May 4, 2016

Top 5 New Features in Microsoft SQL Server 2016


On June 1, Microsoft SQL Server 2016 became generally available. This edition of Microsoft’s database server delivers end-to-end data management and business analytics and includes mission-critical intelligence from complex workloads. With each version of SQL Server, Microsoft adds yet another layer to the already-rich feature set.

Here are the top 5 features added to SQL Server 2016:

1. Always Encrypted

SQL Server has long supported various encryption methods  —  from column-level encryption to encryption at rest and encryption in transit. All of these methods, however, require that they be configured independently, which resulted in frequent mistakes. Always Encrypted utilizes an enhanced client library to encrypt the data in transit, at rest and while it is live in the database. Beyond the obvious advantages of this methodology, it is of particular importance when considering the growth of public clouds such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, where ensuring the security of data in the cloud has become a top challenge for IT administrators.

2. In-Memory Improvements

The In-Memory feature was first introduced in SQL Server 2014 and designed to allow high-speed data loading without locking or session state issues. Initially, however, this feature had some limitations. In SQL Server 2016, this feature is vastly improved and includes support for foreign keys and check, as well as unique constraints and parallelism. This arrives in addition to an increase of In-Memory table size limits from 256GB to 2TB.

3. Row Level Security

One feature that SQL Server has lacked natively for years is Row Level Security. This feature has been available in a number of SQL Server competitors for some time now, so it is good to see it finally added to SQL Server. The initial implementation does have some limitations, but Microsoft is sure to improve the feature over time.

4. JSON Support

SQL Server 2016 adds support for one of the most commonly used languages in web applications today: Java Script Object Notation (JSON). As the use of JSON has grown, so to has the support for it in most database servers. To allow for quick movement into tables, Microsoft utilized the same format for JSON as they did for XML support.

5. Stretch Database

The growth of public cloud platforms has also increased the demand for balancing application workloads between on-premise environments and those in the public cloud. The Stretch Database feature provides the best of both worlds, in a sense. For instance, you can now move some parts of your tables to the Azure SQL Database in the cloud. When you query those tables, the query optimizer splits the workload between the local data and the data in the cloud.

Updated: January 2019

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