Seven reasons to care about SQL Server 2008 R2
New BI and reporting features in SQL Server 2008 R2 hit the mark, but other additions leave SQL Server shops wanting more
Reason No. 2 to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2: Report Parts
One of my absolute favorite R2 features is the new Report Parts, found in Report Builder 3.0. Report Parts allow you to publish the different sections of your report to a centralized library, where others can grab them to include in their own reports. Charts, tables, and other segments become components that you can plug into any report you wish.
Let's say you create a chart with complex calculations embedded. Maybe it incorporates business rules or complex layout formulas. If you publish it as a Report Part, everyone else will be able to call upon the same chart in their reports. Best of all -- this makes me giddy inside -- all reports referencing this chart are merely calling an instance of the library object itself. If you change the logic in the library copy of the chart, the change is automatically propagated to all the reports that use it. (Downstream users can disconnect a Report Part from the library if they don't want it to update.)
That's a lot of power at your fingertips. Publishing these Report Parts was so easy I actually thought I did something wrong. I love this feature.
Reason No. 3 to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2: StreamInsight
StreamInsight is the name for Microsoft's new complex event processing engine, which is implemented as a set of .Net classes. StreamInsight makes it very easy to handle the processing of events in-flight -- rapidly executing queries on a stream of information -- so that you can get to decisions or actions faster. There are many use cases for this, but one of my favorites is monitoring production servers.
Let's say you're monitoring CPU metrics for a server and you don't want to persist every measure to the database. With StreamInsight, you could capture the CPU events as they happen, aggregate them as you like, and persist only the aggregated metrics to the database. You could also correlate the CPU metrics with other measures to glean real meaning out of them and get more significant alerts.
This is a simple example, but it should give you an idea of the types of actions that can be accomplished. Note too that StreamInsight is not an out-of-the-box feature, but must be written into .Net applications. While StreamInsight will take some spin-up for coders to get used to, they'll find that Microsoft has really smoothed the way.
Reason No. 4 to upgrade to SQL Server 2008 R2: Master Data Services
Master Data Services helps businesses build and maintain an authoritative source for critical data assets like products, customers, locations, accounts, employees, and so on. Master Data Services is a database, a user interface, and a set of services that enable organizations to rapidly build a model to manage the data that feeds dimensions or other systems. It may contain validation rules, notifications, and security roles. It provides versioning and enables you to reverse unwelcome changes to the data. Master Data Services may serve as a system of entry or a system of record. Using standard tools (such as SQL Server Integration Services or BizTalk), the data may be sent to or from Master Data Services as your business process requires.
What does that mean in plain English? In short, the Master Data Services scenario consists of a data model and a database. You pass your enterprise data through the master data engine, which validates the data against your rules before sending it on its way. Currently you have to build all your models manually, but that's not typically prohibitive to implementation, considering you're only likely to apply Master Data Services to a few important systems that need the extra checks. Still, it would be nice if Master Data Services would read the model and, in the process, let users concentrate on creating the rules.