Microsoft foretells next SQL Server database with new analytics, big data, encryption features

SQL Server 2016 will bring new functions for protecting data in motion and at rest, visual reporting, cloud-first features and big data analytics tools.
By Tom Sullivan
09:23 AM

Microsoft on Monday revealed that hospitals and other IT shops should expect the next generation of its database to be available on June 1. Dubbed SQL Server 2016, the forthcoming iteration brings a focus on analytics, cloud capabilities, data encryption and security, as well as the usual raft of features database vendors typically market as mission-critical.

The company has been upping its focus on healthcare recently, with new functionality in Windows 10 that enables clinicians to view an EHR interface alongside home health apps, for instance, and by adding data privacy features to Office 2016, as well as looking toward Skype for telehealth consults.

One new SQL Server 2016 feature that will be most important to many hospital CIOs and chief information security officers — particularly as they face the ongoing influx of data breaches — is what Microsoft calls Always Encrypted.

[Also: Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and machine learning are coming to healthcare: Is it time to invest?]

Always Encrypted protects data at rest and in motion such that not even users with administrative access can view data unless given specific credentials to do so, the company explained. SQL Server also arms healthcare organizations with tools for granting such access via row level security and masking sensitive data by using Dynamic Data Masking.

On the analytics, big data and business intelligence front, Microsoft added new capabilities for creating visual reports with new chart types, tools for turning complex information sets into trusted data models, and multidimensional models within SQL Server Analysis Services.

The company also said that SQL Server 2016 brings cloud-first features that enable a more consistent experience between hosted versions of the database and those installed on-premise, including what it explained to be a “stretch database” that moves information back and forth, as well as backup and restore in the cloud.

Speeds and feeds: The new database can scale to 12 TB of memory and 640 logical processors, perform transactions 30 times faster than the prior iteration and return queries 100 times more quickly, run operation analytics against transactional data and better balance loads, according to Microsoft.

SQL Server 2016 will be available in four editions: Enterprise, Standard, Express and Developer.

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