, I am super excited of what Microsoft's data platform is going to enable your business to achieve by unleashing the power of analytics on your data. Don't take my word for it, see what some of them are doing:
Dartmouth-Hitchcock delivers lower cost, more personalized healthcare - https://youtu.be/-wVeHZNn8aU
Tangerine knows that staying innovative is key to standing out in the crowded world of online banking. By giving its business leaders easier access to customer feedback, the bank has a better sense of exactly the kinds of services customers are looking for. Using this approach, Tangerine can lead in a competitive industry - https://customers.microsoft.com/Pages/CustomerStory.aspx?recid=14594
Data Analytics Vision - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCDD2BdY8Yc
All of these capabiiltes is being powered by SQL Server on premise and Cortana Analytics in the cloud. With SQL Server 2016 releasing next year, following are the areas you can excpect your business to start taking advantage of:
Performance - SQL Server 2014 bought in-memory to relational databases, maintaining ACID properties. SQL Server 2016 continues to innnovate in this space and delivers Operational Analytics - the ability to combine both OLTP/OLAP workloads in-memory and deliver real time insights to your business. You will not have to create and maintain operational data stores and replicate data, you will be able to place updatable non-clustered column store indexes right on your OLTP tables. This amongst many other performance enhancing capabilities will accelerate your time to insight.
Security - this has been an major area of focus for the engineering team, given organisations are embarking their journey onto the cloud. However putting your data into the cloud still a major barrier, however with the capability of Always Encrypted coming to SQL Server 2016 and already available in SQL Database in Azure, this can give you the confidence of placing your data in the cloud. The reason for this is the data is encrypted at rest, in transit, the only place it gets decrypted is at the client with the new enhanced ADO.NET connector. This is advanced technology from MS Research that will ensure your data is only available to those who have authority to it. This feature combined with other capabiliteis such as enhanced Transparent Database Encyrption (TDE), Row Level Security and Dynamic Data masking will provide the peace of mind your business demands of your data when in the cloud.
Cloud Integration - of course there will be situations where the data may not be able to moved into the cloud due to legislation, or other security requirements. However with the tight Hybrid integration with Azure, there maybe scenarios such as for archiving purposes you can utilise the Stretch Table feature that can enable you to move historical data into the cloud to reduce your storage costs while still ensuring your data is accessible without requiring any application changes. This amongst other tight integrations such as easily enabling Azure as a target destination for DR purposes via tight integration with AlwaysOn Wizard.
Business Intelligence - with the release of PowerBI version 2, you can immediately drive insight into your data with direct connectors into most popular software as a service offerings and also tight connectivity to many other sources such as Teradata, DB2, Sybase, ODBC sources. In case you haven't seen them, you can also download some great sample workbooks at - https://support.powerbi.com/knowledgebase/articles/514904-download-the-power-bi-samples-excel-workbooks
We all know that visulisation is like the icing on the cake, we need to ensure that the underlying base is solid - meaning the data is of quality, meaningful and timely. On this note SQL Server 2016 has several enhancements to the BI components such as MDS (performance and features),SSRS (new HTML5 compliant visualisations, parameter enhancements). SQL Server Analysis services is also getting many enhancements in Tabular model, including DirectQuery, this will enable you to get real time data not only leveraging SQL Server's in-memory capability however also allowing you to query non-SQL Server environments such as Oracle.
Analytics - this is a very exciting space, as not only does this enable a business to go from data to insights, it actually can enable them to automate decision making process and provide their customers with a delightful experience. In this space we acquried Revolution Analytics in April 2015. You will be able to continue to get access to RRO and RRE products, however with SQL Server 2016 you will have integration of RevoR, which will enable you to bring the power of R to your data. This will enable you to quickly operationalise your R models/scripts.
SQL Server 2005 is going to be End of Support by April 2016 - so now is great time to start planning your upgrades and start to take advantage of the more modern SQL Server 2012, 2014 and soon 2016. Microsoft® SQL Server 2016® Upgrade Advisor Preview - https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=48119
Imagine how Cortana Analytics Suite can help your organization set new records 🙂 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxmAEMmwXYU